How to Not Destroy Your Relationship While Quarantined with Your Partner

Some things to keep in mind, according to a local couples counselor.by

· 3/31/2020, 11:59 a.m.

In the span of days, you and your significant other probably went from bemoaning your busy schedules and how you don’t see each other enough to a very different reality of being stuck inside together 24/7, bickering about the proper direction to hang your toilet paper. If this sounds familiar, you’re in luck: We spoke with Danielle Green, an Arlington couples counselor and co-founder of the New England Center for Couples & Families, who shared with us her top tips to keep your relationship flourishing during this uneasy time. Take a deep breath, and read on for the quarantine relationship advice you need.

Be aware of how stress might impact your behavior.nullADVERTISINGnullhttps://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

If you’re finding yourself beginning to get annoyed at habits and quirks that once-upon-a-time you actually found endearing, you’re not alone. “Because this is such a stressful time, we have fewer emotional resources and we tend to be more sensitive and less flexible. We therefore become more easily triggered,” Green says. “Smaller things, like the way [your partner] chews food, that might not be a big deal when you’re feeling good and secure become a bigger deal. It’s sort of a way of discharging that overall stress.” The good news? Recognizing your temptation to nitpick is the first step to preventing it. Try to catch yourself before poking at your partner and ask where your feelings are actually coming from, Green suggests. If you find that you’re behaving in a way you normally wouldn’t, it’s probably less about your partner, and more about what’s happening within you emotionally, she adds. Make it a practice to remind yourself of the stress that you’re both under, and of the importance to be kind to yourself and your significant other now more than ever.

Respect each other’s coping styles, but also communicate your needs.

Everyone processes tragic events differently—even two people in the same household. And in addition to feeling differing levels of emotional distress, the two of you might also have different methods for managing those feelings. One partner may need more assurance from their other half, for instance, while the other may prefer to plow on with their day without much reflection. This is where clear communication comes in. If you feel you aren’t getting the emotional support you need from your partner, or conversely, if your partner’s constant need to discuss what’s happening in the news or talk through “what if” scenarios is causing you more anxiety, it’s time to open up a dialogue. “Couples who can move through this more easily are really those who can express themselves more emotionally to their partner, not with anger or disdain, but more with vulnerability. For example, they’ll say, ‘I’m scared, and I need you to tell me it’s going to be okay and that we’re going to be okay,’” Green says. On the other hand, she adds, if your partner isn’t able to offer the comfort you crave, it’s key “to understand [your partner’s behavior] as a coping strategy, rather than that they’re telling you, ‘What you’re going through is not important to me.’”

Make structure your new best friend.

The couples that are thriving in this environment are those that are that are working together to straddle their calendars,” Green says, adding that this is especially important for pairs with kids at home. “You have to be pretty darn intentional about it.” This means sitting down together to create a daily schedule that builds in time for each of you to get work done, while also looking after little ones, getting exercise, and taking care of any other priorities. This may translate to one of you having a few hours of solo home office time while the other is more available to the children, and then having lunch together before swapping roles. It’s about creating a system that you can commit to and that works well for everyone involved.

Put regular alone time on your agenda. 

Even if you’re both enjoying being under the same roof all day every day, your routine should also include some you-time. It’s not about getting away from each other, but rather taking an hour or two to invest in yourself, which will be beneficial for you both in the long run. “Some people might need more alone time than others, but for those who really need it, it’s very important to get that on the calendar,” Green says. This could include going for a walk by yourself, going into another room to listen to music, or setting up a virtual happy hour with friends. Work with your partner to make this a priority.

Practice essential habits of self-care.

Long story short: Looking after yourself isn’t just for you. Green stresses the importance of a healthy diet, exercise, and good sleep-hygiene (like not working in bed, for one) to keep your mental health in tip-top shape and set yourselves up for success as a duo. Secondly, be mindful of how you’re self-medicating during this time. Green says she’s noticed a “slight increase in alcohol and marijuana intake” in some clients, which can undoubtedly affect sleep and stress management. Not something you want to add to your relationship right now.

Keep the romance going however you can. 

Fanning the flames of desire can be a bit challenging when you’re only seeing each other in sweatpants all day and you’re both behind on showers. But if doing so is important to you, it’s up to you to make putting in the effort a priority. That could entail actually getting dressed a few times a week, or planning a romantic night at home. “A date doesn’t necessarily have to be going to a restaurant or a play. Go back to the basics a little bit. It’s about asking, ‘How can we be intentional about nourishing our relationship in all kinds of ways?’” Green says.

