Lockdown could be the perfect time to put a spark back into our love lives, according to Ballymena life coach Zoe McCurdy.
Quarantined couples feeling the strain should be taking this time together to be more romantic and build stronger relationships, said the 29-year-old counsellor.
Now she has unveiled her top tips to boost your love life throughout quarantine, getting that loving feeling rather than getting on each other's nerves.
Zoe qualified as a counsellor from Ulster University and discovering her passion for serving her community led her to train with the world's leading human behaviour expert, Dr John Demartini.
"The restrictions have certainly added a great deal of pressure to our already stressful lives," she said.
"But being with your partner in that home environment so much more and not being able to get out as much is proving challenging for most of us.
"Couples could benefit from extra help and guidance on how to survive. Before lockdown if you felt stressed at home you could go somewhere else and enjoy hobbies but now it's more challenging."
She now travels all over the US facilitating personal development breakthroughs with the Demartini Institute.
The psychological-based method encourages individuals to remove build-up resentments within their relationships, creating a new-found love and appreciation of one another.
Having studied and worked abroad, Zoe returned to her native Northern Ireland to help people empower many aspects of life — from love and relationships to improving self-worth and confidence.
“I wanted to study human behaviour and how I could better serve my community,” she added.
Now Zoe is applying her expertise to couples and advising how they can deal with government-imposed restrictions during the pandemic.
Zoe said a few simple relationship tips can make your partner’s day and that includes spending time on creating the right atmosphere for love to flourish.
“One study of couples in their mid-60s through to mid-80s found that those who had more frequent sexual encounters — including any sex act, not just intercourse — had happier, more positive marriages than those who were less sexually active,” she revealed.
“This is so very important in a marriage. At the beginning of relationships we’re in what is called the infatuation stage, where everything seems more passionate and effortless. Then the added pressures and stresses of kids and work come along.
“But if you’re both making that conscious effort to create romance the magic happens. When you both put the effort in it can rekindle that spark.”
Appreciation for your other half is also crucial to beating the lockdown blues.
“A relationship is not about operating at 100% capacity every day — if you bring 50% and your partner brings 50% — it’s about creating that balance,” Zoe added.
“If one person isn’t doing something and the other is giving too much that’s too big a challenge and they get burnt out. Likewise if the other person is getting too much support then they get bored and start looking for something else.
“People often think values are trust and honesty but these are traits. Values are what are most important to you, the high priority priorities in your life.”
Zoe said if we don’t understand our partner’s values, the temptation is to try and change them.
“Then when they won’t change you resent them. These tiny resentments grow over time and that can cause so many problems.”
During her couple’s sessions, Zoe advises couples to find out how each other’s values will support the other.
“You don’t try to change someone, you appreciate them for who they are,” she said. “That’s probably my best tip.”
Having worked abroad Zoe said couples here in Northern Ireland are less likely to open up about their intimate lives.
“People here tend to sweep relationship issues under the carpet and pretend there are no issues. We don’t want to talk about it compared to people in the US or even London who do and embrace personal development. We are sometimes frightened of being criticised or being told we’re doing something wrong.”
Zoe said her counselling sessions are about teaching new perspectives in a non-judgmental environment. However, she added one of the benefits of lockdown is that it has encouraged more of us to focus on our relationships and seek help.
“During lockdown the most searched words have been immune system,” she pointed out. “This highlights that we haven’t been paying enough attention to our health until this pandemic. It has taken this virus to show that it’s imperative to take care of our health.
“Quarantine has showed us that our health and wellbeing is important and we need to start investing in ourselves more than we have been,” she said.