- If your live-in partner isn't taking as many preventative health measures as you are during the coronavirus outbreak, it can feel like your ability to stay safe is hindered.
- According to relationship experts, it's important couples sit down and discuss their fears, where they stem from, and how they can compromise to both feel safe.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
As coronavirus cases continue to mount, some people are doing everything in their power to stay germ-free and healthy, from stocking up on alcohol-based hand sanitizer to avoiding public transit. But if your live-in partner isn't taking as many preventative measures as you are, it can feel like your ability to stay safe is hindered.
According to psychologist Sherry Benton, the founder and chief science officer of TAO Connect, romantic partners who live together should take extra care to be on the same page about their hygiene habits and create a plan that takes both of their viewpoints into account.
First, try to compromise with your partner
Whether you're the more anxious partner or the less anxious one, it's important to sit down and discuss why you're taking the precautions you see fit, Benton said. Even if you don't see eye-to-eye with your partner, understanding where you're both coming from can make a huge difference in preventing arguments or mounting anxiety.
"You have different perspectives on exactly how much space you need and and be able to play with them. You can make different decisions about that, and it's OK," Benton told Insider.
For example, if you feel safer working from home but your partner prefers to go into their office during the outbreak, Benton said it's fine to continue working in your individual ways.
If you can't decide what the best system would be for your and your partner, Benton suggested taking whatever measures your city or state health department recommends.
"If you're in New York right now or if you're in Seattle right now, [the recommendations] might be very different from what it's important to do in Miami," she said, adding that you should also discuss extra precautions if you or your partner are in a higher-risk group, like those with asthma or chronic illness.
If your partner seems to be in denial about the coronavirus outbreak, however, Benton said it's important to sit them down and show them the facts.
"It really depends on how in denial that other person is. Are they washing their hands? Are they keeping a distance from people? Are they doing those kinds of basic things that are recommended for your area?" Benton said.
If your partner is completely ignoring local health department and CDC hygiene recommendations, you should talk about how their lack of preparedness makes you feel without blaming them for your anxiety.
According to Dr. Alexandra Stockwell, a relationship and intimacy expert and author of "Uncompromising Intimacy," you and your partner should both take curious approaches to your anxiety or lack thereof.
"I think really asking your partner, 'What are you worried about?' is important," Stockwell told Insider. "Because usually when people feel anxious, they assume it's the same thing that would cause someone else to be anxious, and it often isn't. It could be that one person is anxious about getting sick and dying, and someone else is anxious about the economy and not being able to provide," if they can't work, she said.
Coming from a place of understanding each other's motivations will help you create a game plan that works for both of you.
You should take your own anxiety into account
Benton said you should also consider how your own anxiety surrounding the coronavirus outbreak could be clouding your judgment and affecting your relationship.
"If you're highly, highly anxious, you need to look at your own perspective," Benton said. "Are you one of those people who are kind of immersing yourself in this and ruminating about the danger? If you are, what you're doing to your own body is getting it to produce a whole lot of cortisol [the stress hormone] all the time, which suppresses your immune system," and can cause you to get sick.
If you find yourself constantly on high alert to the point you can't sleep or think about anything but the coronavirus, Benton suggested turning off the news, logging out of social media, and considering what hygiene measures are actually appropriate for you to take.
"I think it's useful to remember that while this virus has its own unique profile, it's not as if we've never been through this before," Benton said, adding that our society dealt with Zika-related fears and got through it.
Be open to re-evaluating your prevention plan
Lastly, it's important to remember that new information about the coronavirus is coming out every day, so safety and health recommendations can always change or evolve.
For that reason, Benton said it's important your are your partner are flexible about your hygiene plans and willing to sit down and reconsider them as the outbreak progresses.
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