Remember to see the silver lining.

bKeep in mind that, even if we don’t know how long we’ll be quarantined in our homes, this situation is ultimately temporary. Try to enjoy the novelty of this uninterrupted time together and take advantage of it as much as you can. “People are really banding together in ways you only see in times of adversity,” Green explains. “There’s this kind of wholesomeness—having meals together, game nights, families out walking with their kids, having movie nights.”

SEX & RELATIONSHIPS. THE TRUTH ABOUT MIDLIFE DATING AND SEX


Single life in your twenties is a rite of passage, but what happens when you find yourself back in the fray in later life? In an exclusive survey, Style spoke to more than 1,000 single men and women aged 35 to 81 to discover the new rules of dating


Emma Beddington
Sunday February 09 2020, 12.01am, The Sunday Times


Dating is an adventure at any age — nerve-racking, exhausting, crushing and occasionally wonderful — but maybe even more so in midlife. The stakes are higher, whether you’re looking for a life partner and co-parent, or emerging from a long-term relationship with new clarity about what you want from the rest of your life. In a landmark survey commissioned by Style, more than 1,000 single men and women over the age of 35 talked frankly about their dating experiences: what they’re looking for, how they go about finding it and, crucially, how it feels. The results make clear that, in 2020, the dating landscape for midlifers is even more Wild West than it is for many gen Zers.

The “swipe right” culture, online pornography and the rise of sexting have all fundamentally changed the game for older millennials, gen Xers and baby-boomers. Only 25% of midlife singles are now looking to get married, and 53% are open to dating without commitment. This rises to 66% for LGB daters and, intriguingly, to 71% for the 65-plus age group. A steady proportion (36%-40%) of all age groups are up for casual sex, and 56% have had sex in the past six months, reporting an average of two partners in the past year. An impressive 68% of those who are having regular sex describe themselves as more adventurous than when they were younger: 14% had used drugs with a sexual partner; 8% had tried group sex or a threesome.

And older doesn’t necessarily mean wiser: 31% of women (and 25% of men) surveyed are not using any contraception. Women of a generation for whom contraception was chiefly about avoiding pregnancy seem to throw caution to the winds post-menopause: several mentioned freedom from pregnancy worries as a factor in their midlife sexual renaissance.

It’s a different story to the one we’ve become used to hearing about sex and relationship attitudes among gen Z and younger millennials, widely reported to be in a “sex recession”. HBO’s new series Mrs Fletcher, starring Kathryn Hahn, plays with these themes and with a midlife cohort getting to grips (so to speak) with the ubiquity of porn. In it, Hahn plays a mid-forties single mother rediscovering her sexuality at the same time as her boorish son starts college, falling foul of the strictly policed sexuality of woke American campus culture.

Suzi Godson, sex and relationship columnist on The Times, who is finalising a PhD on midlife divorcees, is not surprised so many midlife daters are receptive to no-strings encounters. “They’re not going into dating with a view to marrying again. They want to maintain their independence but to have sex, to have companionship, to have fun. Sometimes sex is enough.”

The majority (56%) of midlife daters now meet using apps and sites, and the experience is far from universally positive. The survey responses are a catalogue of dates that omit to mention they are still married, are feet shorter than their profiles claim, and “40, athletic build, long hair” turning out to mean “58, overweight and bald”. Up to 58% had experienced dishonesty on apps, and a refusal to commit to meeting up is frustratingly common (41%). The simple ego boost of a match or message is enough for some, without taking things further. Ghosting is prevalent (and hurtful): 45% of all respondents have experienced it, though only 25% admit to doing it. One felt “like I’d done something wrong, I wasn’t good enough and they found somebody else”. Others described feeling “unsafe”, “used” or “upset”.

Bad behaviour is not limited to fudged profiles, though. Some 68% of women had received unwanted explicit pictures or messages. Getting a “rude pic” is one of the reasons given for breaking off contact with a match; another was frequent unannounced visits: “It made me uncomfortable.” Last summer, US research on the unsolicited dick-pic phenomenon concluded that the majority of senders were in a “transactional mindset” — that is, they hoped to get pictures in return — and they, perhaps unsurprisingly, showed higher levels of narcissism.

