Holy cow, we’ve been in 21 weeks of this quarantine lifestyle… and the next several weeks doesn’t look any different!
This got me thinking, how are we feeling loved and appreciated these days? I mean, there’s less hugs, less high fives, less loving stares from people.
Something I like asking people is, what is your love language? From the famous book, The Five Love Languages, it posits that people feel and give love in certain ways. And if you don’t get love in your preferred way, then it’s almost unnoticed! For example, one of my primary love languages is Acts of Service, meaning I really appreciate it when stuff is done around the house for me. If someone tried to show me love with gifts instead, but never contributed to the household, I’d get frustrated!
So, let’s dig into new ways to rethink what is appreciation and how to show love in quarantine.
How To Show Appreciation Virtually
That Five Love Languages has a spinoff called the 5 Languages of Appreciation. (I’m still waiting for the spinoff, the 5 Languages of Sarcasm.) Similar in concept, the 5 types are listed below. To figure out yours, ask yourself, which one do you feel is missing most from your life.
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Acts of Service
- Tangible Gifts
- Physical Touch.
According to Dr. White’s research, “nearly half of the 130,000 American workers who took a self-assessment appreciated words of affirmation most, approximately one quarter most enjoyed quality time with colleagues…”
But here’s the big kicker, during quarantine and WFH, “quality time really popped up [in the rankings], with 10% more of employees who worked remotely saying they prefer quality time over words.”
Ok, quality time is more important now. But here’s the obvious challenge:
“The early stages of dating are also when new partners gather the context clues that help them understand and make sense of each other. What are this person’s friends like? How does this person talk to waiters, to children, to strangers who need help? Coronavirus protocols have put a serious damper on new couples’ ability to learn about each other organically, because phone calls and videochats necessarily exclude the elements of the outside world that make many of these observations possible.” 
Here’s some advice on what to do:
- Avoid sending too many texts, save the good stuff for a videochat
- Don’t send too many memes and jokes, they’re nothing of substance
- Ask deep questions — don’t be shy! Chances are the other person is hungry for a real connection too, and they’ll appreciate bypassing the virtual small talk.
- Accept yours and other’s Love Language, in order to “speak” clearer.
The Value of People
Something I’ve never really had a problem with is the separation of work and personal life. When the clock hits 4PM, I poof into personal-time Johnny and leave my work brain at work. It’s actually been a problem a few times, when I got to work on Monday morning and realize that thing I had something due that morning! (I hope my boss isn’t reading this…)
For me, that separation was healthy because it gave me boundaries — devoted time to focus on work, time to focus on my personal life, and time for myself. But now those lines are all blurred, with maybe all aspects of my life suffering.
Let’s talk about some ideas, new and old, on how to show value to others and to ourself.
- Create a virtual community using whatever technology platform you use for work (I.e. Slack, MS Teams, old fashioned webpages) based on your interests. For example, are you a runner? Maybe start up a virtual running club where people can post their accomplishments. How about a page about cooking and baking where people can post pics of the food they just made! Or maybe just a good ole book club.
Social circle appreciation:
- Respond fast to texts and emails. Maybe back in the pre-pandemic days we weren’t the fastest to text back because we were going to see them soon anyways. But now, responding quickly is a sign that you appreciate their time and their effort to reach out.
Appreciate your significant other:
- Beware of too much texting. “There were nonsense fights about texting too much or too little, or comments lost on text,” from Caitlyn Hitt’s article about her long distance quarantine relationship.
- Make a consistent hang out time. This way you both know when there’s time to bring up issues or share complex topics that could be lost in text messages.
- Create space, no matter what. If you live with someone, then take a walk by yourself, and take a longer shower. If you have to go out, then go by yourself and enjoy the ride.
- Reinforce the separation of work and personal life, of weekdays and weekends. Maybe create some new separators, like waking up early and reading, workout right after work to force a change of scenery, or start a big personal project with a dedicated time each week.
Fighting is Inevitable. Here’s How to Get Better At It.
“Family law experts predict a spike in divorce filings after the quarantine ends, as occurred in China.” 
Yikes, that’s a scary thought! All these unhappy people living together, just itching for the chance to get out and divorce each other.
I’m not immune to it either — my parents moved in recently and we didn’t last a week together!
Fact is, conflict is nothing new. What is new is how many people are stuck together (all day long!), or people forced to have long distance-like relationships.
Here’s what we can do in order to not have a divorce lawyer on speed dial.
“I think that couples, by definition, go through harmony, disharmony, and repair. This is a dance that we do no matter what. By definition, we fight. What matters is how you fight.” — Esther Perel
That’s pure gold! How you fight.
When I reflect on my own past relationships, I can easily tell which partners argued in a more constructive manner, versus others that kept spiraling in the mud. I can also admit how my behavior may have hurt or helped the situation. This can prob be extrapolated into the world of politics, where we feel some disagreements are productive, others spiteful.
Here’s what you can do as soon as you detect an impending argument — say one or two things that you appreciate about the other person.
Yes mindset. Popularized by Dr. Dan Siegel, bestselling author of the Yes Brain, the key is to get into the right frame of mind just before the argument gets too intense. Whether if we’re arguing in person or virtually, start with a positive statement. If we can do that, it’ll change the entire tenor and you’ll literally end up having a different argument… hopefully a much shorter one that makes up.
Have a Threesome (Without Cheating)
So there’s at least one advantage to all this virtual interactions — we can control and craft carefully how we are communicating.
I’ve got this friend who is always super articulate and thoughtful before responding. Whenever he’s in town and after several days, I find my own vocabulary leveled up, and it shows through on my emails and texts. (But the effect eventually wears off and I’m back to my writing style full of run-on sentences and bad punctuations.)
Our goal should be to communicate with more empathy and appreciation, especially now, and here’s how.
“‘What is this doing to us? What does ‘us’ need at this moment?’ If you can think about that third entity called the relationship, and do certain things because the relationship needs it, even if it’s not what you need, that will give you a very hopeful framework.” — Esther Perel
How does that change the way we think, if there’s You, Me, and Us. That ‘Us’ is the third thing in every relationship.
If we start thinking about what can/should be done to help that third thing instead of focusing on me and you, it changes the entire vibe. It takes away the idea of “keeping score” and taps in the selflessness within each of us, as well as investing into our future happiness.
Dare I say, I think this ‘meta’ approach also uses elements of meditation where we’re supposed to act like an observer. We observe this entity called “the relationship.” We can look at it and ask, what can I do to help this beautiful thing.
In the end, we all want to feel valued and appreciated. It might be harder to feel that these days, but being deliberate with our communication will create a newer, deeper foundation of trust.
- Engaging Virtual Teams with the 5 Languages of Appreciation by Dr. Paul White
- This is how you can make remote employees feel appreciated by Jared Lindzon
- The New Relationships That Fizzled Out in Quarantine by Ashley Fetters
- Relationships in Quarantine: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly by Ann Gold Buscho Ph.D.
- 7 communication tips to keep your relationship alive during quarantine, according to a long-distance couple by Caitlyn Hitt
- “This Is What Happens to Couples Under Stress”: An Interview with Esther Perel by Rachel Syme
- Expert Advice If Your Relationship Is Feeling Some Quarantine-Related Strain by Sophia Benoit
- Dr. Dan Siegel: What Hearing “Yes” Does to Your Child’s Brain by Lu Hanessia