Sheltering in place has made healthy boundaries much harder to maintain. That separation many of us used to have between our work and our home life is gone, or at least it’s a lot fuzzier than it was before.
As the pandemic has worn on, one thing my partner and I began to notice was that our downtime was getting squeezed by work, dog care, and logistical conversations. We were spending way less time together than usual in which our attention was 100% on one another.
Instead, our social media habits mushroomed, plus the amount of time we spent watching Netflix. We’d talk about the pandemic, grocery shopping, traveling to see my sick mother, but not “shoot the shit” or connect sexually as often as we used to.
And it’s those “shoot the shit” conversations that reveal a creative turn of phrase, or way of looking at things, that remind me how much I love this man’s brain, the particular way he filters and reflects on his experiences.
And it’s connecting with one another through our bodies that helps us both remember we have them!
If you’re not in a relationship right now, my suggestions will support you in setting your life up to have room and bandwidth to start one (if you want such a thing) and more daily pleasure for yourself whether or not you’re dating.
If you’re in a relationship and you’re getting bogged down by logistics and imbalances in how you spend your time, I got you.
Step One: Connection Time
Set aside a dedicated time to connect with one another — or with yourself, if you’re living alone — and put it on your calendar.
We chose 30-minutes at 5pm, which helps me with my goal of leaving my desk every day before 5:00pm and lets us walk the dogs before it’s time to cook dinner.
I know of another couple that holds their Connection Time at 9:00pm once the kids have gone to bed.
Pick a time that you can stick to most of the time. If something unavoidable comes up, let your partner know and negotiate a new time for that day or agree to skip or shorten it. The important thing is that you don’t just override it or blow it off.
Make it easy to show up to Connection Time by having it be a recurring event on your calendar and make it harder to skip by having the skipping of it be something you have to negotiate.
The idea is that 15–30-minutes of daily connection time without phones or logistical conversations becomes a new habit in your relationship with your partner (or yourself).
In this way, you remind yourself that your person is still the mysterious, quirky, loving human you fell in love with by getting curious about what’s on their mind. By sharing more of your inner worlds with one another, you keep growing your love in the face of all the logistical and mundane pulls on your time and attention.
If you’re living alone, then your Connection Time is a chance to get back in touch with your amazing uniqueness and deliberately give yourself some pleasure and “me” time every day, which is a great way to fill yourself up.
By making daily Connection Time a habit, you nourish your relationship and remember to connect about more than strategizing how to survive through a pandemic and whose turn it is to wipe the dog puke off the floor.
Step Two: Decide how to use your time
When you get to your Connection Time session, feel where you’re at.
Are you wiped out, energized, wanting to be alone, up for a silent cuddle, a conversation, making out, masturbation, or sex?
However you show up to Connection Time is valid and you start by connecting with one another about how you’re each feeling right then. If you’re alone, you do this with yourself.
It can be helpful to refer to a list of ideas if you’re not feeling inspired and then ask one another what feels most resonant. Things like:
✨Take a shower together (or alone)
✨Take a salt bath
✨Talk or write about your dreams, goals, and desires, what lights you up or excites you
✨Just talk about what’s on your mind or something you read (not pandemic-or-politics-related)
✨Have sensual and/or sexual contact
✨Pull a card from a deck of questions and talk about one or two of them or journal on them if you’re alone.
Come up with your list together and refer to it when you feel blank or stuck around what to do that day.
Step Three: Set a timer
When the timer goes off, if you’re enjoying the time and want to continue, decide to keep going.
If you feel complete, end there and thank one another for showing up.
Having and sticking to a clear end time helps reduce resistance to showing up in the first place.
If Connection Time is open-ended, suddenly lots of other priorities have a way of rearing their heads and hijacking that time. But if it’s a firm 15–30 minutes, it’s a lot easier to say yes and just show up to it.
Step Four: Look for other daily decisions you could speed up or automate
For example, your morning routine. Choose a regular time to get up and what you do first, next, and after that. Set out things you need the night before.
Make sure your computer’s where you want it to be, make sure you have water, snacks, any papers you need right there for when you want to begin.
