If you need to shelter in place or are practicing social distancing for the near foreseeable future, the 500-square foot apartment you share with your significant other might as well be a closet. It doesn't matter if your partner is your favorite person in the world: Everyone needs space. If you're doing your part to help limit the spread of COVID-19 and being stuck inside together all day is causing tension, you can still give your partner space, even when there isn't any.
First off, if you or your partner need more alone time than usual, that's totally understandable. Being confined to a small space with anyone 24/7 can definitely change your relationship's dynamic.
"This is just as new to the two of you as it is to the rest of the couples in the U.S. and abroad," Genesis Games, LMHC, couples therapist, tells Bustle. "It doesn't mean in any way that you aren't meant to be together, it’s just a huge dynamic shift that you both need to get adjusted to."
When you're at your 'desk,' that means you're at the office — and your partner can't bother you.
In order to make this adjustment period easier, Games recommends creating a daily routine. When you both have a set schedule for your day, which includes time for work, self-care, and the relationship, you'll have carved out hours where your focus isn't on each other.
Licensed marriage and family therapist Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby suggests creating signals to indicate when either of you is unavailable. For example, when your partner has their headphones on, they can be signaling to you that they're in need of some space to do their own thing. Unspoken boundaries can help keep everyone in check.
If you both work from home, Bobby says you may want to consider creating individual workspaces and adhering to similar rules as any other office environment. So, when you're at your "desk," that means you're at the office — and your partner can't bother you.
According to Dr. Randy Schroeder, marriage therapist and author of Simple Rules for Marital Happiness, being in a different room entirely from your partner at least every other hour in the day can be productive for your relationship. If that's impossible, for whatever reason (maybe you live in a studio apartment), try to take at least one break a day to go outside, get some fresh air, and clear your mind.
And when all of the above fails, there's always the bathroom.
Genesis Games, LMHC, Gottman-trained couples therapist
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, LMFT, clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching
Dr. Randy Schroeder, marriage therapist and author of Simple Rules for Marital Happiness
Amber Trueblood, licensed marriage and family therapist and author