Ways for Couples to Connect During Sheltering in Place
A colleague of mine at The Couples Institute has written two helpful blogs to support our relationships during this stressful time.
In this second one, Stacy offers 75 different ways to connect whilst staying at home with your partner (and family) over this time. This article can be of great use with or without this crisis and gives you an opportunity to review your relationship connection skills. Have some fun, great connection is good for our mental health and immunity so check this out here
Stacy Lee - Stacy Lee, LMFT, has been employed at The Couples Institute in Menlo Park, CA, since 2008. She has trained with relationship experts Ellyn Bader, Ph.D and Peter Pearson, Ph.D. to provide innovative tools to couples and individuals. In 2019, Stacy became the Clinical Director of the institute’s therapy services. She is passionate about providing people with quality resources which includes building a network of skilled therapists to reach more couples and individuals.
I’m sure all the streaming services are going to be well used during this time. Many people will binge on shows they have missed and movies they have wanted to watch. Yet, it’s also a great opportunity to do other things together and to even get to know each other more. Couples and families can actually use this time to build fond memories. And to be honest, down the road, when this is over we aren’t going to look back and say “Hey, remember during the COVID-19 shelter in place when we binge watched tv…that really brought us closer together.” Take a moment to look at the videos online from Italy and how creative they have been in connecting through music and playing sports window to window…those are memories that will bring neighbors closer for years to come.
So, what can we do, while we are hunkered down and working to keep ourselves and communities safe? I have brainstormed a list here so you don’t have to, some of the ideas are silly, some more serious, but all give you the opportunity to create memories, connection and hope during these surreal times. Some you can do alone, as a couple or with the whole family. Also, if you don’t like anything here you can come up with your own.
One thing that may be fun is to write the ideas you like down on individual pieces of paper and put them in a bag or jar. Then when you get bored, pull one out and do whatever it says…you will be bound to have some fun, laugh and create memories and connection during this difficult time.
75 Creative ways to spend time while sheltering in place:
1. Get creative with technology. Have a double-date or an outing with friends and family through video apps like Zoom.
Cook with someone: the other day I video chatted with my mom while she walked me through cooking a new recipe.
Get some friends on a video chat and have a drink or meal together just like if you were out at a restaurant.
Have a video chat party, several platforms like Zoom have the option of inviting multiple people into the chat, get a big group together, maybe even people you don’t normally get to see because life is so busy, and connect. A client shared that someone in their office set up a “virtual kitchen” chat. It is open throughout the day for coworkers to stop by and catch up.
Get a friend on the phone or video call and do something fun, watch a show together and chat about, do pedicures and talk about things that interest you, play a board game you both have.
2. Bake or cook together
3. Draw together, you don’t have to be artistic to do this. In fact, it may even be more fun if you aren’t because it brings more humor into it. Maybe even draw portraits of each other.
o An interesting experiment to do with this is pick and object to each draw. A tree out the window, a vase, a pet, etc.
o Don’t show your drawings to each other until you are both done. Then share.
o Notice things your partner paid close attention to that you didn’t and what you have in greater detail than them. Are either of your drawings really wrong? Or are they just different?
o When you can see that your drawings are both accurate but different, it can give you a deeper view into how you and your partner see the world differently. Then take it one step further, if you have different perspectives on something simple like drawing a picture of the same object imagine how you may have other perception and detail differences in bigger situations.
o If you really want to push yourself, think about a few specific situations where you and your partner get stuck…try to see it from the place that no one is “wrong” you are just different.
4. Dance together. Put on some music, whether it’s slow or upbeat…just have some fun. If you have kids include them. You don’t have to dance well, just have fun.
5. Listen to new music and talk about what you like and don’t like. Share your favorite song right now and ask each other questions about them. Why do they like it? What emotion does it bring up? Does it bring up a specific memory?
6. Exercise together. You can do this in serious ways by running or looking for intense programs online. You can also do it in a silly, fun way. Each of you look up “weird workouts” individually and then try them together. I’m sure you will laugh.
7. Get outside. Spend some time on a patio, balcony, or yard. Breathe fresh air. Point out things you notice in your environment. Do the 5 Senses Count down.
o 5 Senses Countdown. This is a way to notice what is in your environment. It’s often used for people with anxiety or panic issues to ground them, but let’s be honest we can all use some grounding right now. It’s pretty simple: you have 5 senses, smell, taste, touch, sight, and hearing. You start with 5 and 1 of the senses, you list 5 things in your environment based on the first sense you picked (example 5 things you see), then you go to 4 and pick another sense (example 4 things you hear), then 3 and another sense (example 3 things you smell), and continue all the way to 1. You can use the senses in any order. Also touch can be what you feel on your skin, like a cool breeze or a soft shirt.