For Sarah Tilley, a relationship expert who selects and counsels daters for the matchmaking service Vida, dick pics now come as standard. “A lot of men don’t realise it’s a negative thing.” Erotic connection online is great, if it’s what both parties want: 40% of daters have tried sexting and 35% have received explicit pictures from a partner (though only 27% say they send them). “There are plenty of men and women who just want to play online: it’s all about consensual play,” Tilley says. Survey responses among those who had tried it varied: “It made me feel wanted, excited,” one sexter reports. “It’s fun, but it leaves you frustrated,” says another. “A bit embarrassing” is a third verdict.

Cheeringly, all age groups report enjoying sex more than when they were younger, citing lower inhibitions and more experience and empowerment. “I enjoy it so much, if I could have sex every day I would be very happy,” is one response. For Godson, this is as much a product of the sociocultural climate as personal experience. “People who are in midlife now have had the benefit of 25 or 30 years of openness around sex, of a tremendous amount of education and less stigma,” she says. “That will translate into a much better understanding of themselves, even without those extra years of experience with however many sexual partners.”

Body confidence is, however, a thornier issue for women in midlife, with 58% reporting concerns. “I hate my body now,” one laments. “I looked better when I was younger,” says another. Men aren’t immune either: 46% report body anxieties. “Now everyone wants Channing Tatum,” is one complaint.

But improved confidence generally — 72% reported feeling more confident than when they were younger — inspires good sex. “I know what I like and I know what I want, and I am now not afraid to tell a man when they are doing it wrong,” is a typical response. “I am not scared to be naked or have fun,” says another.

That increased confidence can also help midlife daters navigate what some experience as increased pressure for sexual experimentation. “There are more expectations for trying things — threesomes, anal and so on,” says one. For Godson, this is clearly linked to 24/7 porn streaming: 25% of daters say they had watched porn together. “Respect your own boundaries,” advises psychotherapist Hilda Burke. “What feels pleasurable to you? When sex becomes performative, your mind is on that rather than in the moment, in your body.” That seems to be a message most have taken on board: “I’m more at ease and know that I can say no,” says one respondent.

One thing is clear, despite an admirably busy minority, 77% of midlife daters had only been on between one and three dates in the past year. “It’s not enough,” says the author Stephanie Nimmo, who has written about her own dating experiences after being widowed at 47. “It can be a problem where people emotionally overinvest, then they’re really disappointed when they do go on a date and it doesn’t work out. It’s a numbers game.”

Perhaps it’s not surprising people aren’t dating more: under half of women and barely half of men surveyed say that they enjoy it (for Nimmo it’s “a necessary evil”), though the percentage rises for older daters. Is it possible to make it more enjoyable? Dating advice often counsels clarity about what you want, but for many, working that out is part of the — sometimes painful — process. “You find out who you are, what language you want to use, how playful you can be,” says Tilley, who is now happily coupled up. An open mind about what you might get out of it helps. Nimmo is also in a relationship now, but the friendships she made dating were a precious unexpected benefit. “I’ve made some great friends, people who didn’t know Steph when she was married and all my history. That’s lovely.”

STORIES FROM THE MIDLIFE DATING FRONT LINE
As told to Sophie Wilkinson

Eleanor*, 57, on navigating male behaviour
I’ve been in a relationship with my boyfriend for 18 months, after meeting him on Plenty of Fish. I waited for more than a month to sleep with him for the first time — I didn’t want to scare him off, so I followed his lead. I had only been on there for six months, and I’m so lucky we clicked because the apps were weird. One guy I dated really showed off about the money he had, and how successful he was as a businessman. So many men were sleazy, too. They would do the rounds, reappearing after a short relationship, looking for more women. We would get chatting on the phone — I always did that to try to weed out the weird ones — and they would ask, “So, do you wear a bra?” I’d tell them if they wanted a dirty phone call, there are better numbers for that.

Often, a man would tell me, quite plainly, that he was married. They would say: “I’m married, we don’t get on, but if it’s not for you, fair enough.” It was shocking how many men were thick enough to be wearing wedding rings in their profile photos.

I’m now semi-retired, but it has always been important to me that I’m with a man who works. I don’t want him hanging around me all day.

