To say that 2020 has been a strange year is an understatement. Eleven months ago, expectations for the year were high. Maybe you and your partner even toasted to the brand new decade and the opportunities it could bring: new jobs, a move, stronger relationships, a new child, a dream vacation.
It didn’t take long for life to quickly change in ways we never imagined and brought with it challenges that we’ve never had to deal with.
It’s always been important to be on the same page with your partner, but this need is highlighted during times like the present. Quarantine is a whole lot more tolerable when your relationship is going great.
Since no one has any idea when COVID will cease to be the threat it is today, we’ve gathered up some dos and don’ts that can help you through the coming weeks and months.
Do give each other space.
Chances are you’ve spent more time near your partner than you have ever before. Even if you have separate working spaces and can divide household responsibilities fairly between both of you, you need space.
This used to come in the form of things like your work commute, your weekend workout sessions, his Friday night dinner out with the guys. You probably have a new perspective on this time that you previously took for granted.
Decide on a non-intrusive way to let each other know you need to be alone. One thing you can do is to have a special candle that you light when you want some me-time, or schedule time for one of you to do grocery shopping and errands for a few hours while the other is free and trade-off the next time.
Do get in alignment on money.
For many couples, money is tight this year. When you are not aligned with your spending and saving habits, the lack of money intensifies associated feelings.
What was a minor discussion on cutting back on your phone data plan (because, after all, you’re at home using your own internet all day) might turn into a full-blown money fight because one of you has been laid off and takes it as a personal attack.
Couples who participated in Honeyfi’s Love and COVID-19 Survey said that just thinking about money made them feel stressed (53%), overwhelmed (42%), frustrated (37%), or nervous (25%). Now’s a great time to schedule a money date to update your budget, or create one if you’ve never budgeted before.
Do come to a consensus on the risks that you’re comfortable with.
Travel for the holidays? Do you allow the kids to go along grocery shopping or not? That family dinner with 18 people at Grandma’s, are you going or not? These are just some of the risk-related questions that are running through your mind daily. Unfortunately, this is not like the game of Risk.
There are real, life-altering consequences at stake. And this is a topic couples are fighting about these days. Ask your friends how they’re making decisions on what they are and are not doing these days. Then sit down with your partner and talk through your thoughts on how much risk you’re willing to take on. Listen to each other, without interrupting, to fully understand their concerns. Discuss the questions you have and then come up with a reasonable plan.
When in doubt, err on the side of caution; this is a pandemic. This isn’t the year to give in to Great Aunt Helen’s need for everyone to be present at her birthday party.
Do remember this is a unique situation.
Since there’s no guidebook about how to soldier on through this pandemic, know that everyone else is trying to figure out how to survive with some sanity, too. You’re not alone.
Go with your gut feeling on handling situations and what you will and will not do related to work and school. Stay in contact with your family and friends, do your job to the best of your ability, and work with your kids to navigate this time.
Remember, money comes and goes, your kids will learn math and Shakespeare eventually. Don’t stress over the things that won’t be important in 2025.
Do create a routine.
Your routine from the spring has probably evolved considerably by now, but with the start of 2021 coming up, it’s a good time to rethink it or start one if you haven’t.
Setting beginning and endpoints to your day will help you feel less like you are taking a working stay-cation and more like you’re the professional you really are. Moms and Dads, you might have to get up a bit earlier to get in some quiet time to do some exercise, reading, or meditation to start your day. Schedule a post-lunch family, walks to get some fresh air, and signal a transition to the afternoon.
And to ensure restful sleep, turn off screens an hour before bedtime.
Don’t make any big relationship decisions during COVID.
Relationships can be challenging on their own. It’s the nature of two different humans trying to live their lives in unity, sharing a home, and raising a family.
Protect your relationship from becoming a casualty of COVID by agreeing not to make any big life decisions without proper pause and consideration. According to The National Law Review, divorce rates have been on the rise since the pandemic started and anecdotal evidence from your peers might attest to this.
One upside of COVID is that there are many more online and virtual resources now than ever before if you need counseling, therapy, or mentoring. Please seek professional help when you need it.
Don’t forget to have fun.
Movie nights with late-night snacks at the bar may be out, but there’s still fun to be had. And you should take every chance you can to make good memories!
Round up your friends on a Zoom call, and simultaneously watch a movie on Netflix. Get out your hiking boots and explore nearby parks and trails. Take an online class to learn Japanese cooking, oil painting, or belly dancing. Put your thinking cap on, or open up Pinterest, to come up with ideas of things you’d enjoy doing.
Don’t stay online all day.
Your job might require you to be online most of the workday, but you still get to choose how to spend your free time.
Do something that allows you to give your eyes and mind a break. Go for a walk or teach your kids old-school playground games. During your workday, take frequent breaks about once an hour, get up and drink some water, put in a load of laundry, or take the dog on a short walk to the end of the block.
These five-minute breaks will refresh you and help you stay focused when working at the computer.
Don’t start the day by reading the news.
If ever there was a time to go on a strict media diet, now is it. Restrict your media consumption for your mental health.
This is not meant to diminish anything that’s happened, but you can only control yourself, and to some extent, your partner and children. It’s easy to end up going down the news rabbit hole and ending up feeling awful about the state of the world.
Allow yourself to watch the evening news, preferably the dinner-time edition, and then turn it off for the day. Should anything earth-shattering occur before the next evening, your family or friends will bring you up to speed.
Don’t forget self-care.
Possibly the easiest of these five “don’ts,” it is among the most important. There are many ways practice self-care, and it doesn’t need to be all at once.
Get your day off to a good start by doing some exercise and journaling or meditating. In the evening, skip the mindless internet surfing and curl up on the sofa with a cup of cocoa and a favorite book or holiday movie. Treat yourself to your favorite breakfast after a morning run. The downtime you get from thinking about your partner, kids, family, holiday stresses, work, and COVID will do your mind and soul well.
Many of these do’s and don’ts work in harmony together. When you’re investing in self-care, you don’t have time to keep up with the media. When you and your partner are budgeting together, you’re probably in pretty good alignment on money. Chances are, you’re already doing or not doing one of these suggestions. Select one that you want to improve and make that your priority for the next week.
Charlotte Edwards is a personal finance writer and copywriter who enjoys spending her free time with her husband and their two kids, learning about real estate investing, and attempting to become a better cook.
Also published on Medium.