Keeping our relationships healthy during COVID-19 part 2

Yesterday we shared some tips for managing stress and change in our relationships including hearing from Charlotte, Tim and Sam how they are adapting to life during COVID-19 . Today, we’re sharing specific tips for how we can keep intimacy and connection in our relationships, whether we are isolating with, or away from our partners. We know many people in our communities who are in non-monogamous relationships are managing both of these challenges at once. These tips are geared towards people in romantic relationships, but might also be useful for family, friends, community and housemates.

This series of articles is about some ways that we can manage the impacts of COVID-19 on our relationships. This series is for people in healthy relationships. If you or someone you know is in an unhealthy or unsafe relationship, there is support for you. The NSW Government is supporting domestic violence services with additional measures in response to COVID-19. If you are concerned about the relationship of a neighbour, friend or community member, check out our Bystander Toolkit for ideas about how you can act to provide support- many of these ideas can be adapted to providing virtual support.

 Going the distance while suddenly long distance

Going from spending lots of time with your partner to suddenly needing to physically distance and no longer getting to spend in person time with them sucks, there’s no two ways about it. It’s a huge transition for relationships to go through, and the intimacy and comfort you can get from sex, or even just a hug, can be harder to find. There are things you and your partner can do to maintain the intimacy in your relationship.

Tim has a tight network of friends and partners, and it’s really important to him to stay connected with them. They have started a COVID-19 support network and use this to share contact details and vulnerabilities, and he says they also have other chats that are more light-hearted. “I’m trying to do lots of things with them like video calling, Netflix watch parties, playing games. It’s about doing things together, even though we are also separate.” says Tim.

You could also try:

  • Doing a virtual museum or art gallery tour.
  • Cooking the same meal and having a ‘zoom’ date.
  • Swapping jumpers, t-shirts or pillows so that you have something that reminds you of each other.
  • Exploring sex together, over the phone or using webcams, or even investing in sex toys that can be operated over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi by your partner.

Keeping it fresh when it’s quality time 100% of the time

If you live with your partner/s, it’s likely you are suddenly seeing a whole lot more of each other! When you live with together and you’re not heading out on date nights anymore, it’s easy to slip into a routine, and you might feel like you’re losing the ‘spark’ together, especially if social isolation equals a whole lot more pyjama time on the couch. If this sounds like you, it might be time to shake things up a little:

  • Get dressed up for an at home date night.
  • Learn a new skill together.
  • Use this time to try that sex thing you guys have talked about but never got around to executing.
  • Cook a fancy meal together.

Sam and his partner have started riding their bikes after dinner, saying “we head to the water not far from our house. It’s such a beautiful view, and the fresh air is really good for us”.

At the same time as it’s important to find new ways to be together and new things to do, we also need to give one another space. For many of us, those built in breaks from seeing each other, like work and drinks with friends have suddenly disappeared. Consider:

  • Creating separate spaces in the home
  • Talking to friends separately
  • Scheduling ‘me’ time

This is something Charlotte has been thinking about recently, “we wrote a big list filled with things we want to do together, but now that we’re actually both home so much more it’s like “oh yeah, I probably need to leave them alone a bit too!””

This is a time of change for all of us, and we are all working out the strategies that work best for us and our relationships. Different things will work for each of us, and it might be trial and error to figure out what works for you.

Our communities and our relationships are resilient, and we will find and build new ways to connect with one another.

Check out the Make Your Relationships Healthier page for more actions you can take to improve and strengthen your relationships.

If you need more information about COVID-19, you can check out ACON’s Coronavirus Information for LGBTQ Communities and People living with HIV. For the most up to date information, the Government has set up a central website that provides up to date information about COVID-19 including about health & prevention, and financial support.