Paul*, 42, on misadventures in dating
After I got divorced, I started using dating apps, then I dated an old friend for a couple of years. Since that relationship ended a year ago, online dating is already so different. I suspect it may be because I’ve tipped over that 40 watershed. I’ve got a nine-year-old daughter and want more children, so I’m really keen for a long-term relationship. I know my age limit on the apps of 32-40 is more biased towards the younger age, but if you want more kids, then that’s what you’ve got to do. And I feel like single women thinking about having children might want only to date men under 40 themselves.

I’ve been ghosted four or five times, and it is always surprising, because there would be loads of excitement and mutual interest after a few dates, then they would just be gone. I’ve ghosted, too, in the past, but I know in dating karma it’s not a good thing to do, and I’ll always try to get back to them in a month and explain what happened. It’s like road rage — people can get away with stuff they wouldn’t normally do. I’m going to take a break from the apps for a bit. I know I’m way more suited to meeting women in real life.

Claire*, 62, on rediscovering her libido
I’ve been divorced for 28 years and have never been monogamous since. My sex life is so much more adventurous now. I know I’ve got 25 years left to live, so I’m going to accelerate! Two years ago I started HRT, thanks to a new doctor who prescribed me hormones to fix my severe hot flushes. It may be a placebo effect, but I’ve gone completely off the rails: I’ve had 31 first dates and slept with 19 men, and five are now regular partners. I have such a rich life, culturally and socially, and I’ve not found anyone who could match that, so I date to have fun and sex. All my lovers tend to be in their forties, which is 20 years younger than me, because older men only want younger women. I wouldn’t date men in their thirties, because my children are that old, but I do lie about my age. I took five years off my age on Tinder, and it meant all the men who might have put a barrier on 60 are looking at me. When they find out I’m 62, they’re even more excited. It works for me!

Couples Therapy: why would anyone agree to televise their therapy sessions?

The showrunners behind an honest, if uncomfortable, new series explain how they got four couples to allow cameras in the room with their therapist

Adrian Horton

Tue 3 Sep 2019 17.40 BSTLast modified on Fri 6 Sep 2019 16.29 BST

Sarah and Lauren in Couples Therapy.

Before the closed glass door of a therapist’s office in New York, a series of couples brace themselves for a slog. One man fidgets with a 3D puzzle; a woman, eyes closed, grips the chair arms. In the chairs, facing a Rorschach-esque painting, the couples seem aware of, if not reacting to, a discreetly installed camera – one woman’s attempt to tuck in her partner’s shirt tag, met with a shrug and rebuff, morphs into a shoulder rub. But the anticipation seems to cut through any self-consciousness, landing back on the two people – their unit, about to be picked as if an archaeology dig. One couple sits down, sighs, and looks at each other, as if to say: are you ready?

Jawline: behind the social media documentary about short-lived fame

Showtime’s new series Couples Therapy is, like a good apology, exactly as advertised: a peek into the process of couples therapy, a seat in the room as they unpack years of coiled narratives and resentments to find common ground. The footage is intensely personal, at times searingly intimate, and cumulative – showrunners Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg and Eli Despres filmed four couples over 20 weeks of one-hour therapy sessions, then edited down and stitched together each couple’s journey into nine half-hour episodes. Other than brief transition montages or characterizing shots – couple pouring coffee in their home, couple riding in the back of a car – that’s it: the couples and the therapist, outfits changing with the week, getting to know each other and themselves.

A decently clear picture – or, at least, the small-talk version of why each pair no longer sees eye-to-eye – emerges by the end of the first episode. There’s Evelyn and Alan, a young couple whose mutual lack of trust perches them on separate ends of the couch and the brink of separation; Lauren and Sarah, a queer and trans couple whose spark dampens under the weight (or lack thereof) of potential children; DeSean and Elaine, a union of reserve and fire – “he calmed my noise, and I woke him up,” Elaine says – now speaking in mutual spite; and Annie and Mau, whose bickering over a birthday plan gone awry suggests a personal history of defensiveness and desire much more complicated than either let on.

The subsequent episodes, four of which were available for review, richly fill in – or interrogate and flip – those narratives as the therapist, Dr Orna Guralnik, masterfully steers part conversation, part investigation into the many strands of personality, miscommunication, sex, money, power and mistrust (to name a few things) that pull a couple apart. This raw, potentially instructive honesty builds on years of popular media seeking to pull back the curtain on romantic coupledom: there’s the viral Ted Talk by therapist and media figure Esther Perel, Rethinking Infidelity,viewed nearly 14m times, and advice podcasts such as the Dan Savage Lovecast or Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond’s Dear Sugar. Perel has her own podcast, Where Should We Begin?, launched two years ago, in which audiences listen in on capsule episodes of single therapy sessions with real couples.

