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17 Sep

Helping Couples Thrive During COVID-19: How Affection and Desire Eases Fear

The pandemic is creating unique challenges for couples, even those with happy relationships. What does it mean to thrive during difficult and fearful times? With so much uncertainty as we watch and hear about the numbers of people whose lives are at stake, and many others who have been lost to COVID-19, fear is expressed in many ways. Some people shut down and retreat; others engage in tackling projects, work, and other activities that distract their minds. People choose to occupy their minds in different ways, like exercise, reading a book, watching TV, cooking, or engaging in other activities. For couples, being intimate with your partner is another good distraction from fixating on the pandemic.

Concern over safety precautions surrounding COVID-19 has taken a toll on relationships. Soothing anxiety, stress, and worries becomes a significant factor of daily living. Kissing can cause the spread of COVID-19, which puts a strain on intimate moments for couples. Even for couples in a monogamous relationship, condoms are recommended to minimize transfer of bodily fluids. Consider the questions below to address intimacy issues:

  • What are your views and feelings about your intimate relationship with your partner?
  • How important is affection for you during this quarantine? A little; a lot; or in between?

There are mixed opinions about sexual relations within a couple relationship during this lockdown. It is very important for couples to discuss this sensitive issue as part of their ongoing attention to potential exposure to COVID-19. Some couples know, for sure, they have been monogamous. If so, many couples can safely engage in their sexual relationship. However, sometimes partners will know there may have been other sexual partners who have not yet been disclosed. In that circumstance, a partner may be able to say they prefer to use a condom to avoid taking any chances, not just with the coronavirus, but also with accidental pregnancies. Other couples may also prefer condoms for safety sake. Take time to discuss intimacy and affection with your partner.

Reflection

  • Share memories and stories about your intimate relationship together.
  • Do you think about and consider your own natural desire for emotional and sexual intimacy?
  • Have you noticed an increased desire as a way to release tension?
  • Do you snuggle and bond emotionally with each other during COVID-19?

Physical and emotional affection can be expressed in words and caring behaviors. When stress is high partners must become more attuned to themselves. Focusing on pausing, relaxing, and expressing physical affection will help couples relax in each other’s arms. Hugs are essential when fears and worries run rampant. Try the “4 hugs a day” method. Give your partner a hug when you get up, when you go out, when you come home, and when you go to bed. Daily hugs contribute to comforting your mind and your body. Be sure to hold each other for 5-6 deep breaths before you let go.

Molecules of emotion communicate with all parts of the body and brain chemistries. Typically, couples become attracted to each other because of their physical and emotional chemistry and differences. Vitalized couples tend to have satisfying relationships. Harmonious couples also have strong emotional connections with each other. These two groups have strengths that include communicating, resolving differences, sharing affection, and maintaining comfort with their partner. However, even the most secure couples are challenged by COVID-19 no matter how close or distanced they are. Couples who are struggling can reach out for support through Council for Relationships.

As an experienced couples therapist, I have witnessed individuals struggle and thrive through many challenges of various types, based on their commitment to their relationship. When fears of COVID-19 are overwhelming, one or both partners can help to reestablish friendship, compassion, and kindness within their relationships. The potential loss of a beloved, or even a not-so-beloved partner, establishes an opportunity for healing unmet hopes. COVID-19 has led all of us to find new ways of living as couples – for good, for bad, in sickness and in health, and even developing novel ways for new paths toward loving each other better.

Rita DeMaria, PhD, LMFT, CST is an experienced therapist who specializes in working with individuals and couples who are struggling with relationship, marital, and sexual issues. Dr. DeMaria is a staff therapist at our Center City and Blue Bell offices; she currently sees clients via online therapy. To set up an appointment, you can reach her at 215-382-6680 ext. 7111 or rdemaria@councilforrelationships.org.

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