We’re more than halfway through 2020 and this pandemic still doesn’t have a clear end in sight. The mental health implications of this ongoing global health crisis, combined with being perpetually stuck indoors, are inevitably taking a toll on many of us and our relationships.
With our behaviors having changed so much in the last few months, many relationship dynamics have changed too. For some, it’s meant not being able to meet new people. For others, it’s been not being able to spend time with those you love. While others still have been spending much more time with loved ones than usual. Regardless of what shape it comes in, the challenge of keeping relationships interesting and healthy looms large for single people, those in long-distance relationships (LDRs), and people living together alike.
HEALTHY COMMUNICATION IS KEY
With any relationship (romantic or otherwise), healthy communication is essential. It’s crucial to actively listen to each other, which is different from just hearing the words coming out of each other’s mouths.
For those who are casually dating or in LDRs, it’s important to find safe ways to keep in touch. But over time, talking all day, sexting frequently, and/or having spontaneous Zoom sessions can feel like an obligation instead of something fun. So make sure you also set boundaries and stick to them. We all know that online communication can be exhausting and even suffocating, so try to talk about your limits before you even reach this point.
Meanwhile, those in live-in relationships might feel overwhelmed by being together 24/7 for months on end. Shorter fuses and more fights are possible (read: probable), but this time together can also be an opportunity to learn effective ways to communicate with each other. When dealing with disagreements, talk about what’s bothering you instead of being passive-aggressive. It’s not fair to expert partners to be mind-readers, so speak out.
For instance, it’s tricky to bring up the need for space when your social energy is low. They might not understand that you need some time for yourself if you keep beating around the bush. To make sure you’re all on the same page, say what you really mean.
Remember – relationships are teamwork, not just constant compromise. It’s much healthier to resolve conflicts by working together and agreeing on a resolution. Keep in mind that everybody’s struggling, so a little patience goes a long way.
Technology is a great way to bridge the physical gap no matter what dating stage you’re currently on. While everything is so much harder because of social distancing, you can still build a healthy, intimate relationship virtually.
On the other hand, live-in couples may have more opportunities for physical intimacy than they’re used to. Spending all this time together indoors can be lots of fun, but it can also mean more internalized or external pressure to have sex. Try not to worry about how much sex you “should” be having. Sex shouldn’t feel like a burden, and not having sex shouldn’t be clouded with guilt.
There are plenty of ways beyond sex to be intimate. Spending time together playing video games, painting, binging a new show, or experimenting with new recipes are all great ways to enjoy each other’s company. Try something new together and enjoy the process of trial and error! You might learn something new, whether it be a skill or a new facet you didn’t realize about your partner/s.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-CARE
This is a weird and scary time to be alive. Some people even joke about how they’re running out of coping mechanisms now that we’re months deep into the pandemic. If you find yourself relating so hard, try taking time to find some healthy outlets for whatever it is you’re feeling.
It’s important to nurture and maintain your relationships with other people, but don’t make yourself an afterthought. Your connection to your inner self is just as important. Improving your relationship with yourself will subsequently improve your other relationships too.
Doing activities that put you in a good mental and emotional place is a great way to begin. Maybe this means getting a workout in, reaching out to friends for a pick-me-up, having a self-pampering session, or maybe it’s just spending some time alone. Regardless of the actual activity, everyone needs some time to process their emotions or just decompress in general.
As we struggle during this difficult time, every day that you get through is a win. It doesn’t matter how many tasks you accomplish because your productivity doesn’t define your worth. Above all else, be gentle, both with yourself and with others.
KEEP IT SEXY, KEEP IT SAFE
COVID-19 isn’t the only contagious thing around. To avoid the risk of STIs, make sure you use protection during sex! Practicing safe sex also means ensuring consent from all the people involved. Whether through a screen or inside your bedroom, make sure everyone’s comfortable and into it. Routinely check in with your partner(s) and communicate how you’re feeling mentally, emotionally, and sexually.
This pandemic has made it more daunting to go for medical checkups. While it’s tricky to manage your sexual, reproductive, and general health right now, there are existing platforms that can help. Filipinos can book telemedicine consultations, order reproductive health products, and learn more about sexual health from the comfort of their homes. Remember: taking charge of your personal health at all times is also a form of self-care.