If Your Partner Refuses To Social Distance, Say This

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If you've been sitting on your couch, scrolling through Instagram stories, and remotely unleashing rage onto acquaintances who have chosen to go out to bars or hit the gym in the middle of a pandemic, you're certainly not alone. But what if the object of your fury is your beloved? If your partner refuses to social distance, it's time to get real about considering others during a public health emergency

According to Dr. Josh Klapow, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and associate professor of public health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the best way to get through to a stubborn partner is by sticking to the facts. "There should be no 'sugar coating' this," he tells Bustle.

Klapow suggests pointing to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) social distancing guidelines, including remaining 6 feet apart, avoiding large groups, and frequent hand washing. If your partner continues to give you pushback, gently explain why these tactics are necessary for everyone to follow to "flatten the curve," aka spreading out the number of new cases of coronavirus, so as not to overwhelm the health care system.

To avoid getting into an argument, focus on listening to each other as you chat. "Communicate with care and compassion and express that this is for your health, theirs, and everyone around them," Klapow says.

When in doubt, be blunt. Serious circumstances require serious conversations, so don't be afraid to give it to them straight.

If they still aren't getting it, make it personal: Talk about the safety of your own parents and grandparents, or call to mind an immunocompromised friend who might be at risk. From there, suggest ways that they can stay connected to everyone they care about from afar.

Many people are feeling isolated and anxious, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, Ph.D., the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching tells Bustle. When you feel lonely or afraid, something as simple as hopping on a video call can be incredibly comforting. Remind your partner that they can utilize FaceTime to talk to friends, or plan a dinner party over Zoom, as a way of feeling supported.

If fear and anxiety are what's preventing them from self-quarantining, validate their feelings. In other words, tell them you get it. "We all have different ways to respond to the new norm, social distancing, which for some doesn’t feel normal at all," Dr. Lori Whatley, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist and author, tells Bustle. "If it is a struggle for your partner, practicing empathy and compassion can be the best response of all."

Try listening to them and repeating back what they say, Whatley says, as a way of hearing and fully understanding their concerns. Make sure they know that, no matter what happens, you're in this together.

When in doubt, be blunt. Tell your partner the truth: that their refusal implies that they don't care enough about their health, your health, or the health of their neighbors, friends, family, community, or country, Klapow says. Serious circumstances require serious conversations, so don't be afraid to give it to them straight.

At the end of the day, you can't control other people's actions. If your partner is still refusing to social distance, you'll have to set boundaries to protect your own health and safety, Klapow says. Even if that means kicking them out of your home until the pandemic is over and submitting to an indefinite period of phone sex.

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and coughing, call NHS 111 in the UK or visit the CDC website in the U.S. for up-to-date information and resources. You can find all Bustle’s coverage of coronavirus here, and UK-specific updates on coronavirus here.

Experts:

Dr. Josh Klapow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and associate professor of public health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, Ph.D., founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching

Dr. Lori Whatley, Psy.D., clinical psychologist and author