Lets face it. As much as we love our family, roommates, and significant others, chances are we would not choose to stay at home with them 24/7. Even while on vacation you can find a little bit of distance and time with other people. But alas, here we are!
My husband and I both worked from home for a lot of last year, so we got a good taste of being at home together, and with the help of our premarital therapist, we thankfully got to try out some very necessary skills.
Here are our top tips on how to keep your sanity and save your relationships from even more stress:
1. Set a schedule for each part of your living space
It may sound extreme but it has saved us!
Beau and I divided our house into two parts. This not only helped give us some much needed privacy. Of course, we can go into each other’s set locations but it really helps to have a space that is just your own for the most part.
Beau is used to going to his office and I am used to working from home by myself so this set up has helped us stay productive while working from home.
2. Try to keep the routines you already had
Even if you and your quarantine-mates all work from home, there were still times during the week where one or both of you went out routinely. I have a girl group I go to on Mondays, Beau see’s his guys on Fridays… etc.
Beau and I realized a week into quarantine that we still needed time apart after the work day, and we were going to have to plan it! We decided to still try to keep the same schedule that worked for us in normal circumstances, but now just doing it from home. It is so important to create try to keep your usual relational balance. This has really helped us be excited to metaphorically “come home” to each other at the end of the work day. Which brings me to my next point:
3. Set Work Hours
If one person in your household is working from home, you need work hours regardless of whether they are the only ones who are working. It can be so distracting to see other people lounging, watching Netflix, playing Xbox… etc, while you are trying to work. Even if sound doesn’t bother you, talk about FOMO!
4. Communicate your plans to the people you live with
This may sound redundant, but more than ever it has been so important for Beau and me to discuss our plans for the day. If I want to do a workout class in the middle of the day, that might disrupt one of Beau’s work calls and vice versa.
Communication really is the key to happy and healthy relationships, and it is possibly one of the most important tools to utilize while in close quarters with anyone. Even if you are not currently working or studying from home, it is important to have a conversation with your quarantine-mate(s) about what each of you need during this time. Do you need quiet at certain hours? Do you need to make a schedule for the bathroom?
5. Ask for what you need
Beau and I differ a lot on our preferences and needs. My introverted self needs quiet in order to work and relax in peace. Beau, on the other hand, is a happy extrovert on his phone most of the day, first for work, then socializing. Needless to say, we have had to find ways to work around this by giving us separate work spaces. We also negotiated that if one of us can work or talk outside during the day, we will. This is our way of respecting each other’s very valid needs.
We still use a super helpful formula from our pre-marital counseling whenever we have a request for one another. It sounds funny but it really helps to make sure the other person doesn’t feel judged by your request.
The formula: “I feel____ when____. I need _______.”
So for the noise level preference example above, here is a good and not so good example:
Good: “Hey babe, I feel overwhelmed and overstimulated when I have to overhear phone calls all day. I need some quiet time, since I am used to having my office to myself. Could we find a way for me to get some quiet and you still be able to make calls?”
Not so good: “You’re on the phone again?! This is my house too you know. First I have to put up with your “work” calls during the day and now you’re calling all of your friends?!”
See how it helps? It has saved us from so many unnecessary fights. It may feel awkward at first, but trust us, it is so worth it once you get the hang of it.
5. Blame a third party!
OK, this may be my favorite tip! We just started doing this, and it has made us laugh every day. Whenever we have a simple request or complaint, such as to put dirty dishes in the sink (I’ll admit it, I’m the worst!), instead of nagging each other constantly… We blame our imaginary roommate, Mitch!
“Ugh! Mitch forgot to fold the laundry, and now it’s all wrinkled!”
“Seriously? Ugh. Mitch is the worst. Mitch also made a big mess in the kitchen, and I know he’s tired but it’s kind of stressing me out.”
7. Noise cancelling headphones:
Introverts, if you haven’t invested in this sanity saving splurge, DO IT NOW. Extroverts, musicians, and ASMR fanatics, PLEASE also invest. Then we can all listen to whatever we want to happily ever after, amen. My headphones are my saving grace.
8. Schedule household meetings:
We are all in uncharted territory here. As much as my type-A self wants to make plans and have them be perfect and brilliant forever, it is highly unlikely. What works today might not work tomorrow. What works for some, might not work for Mitch. Check in with one another regularly. You might even want to schedule said check-ins just to make sure you are not going too long without asking one another what is working and what needs to change. I wrote another blog on how to best conduct these check-ins. Beau and I have been having check-in meetings twice a week so far, and they were needed every time.
Have grace for yourselves as you figure out how to best support each other’s needs during this time.
9. Lastly, at the risk of this being TMI…
Buy a bottle or two of poo-pourri and thank me later. Never heard of this magical invention? Poo-pourri is a heaven-sent liquid that you spray into the toilet before you… you know… and it masks even the smelliest of smellies. This is a marriage and quarantine sanity SAVER. And yes, it works better than matches.
These are weird times, friends. We’re all still trying to figure out how to navigate our new realities. I hope these tips help you love your quarantine mates well!
Do you have any tips for setting boundaries with your quarantine-mates?