COVID-19 has taken over our lives and changed nearly every aspect of it, including our love lives. If two months ago you and your partner went on dinner dates and enjoyed each other’s company, now, being forced to self-quarantine separately, you’re trying to figure out how long-distance relationships work. it’s hard to not know when you’ll get to see each other again.
However, there are ways for couples separated by quarantine to remain close, connected, and happy during these hard times. According to sex therapist Nan Wise, PhD, author of Why Good Sex Matters, “not being in the same physical space, and needing to be creative about how [you] communicate and connect, is a great way to reboot your relationship.”
Here are 10 of the best tips from experts on how to maintain, or even improve your relationship while you’re quarantining apart.
Set aside time to focus on each other every day
It’s very important to take some time each day to concentrate on each other, with no distractions whatsoever. “We can always learn new things about ourselves and each other, no matter how long we’re together, by being really mindful about listening to what our partner is saying,” says Wise.
She also recommends checking in about the good and the bad parts of each of your days and telling your partner how you really feel and what’s the state of your body and mind. “In everyday conversation, we’re listening to make a point, we’re listening to refute, we’re listening to influence, we’re listening to control, whatever it is,” says Wise. “We can take this opportunity to really start to listen to what our partner’s experiencing.”
Don’t skip date night
Everyone’s basically living in sweatpants all day, every day right now. However, Wise suggests planning a date night the way you normally would, including getting dressed up the way you would if you could get out of the house.
“Dress up for your partner, and flirt,” says Wise. Flirting is very important, even if you can’t physically be together, she explains, because it can create exciting romantic tension. Additionally, flirting can also serve as foreplay to any kind of long-distance sexual connection you feel comfortable with.
Schedule your time together
Calling your partner any time you feel lonely or bored can be really tempting, however, it appears that you shouldn’t. Try to resist that urge, says Michael Kaye, global communications manager at OkCupid.
According to Kaye, “a lot of people are going to be more dependent on talking to their partner” than they might have been in the past, because they’re feeling lonely and isolated.
But just because you have time to talk, it doesn’t mean that your partner is not busy, and if they won’t answer to your call, it can feel “really difficult and really frustrating.”
The good news is that you can avoid all the confusion and hurt feelings by simply scheduling your time together. Start your day with a phone call in the morning before your day gets started, and make a plan to catch up when you both have time.
Do virtual activities together
Videocalls certainly help you stay more connected with your partner, but who says you have to limit your communications to just chatting?
You can try to virtually do the activities you love together, whether it’s taking an exercise class, sketching, cooking the same meal, or watching a movie. All of these virtual activities will help you feel closer and more a part of each other’s lives. “Sometimes you don’t even have to talk to each other,” says Kaye. “You can start a video chat and watch a movie or TV show at the same time.”
Write a daily email
Video chats are a great way to stay connected and see each other every day, but once they’re over, they’re over. That’s why is so important to send a daily email or text message to your partner and let them know how you feel. This way, your partner can look back on when they miss you.
Putting your feelings in writing is way more powerful than talking out loud. “Think about writing your partner an email every morning. Let them know about any dreams you had, or what you’re working on for the day and what your schedule is going to look like,” says Kaye. “It’s just a nice way to wake up and start your day.”
Have virtual double dates or friend hangouts
You don’t have to limit to only hanging out with each other in order to have quality time. “Invite your date to join you and your friends via the HouseParty app,” says sexologist and author Jess O’ Reilly, PhD. “Their friends can join, too, and you’ll likely see additional sides of one another as you interact with friends.”
Don’t expect your partner to be your entire support system
When things get rough, our first instinct is to run straight to our partner and seek comfort. But “if your partner is overwhelmed with their own stuff, you should find resources in other places,” says dating coach Monica Parikh, founder of School of Love.
Sometimes, it’s better to talk to your family and friends about what stresses you out, instead of expecting your partner to be your entire support system. This can also make you feel more independent. “It’s always healthier for both people to have a robust network of people they can fulfill their needs with,” says Parikh.
Don’t hold back your emotions
With so much stressful news each day, you might feel tempted to keep things light with your partner, and not tell them if you’re feeling hurt or sad. But, according to Kaye, trying to always be positive can become a problem on its own.
“I think all our emotions are super heightened right now, and people are more anxious or sensitive than they’ve ever been before,” he says. So be honest about anything that’s bothering you. “Don’t keep that bottled in, because you’ll wind up exploding later on.”
Assess the health of your relationship
If your partner has left you unsure and with some unanswered questions, now is the time to consider them more deeply.
“Ask yourself, ‘Is this relationship meeting my needs, and do I want to invest more of my time and energy into it? Or is my time and energy best used in another place?'” suggests Parikh.
She recommends being honest with each other and with yourself and considering whether the relationship makes you happy or fulfills a lot of your needs. If not, “it may be time to let go and say, ‘You know what? We’ve learned a lot from this relationship, but better to kind of let it sit here and not go any further.'”
Don’t forget to check in with yourself often
Considering that there’s no end of the quarantine in sight, your relationship expectations and mood can change drastically from one day to another. According to Janet Bayramyan, LCSW, relationship expert at the Love Discovery Institute, the best way to cope with the shock of all these transitions, and their (positive or negative) effects on your relationship is to check in with yourself.
“I would recommend checking in with yourself on a weekly basis to evaluate your own expectations of your relationship and also of your partner,” she says.
Always let your partner know what you’re feeling, and what you need. “While being understanding and accommodating, do not lose your communication skills,” says Bayramyan. “State your needs. State your fears. State your hopes.” And, most of all: “Remind yourself that this is only temporary.”