Relationships during COVID have devolved from spending time in each other’s presence and looking forward to visits, to solely virtual communication instead. No visits in sight, and if we do see each other, it’s not at all like before. This evolution has proven difficult for many relationships — even time-tested ones.
The pandemic and its isolation were first-time experiences for most of us. Plus, the conditions of the pandemic make cognitive and emotional function harder on multiple levels. It has been a difficult time, so there’s no need for guilt if your relationships have suffered. But it’s worth some extra effort to maintain these bonds, even from a distance.
Below, we explore the pandemic-related strain on physically distanced relationships, and some strategies for reinforcing our dearest connections.
Why are relationships so important during COVID?
As human beings, relationships are essential to our wellbeing. Feeling connected and seen contributes significantly to our social, mental, and even physical health. Mutual listening, communication, and time and activities shared all help shape us, as well as fulfill our basic need for meaningful interaction.
During the COVID pandemic, when there are so many strains on our physical and mental wellbeing, relationships become especially important. Feeling connected strengthens our immune systems, and helps fight emotional discomfort associated with the pandemic.
So how do we maintain relationships during COVID, after being apart for months in some cases?
It’s much harder to experience the above benefits while physically separated from our loved ones. How do we get around this? It helps to look at what makes us feel connected.
One main way relationships help our wellbeing is by helping us feel valued. Sharing and making memories can help each other feel appreciated. Recognizing each other’s differences and similarities, strengths and weaknesses and even their abilities, makes relationships stronger and gives individuals more value in the relationship. These goals can all be achieved despite distance. Here are 6 examples of how:
1. Staying connected through communication
We now have access to staying in contact with each other constantly. Communication can take place through various means. There’s social media, instant messaging, phone and video calling programs and apps -making it easier to connect through different channels.
Make it a point to talk at regular intervals – even if it’s a short video or voice call. Even if either of you are busy or not in the mood to have a long conversation, shoot them a text to check in. It may sound trivial, but staying connected shows that you care and value the relationship.
2. Show appreciation for the relationship
Being told that someone is grateful for their relationship with you is one of those feel-good moments, so why not do this for someone you are grateful for! Doubts, assumptions and insecurities can cause a relationship to turn sour but showing your appreciation for each other helps with those feel-good moments!
Other ways to show appreciation:
- Write a note or send a card to the other person.
- Dedicate an appreciation post to them on social media.
- Listen actively.
- Ask how they are feeling.
3. Spend quality time
Quality time might seem impossible given COVID precautions. However, spending quality time just means you get a chance to talk, openly and unreservedly with no barriers. You certainly don’t have to meet in-person to achieve that.
Quality time could, for example, involve sharing virtual activities you both enjoy. Watch parties, trading memes, gaming can all be done together online; and you can get creative for less virtual activities. Craft together over Facetime, cook the same meal while on a Zoom chat, or do a Powerpoint Party.
Take turns on choosing how to spend your time together, to help each other feel heard in the relationship. Find common ground on activities to engage in but also indulge each other with activities highlighting each other’s interests and hobbies.
4. Talk about the deep stuff
One of the really important most difficult ways to maintain a relationship during COVID. It may make you really uncomfortable to voice tough feelings, especially with all the bad in the world. But sharing vulnerable feelings is necessary in order to feel connected. Small talk is a start, but it doesn’t do much to bring people together.
These conversations are meant to help you ‘dig deeper’ into the relationship, find out more about each other than just what you show to the world. Deep conversations gradually become easier and more natural, as you come to know more of each others’ inner worlds.
5. Learn how you can be there for the other person
Find out what the other person needs, and try your best to fulfill that need without compromising yourself or your relationship. You can be there for them by talking or just listening, bringing them food or a care package, watching their favorite movie, or joining them in their hobby (virtually).
Other ways to be there for someone:
- Ask them what they need.
- Provide unconditional love and support.
- Remember and ask about important events in their life.
- Attempt to understand their feelings and thoughts, without judgement.
“Do what you can to show you care about other people, and you will make our world a better place.”– Rosalynn Carter
6. Make future
Making future plans for any relationship gives you something to look forward to. The excitement and anticipation of fulfilling those plans is great for your mental health and gives your relationship some purpose. During COVID, it’s especially important to remind yourself there will be an “after.” Sharing your dreams and desires with each other (either for the relationship or just your own) starts these dreams on a path to reality.
Relationships During COVID: More Important Than Ever
When we are apart or physically separated from those we are close to, it is difficult to benefit from the value relationships bring into our lives. It may be hard just to maintain these relationships during COVID, period. We should all be motivated to keep this from happening, as losing our close relationships deprives us of the chance to de-stress and connect. Relationships, themselves, help us cope with traumatic events — so it’s especially important now, during the COVID pandemic, to maintain these bonds. We owe it to both ourselves and our loved ones.