When the COVID-19 pandemic forced couples to either isolate together or apart, we witnessed a significant amount of rapid transitions in our couples therapy practice, including couples suddenly experiencing their relationships becoming long distance. Our Founder and Clinical Director Matt Lundquist was recently featured in People Magazine, offering his expertise in how couples can still maintain closeness even when not together physically.
Matt tells writer Nikhita Mahtani that the combination of distance and the lack of physical intimacy can put stress on the most solid relationship. Even if a relationship was long distance before the pandemic, COVID-19 made it even more uncertain. Matt observes, “Even if you weren’t anxious about the state of your relationship before, the fact that you haven’t received a reassuring hug or been around the person for extended periods of time can cause you to spiral a bit…It doesn’t matter if you’re just anxious about the state of the world; it can fall onto your relationship because that’s the most convenient place to put it.”
So what should couples do? According to Matt, the most successful couples are able to be vulnerable, as well as open and honest about their fears. “We are living in a very scary time,” he explains. “I find allowing yourself to be scared is one way to heal, but it’s also important to share that with your partner.”
More logistically, Matt suggests that long-distance couples plan virtual dates over Zoom, FaceTime, or another video chat platform. While there is rampant Zoom fatigue after months of self-isolation, he encourages couples to push through and find ways to “create a fun and playful experience from things that aren’t normally all that enjoyable.” For instance, couples can “make the same food, dress up a little.”
And because remote time together doesn’t allow for the same subtle facial expressions or touch, there are more opportunities for misinterpretation, especially when stress levels are already running high. Matt says that couples should communicate more than ever–“even if it’s just a quick text letting your partner know you’ll be unavailable for a few days because of work…”
Read more of “Your Relationship Suddenly Went Long-distance Due to the Pandemic: How to Make It Work” on People Magazine.