If there’s one thing that all full-timing couples have in common, it is a wealth of experience in how to hang out with your partner for extended periods in a small space.
For all of you who are navigating these waters for the first time, here are ten tips gleaned from years of full-time RV travel.
1. Remember the Golden Rule
“Treat others how you want to be treated,” is what the Golden Rule is all about, and we recommend you use it at the baseline of your interactions over the coming weeks. Do we want to scream and shout sometimes? Absolutely. Do we want to get yelled at? Not so much.
The Golden Rule isn’t a perfect system because we’re all different, and our preferred types of interactions vary. Over the coming weeks, deploy your extra-sensitive antennae and try to keep a close read on your partner’s frame of mind. Now is the time to err on the side of caution, tolerance, and kindness. Resist nitpicking each other over the small stuff.
2. Re-Kindle a Common Interest
When you first partnered up, did you spend the night in doing crossword puzzles, or cook each other thoughtful dinners, or have a two-person dance party in the living room? Maybe you used to love watching classic movies or challenging each other to pushup contests?
Re-kindle one of these indoor activities, or get creative and rustle up a new one. With so many companies turning their services digital — from workout programs to performance art — there is a lot to explore. Don’t force this, but do find a way to spend time together inside that doesn’t revolve around work, childcare, or chores. Remember to have some fun.
3. Keep a Schedule
Even if you didn’t intentionally set it, your life before shelter-in-place likely had a set schedule. If you live in a house, maybe it looked a bit like this: morning routine, school dropoffs, get to work, have lunch with colleagues, school pickups, hit the gym, dinner, homework help, Netflix, bed. Rinse and repeat, Monday through Friday.
I’m going to guess that your framework is currently all bent out of shape. The truth is, as humans, we thrive on schedules. We’re creatures of habit, and without this framework, things can quickly feel overwhelming.
Create your own schedule. Write it out and tack it onto your fridge if it helps. When will you wake up? How about a morning walk? Can you eat lunch together? Who is going to hang out with the kids while the other works? Work it out, and stick to it as much as possible. It may sound stressful right now, but trust us, you’ll appreciate the structure that it gives the day.
4. Say What You Need
Passive-aggressive behavior is a sure-fire way to ratchet any partnership tensions beyond sustainable levels. Over the next few weeks, make it the standing rule to say what you need and be ready to listen to what your partner needs.
Letting things fester isn’t a great idea at any time, but definitely not when you’re cooped up together in limited space. Talk to your partner about what is bothering you and what you need to move past it. Be ready to listen to what they have to say, too. Have these conversations early and often, before any issues become a big deal.
5. Take a Walk When Things Heat Up
Assuming that you are in a place where going for a walk is an option, head on out for a bit of nature therapy when things get heated inside. Even if it’s only 15 minutes, breathing fresh air and getting your legs pumping will do you a world of good. It won’t solve a disagreement, but time apart can help give you perspective and calm your blood pressure.
Heck, even when the atmosphere isn’t heated, it’s a great idea to take a daily trip outside either together or separately. Being in nature boosts your energy, reduces stress, and can help fight feelings of anxiety.
If you can go outside, be sure to stay at least 10 feet away from people who are not a member of your household. You can give them a friendly wave and stopping to chat for a moment of precious human connection — just don’t get close!
6. Assume Positive Intent
When your partner does or says something that makes you feel like you’re crawling up the walls, take a deep breath, maybe step into another room, and re-frame your mindset to assume positive intent.
Assuming positive intent is giving your partner the benefit of the doubt instead of placing blame. Humans have a tendency to judge other people’s actions more harshly than we judge our own. Don’t feel bad about this, it’s just part of how we’re wired.
Your partner may be doing or saying something that is making your blood pressure rise, but they likely aren’t doing it to annoy you. Consider what you’re bringing to the interaction (for example, did you have a particularly frustrating interaction at work today, so you’re already keyed up?), re-frame your mindset, and go from there.
7. Invest in Noise Blocking Headphones
If you don’t have a pair of noise-blocking headphones or earbuds, let us introduce to the wonderful world of quiet.
A good pair of noise-blocking headphones are just the tool you need to snag moments of peace throughout the day. Use them to listen to your favorite tunes or simply turn on the noise-canceling feature and enjoy distraction-free quiet. You’ll be amazed by how well a nice pair of these headphones can block out everything from the sounds of your partner having a conference call to the clang of pots and pans while making dinner.
Noise-blocking headphones are an investment, but we think they are a worthy one. Our favorites are the Sony WH-1000XM3, but there plenty of options out there for both over-ear and earbud models.
8. Mind Your Manners
When was the last time someone told you to “mind your manners?” Probably not since you were a kid, right? Yet, in these unusual times, behaving politely can make the difference between a tense environment and one of mutual respect.
You know your partner better than anyone, but a little bit of extra consideration won’t go amiss. Even when it’s something as simple as thanking them for making dinner, or jumping in to help wash the dishes, being extra kind to each other is important when you’re sharing a small space.
9. Divvy Up the Chores
Speaking of dinner and dishes, be sure to divvy up your household chores in a way that makes sense for your family. With your regular schedule all out of whack, re-evaluate how things are getting done and make sure that the distribution is equitable and isn’t placing too much of a burden on one person.
This goes for other tasks that keep the family ticking along too, like child care, checking in digitally on relatives and friends, and planning indoor activities.
10. Remember That You Are Friends!
Friends take care of each other. They listen, they provide support, and they pick each other up when times get rough. Be there for your partner, especially now when your other human interactions are limited to waves from 10 feet away and digital meetups over Facetime.
Through communication, kindness, and a little bit of intention, you can make this time easier for both of you. It may feel like you’re in a pressure cooker, but at least you’re in it together.