How to find and keep love in a pandemic, per a Houston sex therapist

Love and sex in the time of coronavirus is complicated. If your romantic relationships are

Love and sex in the time of coronavirus is complicated.

If your romantic relationships are throwing you for a loop, you’re experiencing the new normal. The pandemic can easily become an intense pressure cooker for relationship issues you’ve already been grappling with, according to Houston sex therapist Mary Jo Rapini. After weeks of living in quarantine with a partner, many Americans are seeing the cracks and fissures in their relationships, resulting in a 30 percent increase in divorce filings during quarantine, divorce lawyer Michelle Thomas told CBS News.

In an interview with Chron, Rapini discussed the stressors and challenges of creating or sustaining a relationship during COVID-19. Bottom line: it’s not easy out there right now. But if you focus on authenticity, love, communication and realistic expectations, things may just take a surprisingly good turn.

Chron: Finding love in the era of coronavirus is much more challenging than finding sex. What would you say to Houston singles who want more depth, love and something lasting?

Rapini: Look for your partner’s or your date’s actions. Love is all about action. You’re looking for someone who will invest in the relationship. Someone who will prize the relationship more than they will prize getting their own way.

If you’re looking for someone to invest in a relationship and you’re co-creating together, what you have to do is look at their actions. People show what they value by what they do. It’s the simplest rule in the world.

Why are so many couples splitting up during the pandemic?

People are home now, and their eyes are wide open. More people are coming to therapy now. They finally realize they’ve been pushing these problems under the carpet, and we can’t afford to do it anymore.

It’s counterintuitive — the pandemic has made us put masks on, but the pandemic has also taken masks off of couples. Couples see through each other, and often don’t like what they’ve grown and co-created together. Humans naturally lash out in blame. When you blame something that you co-created, it doesn’t go over well. You can make it better, but you have to be responsible for the part you contributed to.

With forced togetherness in the pandemic, how do couples reinvent intimacy? 

It all starts with communication. You have to be able to communicate with each other. When sex is not going right in a relationship, it’s because people are stressed. They need to feel like they’re alone with their partners. This is the time to take a break from sex and restore it back to intimacy.

Start by getting back to the basics — simple touching, hand-holding, kissing, cuddling. Try to make it like you were in the very beginning. Why not be a little gentler with each other? How about we take it back to being each others’ friends again? Rather than just focusing only on sex, look at it from your partner’s point of view. If your partner is stressed, feeling overwhelmed, that will make them less likely to desire you. Put yourself in the other’s perspective.

Should you plan more date nights at home with your partner? How do you create surprise when locked in quarantine?

I think people have unrealistic expectations. Life is messy, and love is even messier. A great date night might just be making a bowl of popcorn and having an hour with your partner. You should set realistic expectations and take turns. The true investment shouldn’t be one person planning a date night. Romance doesn’t last all day.

Romantic moments are created by the way people touch you, and that’s romantic. I think talking and communicating are key. Learning to appreciate the differences. The pandemic has taught us to appreciate all the little things, and those are the intimate things that add up to a great relationship.

The pandemic forces people to slow down and focus on what’s truly important. What are some ways to strengthen the bond with your partner?

Couples need to start invest more time in friendship with each other and the emotional connection with their partner. As a licensed sex and intimacy therapist, I can say this with every ounce of certainty: sex cannot hold the relationship together. It is not the glue of the relationship. When it goes bad, it becomes 90 percent of the problem in couples.

Emotional intimacy can hold a couple together, and it’s the true glue. The reason why so many couples are in turmoil right now is that the sex isn’t working, the emotional connection has been lost a long time ago, and they don’t know how to restore it. They have no idea how to secure emotional intimacy. Once you lose the intimacy,  it’s very difficult to restore it. It takes a lot of work. If you don’t care (and) sweep problems under the rug, you’re going to be sorry.

How and where should singles find love during the pandemic?

If you are looking to establish a relationship, then look to what you love most. What do you value most in your life — is it your interests or experiences? If spirituality is important to you, then maybe connect through a Zoom Bible study or meditation group. If you are looking for experiences, REI is organizing hikes. If you’re into NASA or medicine, there are a lot of online experiences you can do now.

It’s another way to find someone who loves what you value. You have to be very careful with dating apps. If that (dating apps) makes you feel more connected, then you should do it.

Source Article