WAUKESHA — As couples deal with new challenges that arise from COVID-19 and prepare to spend more time together, some may be wondering how to remain a strong couple.
Singles are facing another set of challenges, like, is virtual dating a good idea, or should that be put on hold?
A therapist that specializes in marriage and family, as well as a local matchmaker, provided some insight on these questions.
Martha Jackson Oppeneer, owner of Martha J. Oppeneer, LLC, at Clinical Psychology Associates, W156-N8327 Pilgrim Road in Menomonee Falls, said the coronavirus is a new situation that she is also learning from.
Her greatest concern for couples dealing with COVID-19 is the sort of space they are creating for each other. Oppeneer said it’s important for couples not to be dismissive.
“I think it’s going to be very, very important for each person in a couple to be able to express their fear and uncertainty,” Oppeneer said.
Outside of being a support system for each other, Oppeneer said couples should have their own identities and allow time and space to be apart, so they do not become so co-dependent that the relationship is burdensome or toxic.
“This is going to be really tough, because most of the couples I’m working with are now working from home and they don’t have the opportunity, obviously, to safely go out, have other experiences, encounter people, and get that energy and information to bring back into the relationship,” she said.
A solution for this is to get creative with outdoor activities, like go for a jog alone. Oppeneer said couples also need to also have contact with other people in their lives. She and her husband are planning on trying out a virtual party with some friends, since she feels texting and emailing isn’t enough.
She also said it’s good to stay in touch with people and share ideas for dealing with COVID-19 so there is a sense of community. Mindfulness activities, such as yoga and meditation, are also important to help mitigate stress, she said.
What’s extremely important, Oppeneer said, is getting ahead of the coronavirus.
“Instead of thinking, I’m just going to hunker down and not think about it, not feel for two or three weeks and it’ll all be over, I’m concerned that couples will be setting themselves up for a lot of anger,” she said.
Practicing forward thinking and planning for months instead of just two or three weeks can help with that.
Oppeneer also encourages couples to have date nights. To come up with ideas, she said to think about when you first started dating your significant other and what you would do then, then get creative, like maybe have a candle-lit dinner.
Oppeneer said she has lost about a third of her case load, which at first concerned her; however, she thinks some of that is due to clients not wanting to give virtual therapy a try.
Oppeneer said while virtual therapy isn’t ideal, it is good to give it a try, especially during these tough times.
Erika Kybartas, the Milwaukee and Chicago Regional Director and Matchmaker at It’s Just Lunch, said COVID-19 has made dating more creative.
“People who are single … they’re not getting that human interaction, I think this is a really good time, if they are online dating, to set up video chats and to text and have phone calls,” Kybartas said.
Kybartas said while a physical connection is also important, now can be the time to know someone so there may be greater chemistry later.
“If you are virtually dating, still get takeout together and have a FaceTime date,” Kybartas said. “Maybe play a game virtually. There’s so many things to do and it’s important at this time to keep things fun and fresh.”
For clients at It’s Just Lunch, they are postponing dates until places reopen, but in the meantime, staff are giving them advice.
Advice for clients is different for each person; however, Kybartas said it’s good for people to take care of themselves and maybe pick up a new hobby.
– Play a board game
– Play video games together
– Make art together
– Cook together or have a cookoff
– Do a puzzle
– Read a book aloud together
– Have a fire outdoors
– Listen to music together
– Have a spa night
– Listen to a podcast or short audio story together
– Plan a trip together for when you can leave your home again