Living Harmoniously In the Time of Covid-19

Jessamy Holland is my guest blogger, She is a trained psychosexual and relationship therapist working with couples in Paris. She is also a sexual health educator at an international school in Neuilly

Living Harmoniously In the Time of Covid-19 : Tangible Tips to help you and your partner stay emotionally and physically connected.




There is a real need to talk about how we can nourish and maintain healthy relationships during this period of confinement.




Before this social distancing, most of us spent the work week away from our partner for several hours of the day. Now, we are sharing the same space for the majority of our waking hours. This means we need to adapt and adjust our routines to accommodate for both partners emotional and physical needs.




In this blog post, I would like to suggest a communication activity called “Emptying the Emotional Jug”. It is a simple exercise from the PAIRS program (created by Lori Gordon in 1975) that you can do with your partner or roommate  daily, weekly, or whenever you feel you need to have an opportunity to share difficult emotions. I will also suggest four tangible tips that you can implement into your daily routine starting today to help you cope with this period of confinement.




First up, let me explain the “Emptying the Emotional Jug” exercise.




What is the emotional jug?


-        It’s the idea that we fill up the jug with our emotions as we go through our daily lives, and that if this jug isn’t allowed to be emptied it can overflow or implode. It’s important that all emotions are valued, and that they are all seen as healthy reactions to our daily lives.


-        This is a helpful exercise to express difficult feelings, and if done regularly, can be a really healthy way to just check in with yourself and your partner.


-        It’s important to have our feelings expressed, otherwise they manifest in our bodies and can lead to illness and behaviors that we don’t like in ourselves.


-        When the jug leaks or overflows, the behaviors are sarcasm, bullying, blaming others for our lack of emotional aeration. When the jug implodes, the behaviors are depression, self-isolation, and in the extreme, suicide.




How do you use the emotional jug exercise?


-        It’s important to find 20-30 minutes of uninterrupted time with your partner. The partner can be your roommate, couple partner, or friend. Ideally, you’ll be in the same place but right now that can be tricky.


-        Make sure to use non-blaming, non-attacking statements, especially the first few times you practice this.


-        The idea is to listen to your gut, which is where the feelings are. They are intuitive, they are not in your mind.


-        Don’t overthink the feelings, just let them come out and be expressed. You don’t have to validate them, or ask for them to be validated.


The roles and layers of emotions:




-        Speaker expresses, Listener asks questions and actively listens while Speaker is responding.


-        Important to remember that both will have a turn to be the Speaker.


-        Listener says “thank you” after each level of questioning but does not ask follow-up questions. Remember, this is NOT A DISCUSSION.




Four levels of emotions: (important to go through all three levels of questioning)


-        What are you MAD about?


o   What else?


o   If there was anything else you would be mad about, what would it be?


-        What are you SAD about?


o   What else?


o   If there was anything else you would be mad about, what would it be?


-        What are you WORRED about?


o   What else?


o   If there was anything else you would be mad about, what would it be?


-        What are you GLAD about?


o   What else?


o   If there was anything else you would be mad about, what would it be?




End each person’s turn with a tangible recognition like a hug.




Next, these are four tips to help you and your partner get through confinement which you can implement straight away into your daily habits.


1)     Change up the daily routine with novelty:


a.      Dress up to do housework (sexy lingerie, Halloween costumes, disco outfits)


b.      Put on music and have a dance party while you’re doing housework


c.       Make each other a special childhood dish for dinner / lunch


d.     Pick up something fun or unexpected from the grocery store to surprise your partner / roommate.


2)     Offer each other non-demand physical intimacy


a.     Affectionate and sensual touch can be powerful in these times of confinement when we need to feel safe and supported. Affectionate touch includes holding hands, kissing, hugging, and sensual touch includes massage, bathing together, snuggling at night or in the morning, touching on the couch while watching tv


                                                    i.     Nondemand pleasuring is very important to sexual desire. This includes touching inside and outside of the bedroom. Not all touching is oriented towards intercourse.


b.     Hugging releases oxytocin which is a neurotransmitter related to intimacy and affection.


c.      Try to make time in the day (or night) to show your partner affection through touch. If you don’t have a partner, hug yourself. Hug your roommate, or your animal. Self affection is important right now too!


3)     Open up to discovering new things about your partner


a.     This is a way to keep being interested in your partner. You are different people, so there is always something to learn about each other.


b.     “36 Questions that Lead to Love” is a great resource for discovery new things about your partner. NY Times article link here : https://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/style/36-questions-that-lead-to-love.html


c.      We are most attracted to our partners when we see them as people separate from us. It makes us curious about one another.


4)     Mark the difference between professional time and personal time.


a.     It can be difficult to switch our brains from work to family when we are working from home all day. But learning how to switch off can help you to keep a routine, and to maintain sanity so that work doesn’t infiltrate too much into your home space.


b.     Limit screen time when you’re not working, so that you actually talk to one another.


c.      Have a bath, change clothes, throw a dance party to transition the space from work to home.




In extreme situations, the Domestic Violence Group Paris can be an excellent resource for Anglophones looking for free support. Jill Bourdais, who runs the group, can be reached at domesticviolencehelpparis.com.




I hope these communication tips help you and your partner maintain or revive your physical and emotional intimacy during this difficult time.




Jessamy Holland









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Email: jessamyholland@gmail.com