If you do a little bit of prep the night before, your morning can flow more easily and you don’t have to use up time thinking about what to do next.
If you’re a runner, or you do any kind of exercise outside the house, lay out your workout clothes the night before or make sure your workout bag is packed, so you can just get up and go.
In this way, you save time by not having to decide what to wear, and you’re more likely to do it, because in that decision-making gap, it’s all too easy to decide not to go exercise at all.
How does this relate to making time for your relationship? By shaving the time and energy expenditure off your day that ongoing decisions require, through reducing the number of decisions you have to make each day, you free up time and bandwidth for Connection Time, or time for yourself, so there’s less stress and overwhelm and everybody wins.
Step Five: Give up multi-tasking
Another way to make more time for relationship is to cut back on distractions while you’re working, so you can get it done more quickly.
Close other windows on your computer, focus on the task at hand, and set a time limit to create some compression for getting the task done. You can continue the task after a break, but having a time container set up around what you’re working on helps drive your focus and creativity.
Choose deliberate times to check social media and email, so you can focus more efficiently on the work tasks you want to get done. Turn your ringer off (within reason) and return calls during specific times of the day.
By doing these things, you free up more time to give to yourself for self-care and pleasure and/or more time for your relationship.
Step Six: Create guidelines with one another about interruptions
Be really clear about when you don’t want to be interrupted, so you and your partner can be happy to see one another instead of smacking each other in the face with your frustration over losing your train of thought!
Make it obvious when it’s okay to interrupt you. Hang a sign on the door or put up a sticky note. Crack the door open when you’re doing something less focus-intense, so your partner knows they can come in and interrupt you then if they want to.
If you have no door between you, use noise-canceling headphones like a door. When they’re on, you’re off-limits.
Step Seven: Encourage quick moments of connection
Rather than focusing on making time for long chunks of together-time, look to create quick moments of connection throughout the day besides your regularly scheduled Connection Time and around the times when you don’t want to be interrupted.
If you get up early and your partner gets up late, take a moment to pause and say good morning and hug with 100% attention and then move on with your day.
Play with taking breaks at similar times depending on what kind of work you do. Convene for lunch or a quick break in the kitchen and steal a 5-minute make out while you’re at it.
And the rest of the time, you’re each working on your own things without the pressure of interruptions.
If you have kids, of course their schedule needs to be in the mix and finding uninterrupted time to work and to connect with one another gets more challenging. Maybe you make an appointment to be with each other for 15 minutes during their nap.
The idea is to get out of the habit of seeing one another (or yourself) as nothing more than logistical cogs in the machinery of your life and to remind yourself that you’re people in bodies who like attention.
Connection Time doesn’t have to involve sexual attention, but some sexual attention is a good idea, because it’s good for your nervous system, your stress level, and your connection with one another. Stoke your physical connection in small ongoing ways, even in the midst of a pandemic, even in the midst of long days, and especially if you are raising children and those children are at home.
A quick kiss, a small pat on the butt, a hug, anything that reminds you that you’re in a body, and that bodies are a source of pleasure, especially at this time of reduced moving around.
In this way, when a window opens for a longer sexual encounter, you don’t have to start connecting from scratch, which can feel like an insurmountable hurdle if you’ve been living as a disembodied head for weeks.
If you’re not in a relationship, now’s the time to begin working on how you relate to your work.
Are you able to create a schedule and stick to it? Do you have pockets of time where you’re not scheduled and can take some pleasure time for yourself?
If you don’t have that now, start making space for yourself and your own pleasure to begin putting savings in your pleasure bank that you can share with someone once they come along. Things like dancing to your favorite song, feeling how deliciously your body moves, taking a shower or a bath.
In this way, when someone comes along, you have time to add seeing them into your life and they’re stepping into your field that’s already rich and replete with enjoyment and pleasure.
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our computers, work, screen time, social media, all the things that give us an illusion of connection and erode the most important connections right in front of us: our connection with ourselves and the actual beloved humans in our day-to-day life. Creating deliberate Connection Time and becoming more efficient with our work habits go a long way toward cultivating a great relationship and more pleasure in our daily lives.
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