If you are like me, you want your space. Alone time has been harder to find during “Covid-19” for obvious reasons. We are sitting right on top of each other. I am in lock down in Barcelona with a 20-year-old girl that only a few weeks back could not imagine staying away from her friends more than minutes, not to speak of weeks on weeks. If you are a couple, maybe with kids in the house, you could be in for a real test. I wonder how many couples now manage to “get by,” because really there is no other option, and how many of them will get a divorce or run away when things come back to normal. Therefore, here is a list of ideas and suggestions on how to co-exist before you go crazy or your partner leaves.
1. Make space
However small your living space is, make sure you have some separate zones during the day. If you are in a studio with no other rooms (like me), make sure to compartmentalise space so you can sit apart during the day. At our home, we make sure to spend hours doing our own thing in separate parts of the apartment. I notice that my daughter will slip into the bathroom for what seems an hour to “get away” and that gives me an hour in the living room by myself. We also alternate who can sit in the sofa, and who sits where at the dining table. We have unmarked zones that is hers and mine. It works well.
2. Separate time
As you create separate space, also make sure that space is also respected by separate time. My daughter cannot walk “in and out” of my time and space. In fact, while she is only 4 meters away from me, she “knows” she cannot speak to me, but she can send me a message to suggest we set up a “meeting”. It sounds so corny, but I must also book an appointment with her if I am to speak with her during certain hours of the day. Running in and out of our “space and time” constantly with small things is not the way we roll now in the “Rynning Casa”. It is weird and corny, 100%, but it is necessary to have some disclipline.
3. Setting expectations
My daughter and I already knew we did not want to spend every minute of the day together. If you are partners, it is equally as important to clarify that it is not healthy to spend every minute together – certainly as things drag on for weeks and months. We cannot spend every single moment together. Learn to set expectations and communicate those expectations. When this is over, you will be spending some time apart, right? You will have to go to work, travel, go out. You will not spend every moment together. Your time together will go “up and down”. One week I will be here 100%, the next week maybe only 10%. I am not loving you less if I am “outside” or away. Talk about what you expect from each other and be honest, -you don’t want to be together all the time. It is not good for any of you.
4. Do not outsource your happiness (or misery)
A key part of co-existing is to not make the other person “responsible” for your happiness or your misery. You cannot expect or demand that your partner’s obligation is to “make you happy” – maybe especially now.
In fact, a good starting point for a successful relationship and “co-existence” should be that your partner should not be able to “make you” anything: “He makes me so angry, so furious. She does not make me happy or she does not turn me on anymore.” Forget that. Why are you outsourcing your happiness, sexuality, or existence to someone else? You should be in control of that. Happiness or anger, it should be your decision. Mainly. I say mainly, because obviously your partner, or in my case my “roommate” is going to be doing multiple things during a day that can annoy me beyond what I can explain here, and vice versa surely. Try to take that “power” back from that person, back to yourself.
I have been telling my children for years that “happiness is a decision”. They must make themselves happy. It is way too important than to leave that job to someone else and then reprimand, or maybe even despise someone else for not living up to your expectations. It is not fair and who the hell knows what makes you happy anyway? I do not even know sometimes myself what makes me sad, exuberant, happy, or fatigued. It depends. It depends on the weather, the news, my messages, and tons of other shit. How could your partner be on top of that? Impossible.
In the end, best advice ever is to make sure you “like” your partner or roommate. That you respect them, give them space, and try to make sure you keep things positive, a light tone, glass half full, look ahead, better times are coming. Your attitude is everything here. Make “lemonade from lemons” and so on. Your attitude is key, and it helps tremendously that you “like” each other. If you do not “like” each other, then what are you doing?
5. Make a commitment
While you should not let anyone “make you mad or happy” – you could flip things upside down and make a commitment to make your partner’s life better. That works too. Look at that person next to you. Have you ever asked yourself truly “what can I do to make her life better?”
If there is “nothing” that comes up – a thing I simply cannot believe, if you looked hard– then ask yourself how could you be a little bit more patient, a little more openminded? Chances are that there is potential there…Find little things every day that shows that you care about that person. That they matter to you. Things that can make things better for them. Hopefully, they can see it, appreciate it and not take you for granted. If they do not see it, do not remind them. Ultimately, while you are doing this to improve their life, you are doing this for yourself (you selfish, kind and cute person!).
6. Be patient
Do not take yourself so incredibly seriously and be patient with other people. You too are a complicated person. If you are like me, you are also likely to be busy at times. When your partner is busy, it does not mean that they have stopped loving you. It just means they are busy. They can still love you. If the time spent “being busy” is too much, then talk about it and reset the expectations.
If you are hurt or feel that your partner does not understand you, then try to go behind the persons actions. Ask yourself, what is their intent? Is their intent to hurt me? Are they genuinely a good person? Even if there is an argument, do you know if this person’s intent is good? Does she intend to hurt me, does he intend to leave me? If they are intending to hurt you, I would say you need to get out of there. But if they are not, be patient.
Remember that “human connection”, attraction and relationships are seasonal. You go through things together. You dress for the season. If it is spring and sunny, you can pull out your favourite T-shirt, but if it is raining and a snowstorm is coming, you do not go out wearing shorts. Dress appropriately for the season and situation. Same with relationships. There is a time and place for everything, people are going through phases. Learn to appreciate both the long summer days and the crisp mornings of autumn.
7. Do not panic
In this period, we all feel some element of stress, fear and maybe even panic. That is normal. There are a lot of things outside our control now – possibly even inside your relationship. What I have learned is that all the time spent worrying does not help. And I am both a worrier and warrior. I cannot help it.
However, what you need to do in these situations is to focus on what is it that that you can control. And then focus only on that. So what could that be? You can control exercise, watching what you eat, breathe, meditate. Start there. After that … if your hours have been reduced, you have been let go, or find yourself in a worse situation – then focus on your LinkedIn page, your resume, the things you could be doing for your old or a future employer to know your value. These things should give you some peace and distance, find your feet, give you something else to think about.
8. Talk about your fears
Finally, find space to talk about your fears. It is true that nothing will ever be the same. Rivers change all the time, and this river, hell … it has changed a lot of things already and our lives will keep changing. Talk about that. Talk about what you think will change in society, in your life, in your lives. The more you talk about that, the more prepared you, your partner and your children will be ready to take those changes on.
When I started my “mindfulness” journey early last year, some people were laughing. Others were saying it was a “nice to have”. Now I hope that people will feel it is a “must have”. Changes will continue to come, small and big, bad ones and good ones – yet if we make some conscious choices now, this pandemic will all turn out for the best for us.
Let us conspire to make it good. Both happiness and “mindfulness” is a decision.