Stop lockdown ruining your relationships

No need to let a pandemic spoil your love life or your friendships – a top relationship guru tells us how to keep them all on track

It’s no secret that Covid-19 has made things tough for millions of us in many ways. So, it’s a shame it is also taking its toll on the things that can help us cope and get through this strange time – our relationships and friendships. Which is why we asked psychologist and author, Sam Owens (her book Happy Relationships is out now), for her top insights. So, whether you’re living with your other half or not, as well as trying to adapt to your friendships now being ‘virtual’, here’s how to make it work for you and them…

Live-in partners

Keeping the love alive: ‘When we do something novel to expand our horizons, it helps improve relationship satisfaction, as well as desire and sexual satisfaction too, because you’re having fun together. For example, if you’re not in the habit of having romantic, candelit dinners, why not try it and cook together? Or have a virtual dinner party with friends – pop your laptop or tablet in the middle of the table. There’s bound to be funny moments, new conversations and new challenges. Or you could even do an online course together. Novelty is key. Have time apart, too. For example, have your one hour of daily outside exercise separately, or ask him or her to look after the kids while you have a bath. Whatever you do separately, make it nurturing. It’s crucial for resting and recharging.’

Dealing with tension and arguments: ‘Have time out of the conversation if it’s going nowhere – get some physical distance between you, so you’re not triggering more negativity. If one of you is angry and the other is calming down, that means you’re not going to be exacerbating each other’s negative emotions.’

Helping cope with worry and anxiety: ‘If they’re feeling anxious, encourage them to do some art, listen to steady tempo music (classical or instrumental) and embrace nature and go for a walk in a local park for their daily exercise. And even dancing to their favourite music around the living room should help provide an uplift in mood. And, of course, take time out from negative news and social media. If your other half is constantly talking negatively, help them to look at a situation in a more positive light. If, for instance, they have worries about losing your home in the future because money isn’t coming in, remind them that it’s not a definite so it’s best to focus on what you do know for sure. Tell them that worrying won’t resolve the issue, but being proactive can, and recommend both of you sit down to work out what you can do to make sure that doesn’t happen.’

Boots staffer tip:
Natalie, Assistant Marketing Manager, Wellness & Health Content: My partner and I are making sure we put time aside to just have fun. Last Saturday night, we dressed up (I finally got to wear some make-up!) and we went to Casa Bonita (our dining room, which will one day be the name of our forever home) for food and then headed to Shenanigans (our living room, but will one day be the name of our garden bar) for a virtual pub quiz and drinks with my family. We’re now going to do this every weekend as it felt like a real date night!

Lovers living apart

Encouraging togetherness: ‘Being really attentive and available is key. Say things, such as ‘I’m here to talk whenever you need to,’ and reassure them with your words and actions that your connection is still there. Be present when on the phone to them and really listen to them, and make sure you still have fun – you can still watch movies together, have virtual dinners together (you can even cook dinner at same time and stick phone on kitchen counter as you do it!). Make sure you dress up and have date nights too.’

Spice things up: ‘If you’re doing a video chat, wear something you feel comfortable in that you think is sexy. Get the angle and the lighting right to make you feel your most confident. Then be present, relaxed and enjoy it. If you want to sex up your chat, start small, and it will naturally escalate. Just let it flow between you. You could even watch an erotic movie together too – that’s another way to get you more in the mood!’

Offer support from afar: ‘Use reassuring language and words that empower, for example: ‘you always manage to overcome any challenges.’ And get into the habit of asking how they are feeling rather than just assuming that because they sound OK, they must be. If you’re chatting online, hone in on facial expressions and what they are saying. Check in and say: ‘I notice you don’t look happy – are you sure you’re OK? Can I help? I’m here if there is anything you want to talk about.’ Ask questions rather than making assumptions.

Boots staffer tip:
Charlotte, Assistant Marketing Manager, CSR & Sustainability: ‘My boyfriend and I are currently isolating separately (we live four hours apart, so we’re used to separation but not like this!). We make sure we chat every night, right before bed – having that set time together really keeps us going. We’ve also been using this time to plan our dates for when we can finally see each other again, which will be emotional and special. Plus, we schedule movie nights and watch the same film on Netflix at the same time, so we can pick it apart together – the worse the movie, the more fun we have!

Friendships at a distance

How to keep those bonds: ‘Of course, lots of us are busy juggling work, relationships, home-schooling children and checking on relatives, but it’s still important to carve some time out for your friends, just as you would for your partner, children and family. Set up a regular friends’ date night online, and have an alcoholic drink if you want to – to give it more of a feel that you’re relaxing in a virtual pub.’

Think of fun conversation starters: ‘As most of us aren’t leaving the house much and won’t have any news to share, it might be worth writing down a list of seven questions that you’ve never asked your friends – for example, about their childhood, their family, life experiences etc. You might only need three of those questions and end up talking for two hours about various things. You could also set each other challenges – reading a book, or a particular newspaper article, to discuss and debate on your next Friday Friend Date. Or play a game online together.’

Be a (distant) shoulder: ‘Let your friends know you’re there for them. You may have mates who live alone, so remind them that you’re there if they’re feeling lonely and need to talk. Or, equally, it might be that you have a car and can get heavy items for them at the shop and drop it off at their front door.’

Boots staffer tip:
Kelly, Assistant Marketing Manager, Beauty Content: As tempting as it is to constantly live in joggers and rock no make-up for every video call, I’ve started getting glammed-up from head to toe for virtual cocktails with the girls. I pop some tunes on, do a full face, find my sparkliest outfit, pop the prosecco and enjoy an hour of carefree silliness over video chat. It brings us closer together and really helps take our minds off of what is happening, even for a short while.’