Orna Guralnik in Couples Therapy.
 Orna Guralnik in Couples Therapy. Photograph: Courtesy of SHOWTIME/Courtesy of Showtime

But Couples Therapy breaks new ground with its camera, capturing the stalemates and breakthroughs in shifting gazes, unsaid interjections, raised eyebrows. Its presence offers a level up on the fascination of lurking behind closed doors, but also presents a conundrum – “how can you capture therapy, and what’s so extraordinary about therapy, while also filming it?” Kriegman, whose parents are both therapists, told the Guardian. “Is it possible for people to be open and raw and vulnerable where they are able to do great work while also knowing that they’re being filmed?Advertisement

“Truthfully, we didn’t know if it would work,” he admitted. (He and Steinberg previously worked together on Weiner, a documentary about former congressman Anthony Weiner’s scandal-derailed NYC mayoral campaign.) Nevertheless, the team set about casting a diverse range of couples – in age, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity – open to exploring their relationship on record. Their open call, according to Steinberg, received over 1,000 inquiries. After a series of “long conversations”, they narrowed it down to a few couples, then eventually four.

All agreed to have cameras in their sessions because they were “inspired by the possibility that sharing their stories publicly could be helpful to other people who are having similar struggles”, said Kriegman. In turn, the film-making team, according to Steinberg, sought to avoid sensationalism or salaciousness by eliding the camera’s presence as much as possible: the documentarians stayed out of the therapy room, instead concealing cameras, integrated inconspicuously into the office’s design, behind one-way glass. They maintain that the recorded emotion is all unprompted; couples were able “to come in, sit in the waiting room, have an hour-long therapy session, leave and never once interact with any element of production or camera-person, or see any camera”, said Kriegman.

Alan Ameerullah and Evelyn Ameerullah in Couples Therapy.
 Alan and Evelyn in Couples Therapy. Photograph: Courtesy of SHOWTIME/Courtesy of Showtime

Guralnik, meanwhile, flourishes as she treads an expert line between empathetically pulling on tightly held threads and acknowledging pain while sidestepping judgment. A New York City-based psychotherapist and psychoanalyst with 25 years’ experience, Guralnik was initially skeptical of appearing on screen, but came around to the film-makers’ vision of unadulterated process. “There are very parallel processes to documentary film-making and the psychoanalytic process – the process of storytelling, narrating, finding the underlying narrative of something that seems obvious,” she told the Guardian.

A former film student, Guralnik approaches couple’s therapy with what she called a “psychoanalytic sensibility” – keeping an ear to the “enigmatic unconscious”, knowing that “people don’t always know what’s motivating them and what’s at play” – while also noting “the system that they’ve created together” with its own individual and family patterns. Guralnik also – in accordance, she said, with Kriegman and Steinberg – pays particular attention to sociocultural factors: gender dynamics, politics, race, class, “all of these large-scale issues and how they find expression within the couple’s life, and their most intimate moments”.

Captured softly on tape, Guralnik’s work offers a welcome opportunity to witness the struggle of seeing another person for who they are – of recognizing, as she tells her own clinical adviser-cum-work therapist, that a single person will never live up to your fantasy of them. The show, she hopes, will help people “to think about the kind of couple’s dances that we all do – that we get into repetitive cycles.”

Those cycles work on a societal level, as well – a national pattern of outrage not lost on the film-makers. “I think it’s fair to say that our culture right now, we’re inundated with stories of conflict and polarization,” said Kriegman. “But even beyond politics, I think many of us experience the dominant narrative being one of people entrenched in their corners with opposing views and digging their heels in.”

The contested terrain of the romantic couple offers a different story, he said, one that evinces humanity’s oft-underplayed instinct to sincerely improve. “People really do want to do better – they want to transcend, they want to grow, there’s this underlying push toward health, connectedness, betterment,” Guralnik said. “I really feel as a therapist and an analyst, you get to tap into the underlying forces that mend humanity.”

  • Couples Therapy starts on Showtime on 6 September with a UK date yet to be announced.

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