Sarah Jane Lenihan, experienced family lawyer and Partner at Stowe Family Law in London joins us on the blog to share her tips to help your relationship survive self-isolation.
I have noticed in my social feeds this week a number of articles suggesting that divorce lawyer folk are looking forward to cash in on the fall out from self-isolation.
Well, as a divorce lawyer myself I would like to bust that myth and instead share my tips on how to maintain a happy home environment if you are both forced to work from home whilst in coronavirus induced self-isolation and lockdown.
I know that some people may think it is strange to take relationship advice from a divorce lawyer but I will let you into a little secret: I am probably one of the best people as my day is filled with complaints from spouses and partners so I regularly hear about what not to do in a relationship.
So, here are some of my top tips to help your relationship survive self-isolation. Taken from my experience with my clients (and my own).
Communication is key
Let’s start with number one, communication, in any given situation you need to be clear on what you need. As much as we would like everyone to be a mind reader, frankly, they are not.
If you are new to working from home together discuss how this is going to work practically.
For example, where are you going to work in your home and where will the other person work? How much space do you need? Do you need to work in silence or do you prefer some background noise?
Perhaps you only have one dedicated working space? Why not alternate this space or perhaps work around each other’s schedules and split time equally? Space allowing, set up a second dedicated workspace.
What about background noise, does one of you like to listen to their favourite Spotify playlist and the other work in silence? Time to compromise or think of alternatives such as headphones or agree quiet times during the day?
It can often be trial and error but keep talking, this will be key!
Preparation and planning
People do not plan to fail, they fail to plan. Just a little forwarding planning can help add some structure into your day so create a schedule. We all find comfort in routine.
Sharing this with your partner can go a long way to communicating what you both need.
Think about not just work schedules but who will take care of the children, what about homeschooling, who will pick up essentials from the supermarket (if there is anything left!) who can fit in a load of washing or a clean the house.
Being considerate is really essential. If your partner has told you they have a video call between 12-1 pm make sure you are not banging and crashing saucepans or shouting for them to come to look at the latest meme you have been sent during this time.
Also if your partner is unwell or feeling extremely stressed/anxious think about what you can do to help/ease that. You are a team and it does not matter whose work is more important or who last unloaded the dishwasher, work together.
I really like the idea of eating together and I have been taught to do this at dinner around a dinner table from a young age. It is a time when you and your partner can come together, at the end of your day to talk about how your day has been, anything that each of you could do to support the other and what the next day looks like for you both.
It also makes sure you eat at least one good meal a day. I am not a nutritionist but at a time when we want to keep our immune systems up eating right is going to help.
My go-to stress reliever, I am a morning workout person, sets me up for the day, but you may prefer to do something at lunchtime or in the evening. Work out what works for you and your family and look ahead for the week and when can you fit it in.
Why not add it into the daily schedule? Even just a walk in the fresh air/run/cycle or even online meditation or yoga can all be a great stress reliever. YouTube has some great online exercise channels.
A cup of tea
When is tea not the answer?
Wake up? = Tea
Partner stressed? = Tea
Partner unwell? = Tea
Upset your partner? = Tea
Need a break? = Tea
& if you have some biscuits in too, even better! So get the kettle on…
On a serious note though, I appreciate we are currently living in an unprecedented and extremely stressful time. This can bring couples together or push people apart.
So be mindful of each other, communicate and look after yourselves and each other.