8. Build a fort together and watch a movie in it.
9. If you have an outdoor space, play a game, Frisbee, horse shoes, catch, etc. If you have a tent go camping outside.
10. Make a funny video or a music video together.
11. Pick some home projects you have been putting off, put some music on and be productive together.
12. Listen to a new audio book or podcast together. Talk about it.
13. Plan a future trip together.
14. Play a board game.
15. Do a puzzle.
16. Play strip poker.
17. Appreciate the sky. Watch a sunset or sunrise, look for shapes in the clouds, at night look for stars.
18. Have fun with Nerf war with the kids…or without the kids. Set up a Nerf shooting range. Use paper to make targets, set up toys or lightweight items to shoot down.
19. Sculpt with playdoh.
20. Use clean socks, roll them up individually and have a “snowball” fight.
21. Do a blindfolded taste test to see how many foods you can each guess correctly.
22. Get in your PJs and have breakfast in bed for dinner.
23. Write a story together, one person starts with 1-2 sentences and then the next person continues it…you can go around and around until you feel done. This is great to do as a family.
24. One person draws a cartoon and then the other person adds the words.
25. Send a surprise package to someone you know.
26. Read a book together or even start a book club with finds online.
27. Look up fun science experiments you can do at home
28. Have a picnic inside or outside.
29. Each individually picks a documentary or Ted Talk and then watch them together. Tell your partner why you picked it and then each share your thoughts about it. What was surprising? What did you find interesting? What feelings did it bring up?
30. Use what you have in your closet and have a dress up party.
31. Have a thumb or leg wrestling competition, the winner picks the movie, game or movie.
32. Interested in getting a pet? Spend time researching them together.
33. Play indoor hockey or golf. Set up goals or holes (cups) to shoot into. You can use brooms and mops as sticks and a cotton ball or a rolled-up sock as the ball.
34. Find a new video game to play together or to play online with friends.
35. Social Media or Screen detox.
36. Visit a museum, aquarium or zoo online.
37. Lip-Sync or karaoke using YouTube or a music streaming program, grab a hair brush or spoon as a mic and go to town. Sing solo, sing together and have fun.
38. Declutter something. A junk door, closet, cabinet; you will leave sheltering in place feeling lighter
39. Write love letters to each other.
40. Write a story about what you remember about your first date and how you remember feeling.
41. Take the love language test, share your results and share more specific examples.
42. Take an online class together. Learn a new language, a cooking class, art class.
43. Take a temperament test and share your results: Enneagram, Myers Briggs, there are a lot out there.
44. Give each other massages.
45. Have fun with questions. There are tons of links online for questions to ask on date night, so you don’t even have to be creative.
46. Document your experience through this time. Create your own “captains log”, use pictures and videos. Be serious, be silly.
47. Try meditation. There are YouTube videos and apps that can take you through guided meditations.
48. Learn about mindfulness and practice it.
49. Purge…look for things to donate. Clothes, shoes, home goods.
50. Color in a coloring book or print out a free coloring page for each other to color.
51. Make a list of your favorite 10 memories and share them.
52. Take dance lessons using YouTube.
53. Make a couple’s or individual bucket list.
54. Make a vision board for what you want the rest of your year to look like. Apps like “Wishboard” are great but you can use old magazines too.
55. Teach each other a skill the other doesn’t have. I don’t know how to BBQ so maybe I will have my husband teach me. I know more about home improvement so I can teach him something there.
56. Tell each other jokes, riddles or ghosts’ stories.
57. Make a time capsule of your time together, write letters to each other. Pick a date in the future to open it. You can use a box or bag but seal it, date it and sign it. Then put it somewhere safe and set a reminder on your calendar to open it.
58. Have a paper airplane competition. Bet something that the winner gets.
59. Think and plan a few random acts of kindness you can do now or in the future.
60. Play a trivia game.
61. Go window shopping online for something you want to save for.
62. Make an indoor scavenger hunt.
63. Play a game from childhood: hide and seek, charades, truth or dare, would you rather
64. Build a Lego set.
65. Play balloon volleyball.
66. Learn a magic trick and entertain each other.
67. Tell each other about your favorite childhood books and retell each other what you remember about the story. Share a memory you have of reading the book or who read it to you. What feelings does it bring up?
68. Make a list of local restaurants and activities you want to do when life returns to “normal”
69. Watch comedians online; laughter is so important during times of stress.
70. Re-watch your favorite movies. From childhood or more recent. Talk about what you like about it. Anything you notice this time that you didn’t see before. How old were you when you first saw it? What was going on during that time?
71. Spend time cuddling and exploring each other’s bodies
72. Read and try this article, “The 36 Questions That Lead to Love” you will ask 36 specific questions and then make eye contact for 4 minutes. Once you are done, share your experience with your partner.
73. Incorporate a new habit. It’s said it takes 30 days to establish a new habit…you have the time.
74. Practice gratitude. Watch our blog on the Top Three. A great way to learn about and practice being mindful and grateful.
75. BREATHE! Learn how to take deep calming breaths, do it alone, with your partner or as a whole family