If you have to go back to an office soon and actually begin venturing outside the house regularly, don’t be surprised if you start to feel anxious about leaving your partner. You have, after all, just spent an entire year cultivating a routine in quarantine that firmly revolves around each other.
It’s been ages since you last parted ways for 9-to-5 jobs and other social events. Instead, you’ve gotten used to watching Netflix, taking mid-day naps, and witnessing each other’s every move. Readjusting back to a pre-pandemic schedule will likely feel lonely, overwhelming, and stressful in comparison.
And yes, you might even get anxious, “as if a security blanket is being taken away,” Laurie Carmichael, M.S., MFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. You’ve learned to lean on each other for entertainment, companionship, and — most importantly — emotional support. But if you both start now and make a concerted effort to adjust, the transition doesn’t have to be so bad.
Talk To Your Partner About Your Concerns
Are you quaking at the thought of spending less time together? Does the idea of eating lunch alone turn your stomach? Will you struggle with the lack of mid-day emotional support hugs?
As your schedule adjusts, communicate these concerns and talk about what you and your partner can do to fulfill each other’s needs from afar, Krysta Schroeder, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker, tells Bustle.
From there, come up with a plan to make up for the loss of in-person contact, such as agreeing to text at certain times throughout the day or hopping on Zoom during lunch. Take baby steps, keep each other in mind whenever you go out, and hopefully, the separation anxiety will lessen.
Take Care Of Yourself
That said, the impending change will also be an opportunity to branch out and practice self-compassion, which basically means you’ll check in and find ways to help yourself, Dr. Sheva Assar, a licensed clinical psychologist and relationship coach, tells Bustle.
Doing so will not only lessen your anxiety and promote positive emotions, Assar says, it’ll also support you in learning how to relax all on your own. While it’s OK to reach out to your partner and enjoy the coziness of being together, learning how to comfort yourself is invaluable, especially as the world reopens.
Ask yourself, “What is one act of self-kindness I can do right now?” Then go ahead and do it, Assar says. If you’re working outside your home for the first time in a year, look for bright spots in the day that might cheer you up, such as getting a coffee or taking a walk. You might also self-soothe by unwinding once you get back home, meditating, talking to a friend — whatever will help you cope.
See A Therapist
While pretty much everyone will have some form of nervous energy as they re-enter the post-pandemic world, a major cause of separation anxiety most likely points to something a bit deeper being triggered, Alex Ribbentrop, LCSW-QS, CFTP, CCTP-II, a licensed clinical social worker, tells Bustle. So don’t hesitate to seek a little extra advice.
“There are a lot of really great, knowledgeable clinicians out there that truly want to support you in growing and being the best version of yourself,” Ribbentrop says. So if it’s possible, add an hour or two of therapy into your monthly schedule.
Make Time For You And Your Partner
Even though you and your partner might be going out more often, it doesn’t mean you have to drop the routine you created while in quarantine completely. You can still bake banana bread, watch Netflix, and spend your weekends at home — and find comfort in that familiarity.
Don’t, however, hesitate to incorporate new rituals into your relationship. For example, start each day having breakfast together and talking about what your schedule looks like and when you can expect to talk, Dan Auerbach, B.Com, MCACPA, MPACFA, a relationship therapist with Associated Counsellors & Psychologists, tells Bustle.
Do something special in the morning when you’re both home, as well as when you return. “Take the first 10 minutes out to restore your bond by chatting about your day,” Auerbach says. “Set aside all tasks until you've had a chance to reconnect emotionally.” Knowing that you have new moments to look forward to will help ease anxiety and keep your post-pandemic relationship strong.
Laurie Carmichael, M.S., MFT, licensed marriage and family therapist
Krysta Schroeder, LCSW, licensed clinical social worker
Alex Ribbentrop, LCSW-QS, CFTP, CCTP-II, licensed clinical social worker
Dr. Sheva Assar, licensed clinical psychologist and relationship coach
Dan Auerbach, B.Com, MCACPA, MPACFA, relationship therapist