How to Negotiate a Covid-19 Conversation with Your Partner

We’re somewhere around seven or eight weeks in to various stay at home orders for our new Covid-19 world.

Indisputably, our basic life assumptions and routines have been rocked out of place. It’s no longer a picture of get up, get ready, leave the house, work outside the home, run an easy errand on the way home, have dinner, and so on.

The picture looks more like What day is it? Is my Internet running? What masterclass am I taking today? How am I entertaining the kids today while I do that? How many days this week have I worn these socks? Yup, pretty sure I forgot to brush my teeth this morning, 6-1/2 hours ago.

No part of this is easy or simple.

posted rules for social distancing Covid-19

We Have Rules for a Reason and What Was New Has Gotten Old

First there was a stay at home government order to flatten the curve and buy some time. And then it was extended. But, throughout, shopping for essential items such as food and toiletries was always sanctioned.

So, you probably got out of the house for a bit once a week or so. Safely, respectfully, quickly. Get in and get it done. You became a mask-wearing speed-shopper who no longer dawdled in the aisles and you stuck to your list.

But now, you or your partner has hit a stay-at-home wall. (Kids too.)

On top of all the life layers that were already there, we add to that a layer of summer is quickly approaching and there are always summer activities I want to do and get done plus a layer of we still certainly don’t know everything there is to know about Covid-19 – who is safe?

And our most basic fears are being actualized. This is about survival. Will I be ok? Will the ones I love be ok?

And now my partner wants to run errands to start getting things done?!!

Stop! It’s too much!!

Meet Yourself and Your Partner Where You Are

Managing errands in this time of Covid-19 may cause you or your partner concerns about going out in public spaces.

We’ve all seen it. Despite the recommendations from health officials and bodies of government, you will encounter folks who are not social distancing. You will share space with folks who are not wearing masks.

This may trouble you. Or your partner.

Remember – there is no right or wrong way to feel in this time of the novel coronavirus (aka Covid-19). [For the record, there is never a right or wrong way to feel, but that’s another blog.]

Also, there is no over- or under. No one is overreacting, no one is underreacting. You are each reacting. [For sure, another blog another time.]

This is about survival. So, you or your partner may feel anxious, concerned, fearful, or helpless.

And that’s allowed. Allow yourself to feel a particular way. And make space for your partner to feel a particular way.

Do not question your need in feeling, your right in feeling, or the accuracy of what you are feeling.

In other words, try to quiet any thoughts that might sound like Nope, I’m not feeling anything or Should I be feeling this way? or Is it this or is it more this. Go with what you notice.

be kind look out for one another sign Covid-19

We’re Not Exactly on the Same Page

There Might Be a Common Feeling

You and your partner might have a feeling in common, such as you both expressed, I’m anxious.

But you’ll likely never have the same expression of it. Or the same bodily sensation of it. Or the same description of it. (And that’s all ok, these are part of the things that make us uniquely us. Here too, a blog – just as important – but for another time.)

So, your partner might rate their feeling of being anxious about going out into the Covid world as meh. Whereas, you rated your feeling of being anxious about it as This is so not good, no thanks!

So, refer to the above section and recall that there is no right or wrong way to feel in this time of Covid-19.

Acknowledge and honor your sharing of your feelings and that there’s a difference in how you’re each feeling about or toward something. And just pause here for a moment.

Or Maybe Not

Your partner has said they feel nervous or afraid about going out in public – we have no vaccine, tests are not available for everyone, not everyone wears a mask.

You, on the other hand, are thinking Whatever, is what it is.

These are rather dissimilar views. And again, there are no right or wrong perspectives and the work here is not to convince yourself or your partner to change points of view.

Here too, acknowledge and honor your sharing, your differences in perspectives, and pause.

A Covid-19 Conversation? And I Need to Negotiate?

negotiate, verb

ne·go·ti·ate

“to confer with another so as to arrive at the settlement of some matter”

Re the definition above, to confer is

  • Discussing
  • Talking
  • Putting your heads together
  • Sharing, acknowledging, and honoring perspectives – your own and your partner’s

To confer is not

  • Judging
  • Shaming
  • Blaming
  • Excluding
  • Convincing
  • Compromising

And “to arrive at the settlement” is about creating your arrangement for now – as in life is fluid, we learn new information so perspectives and circumstances change. Revisiting concerns and arrangements is imperative in a healthy relationship.

Come Up With a Plan Together

So, now given all these things – the feelings, the fluidity, the unknowns, the hows of conducting the conversation, etc. – you and your partner work on a plan together that satisfies both your needs.

Here’s one way your negotiation might look if, let’s say, your partner is more meh than blech:

Them: They’re mostly comfortable going out while wearing a mask, even when encountering people who don’t seem to be concerned themselves with social distancing or wearing masks.

You: You feel mostly ok with this so far, but you don’t want your partner to dally and request that they be efficient and expeditious in their errand running.

Them: Your partner is on board with this.

You: You’re feeling heard and cared for. Your overall concern is still there, but it feels a bit better.

Them: And then they ask if you have any other hesitations or any other needs in feeling as comfortable as possible given the circumstances.

You: You respond by asking that your partner wash their hands and face immediately once they get home – and that you’ll open and close your domicile door when they arrive.

Them: They agree and assure you that they can and will do all these things.

Both of you: Have a conversation about what it was like for each of you while partner was out. Adjust your plan as needed.

Negotiation – It’s About the Love

A negotiation is not a compromise. This was not a dispute that needed arbitration. No one gave up anything or any part of self. No one convinced or coerced the other to do something unwanted or unwelcome.

This is about doing that thing for our partner because it is that thing that makes our partner feel safe, heard, respected, cared for, and loved.

So, we do it because we’re glad to have our partner feel that way.

The love is in the giving.

male-female couple lowered the masks to kiss Covid-19

The Summary and a Challenge

Summary, In Steps – Apply to Both Self and Partner

1. Listen

2. Acknowledge and respect feelings and concerns

3. Have a conversation, decide together

4. Revisit the arrangement as needed

A Challenge

What if you removed every Covid-19 reference here? Then we’d be talking about negotiating those daily life events in relationships.

So, do that. Remove references to Covid-19 and have a conversation with your partner about something that’s been off between you following this guide.

Check in with each other. Do you each feel more heard and respected? Do you feel the giving that’s coming from each of you? Do you feel more connected?

Healthy communication in relationships requires practice. If you’d like to practice having this type of conversation with your partner in a safe and non-judgmental space, contact me for help in finding or refining your formula for your healthy, connected, and sexy relationship. I look forward to meeting both of you online.

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Negotiate. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved May 6, 2020, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/negotiate

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JoEllen Lange, MA, LAMFT

JoEllen Lange, MA, LAMFT

JoEllen helps men connect with themselves and their identities through compassionate listening and acceptance. She provides them with tools to help them move ever closer to their intimate partners while helping them acknowledge and process their pain of previous disconnection. JoEllen also helps couples rediscover, reimagine, and redefine their connection to each other through compassionate understanding and healing. She also loves to help newly engaged or newly together couples create healthy relationship foundations by engaging them in PREPARE/ENRICH conversations.