Quarantining with a partner can present a myriad of issues—changes in power dynamics and roles in the relationship due to job changes or job loss, coparenting while trapped together, stressors related to worrying about older or at risk family members, loss of alone time, inability to engage in enjoyable hobbies or coping skills, etc. All of these challenges can of course spill over into our sex lives. Here are a few of the most common challenges for couples in quarantine regarding their sexual relationships:
- Stress Response & Sexual Desire: Some people turn towards sex when they are stressed, while others turn away. It would be helpful to know how you and your partner respond to stress in this way. Many couples respond differently (one partner turns towards sex under stress, and the other turns away) which can create a conflict. Be patient with each other as most people feel like they are under a constant state of stress and anxiety right now. This will not last forever.
- Inflammation & Muscle Tension: Stress & anxiety cause inflammation and muscle tension, so those with a pelvic floor disorder are likely to notice a flare-up in symptoms. Increasing self-care (going on walks while social distancing, talking with friends, listening to comedy, talking with friends, taking a bath) and doing PT exercises at home will help manage symptoms.
- Sexual Dysfunctions: Do not be surprised if you or your partner are struggling with sexual functioning. Stress can cause issues with arousal, desire, ability to get or maintain an erection, ability to orgasm, etc. Again, this will not be forever. Be patient.
- Stay in (Physical) Touch: Make sure to maintain some kind of physical intimacy. Even if you cannot get yourself in the headspace to have sex (whether penetrative or outercourse), make sure to find time and space to connect in some way physically. Take a bath or shower together. Cuddle in bed or on the sofa. Exchange massages.
- Do Not Mind-Read!: Neither you or your partner have ever been, or will ever be a mind-reader. Tell your partner what you need make sure to ask them what they need. Because none of us have been through a quarantine it is hard to know what we may need! Also, what you need a few days in to quarantine is likely going to be different at week 6. Checking in with each others needs will reduce conflict which will increase the likelihood of being able to sexually connect.
- Keep Dating: Increase emotional connection by having an at home date. Dress up and make a nice dinner together. Watch a movie. Have some drinks and throw a two-person dance party. Make sure you and your partner set aside time intentionally to have fun together.
- Turn the News Off: Stay away from the news if you want to get in the mood to sexually connect! An instant way to a panic attack right, to kill your sexual desire and to tighten up your pelvic floor would be to turn on the news. While we all need to stay informed, we do not need to stay informed 24/7.
- Do Not Wait for the Evening: Since we are all stuck at home, take advantage of the morning or afternoon as more opportune times to sexually connect. Many women with sexual pain notice their symptoms get worse as the day goes on (sometimes due to stress, long work days, sitting too much, exhaustion, etc.) so make an effort to connect earlier in the day. In addition stress throughout the day will likely decrease desire.
If you and your partner are struggling with being quarantined consider trying couples therapy (of course by video right now…).