The secrets of couples thriving right now in the pandemic

During the pandemic lockdown earlier this year, S. Nicole Lane (right) of Chicago found that hiking with her boyfriend brought them closer. The couple is shown on a hike in North Carolina.

(CNN)Before the pandemic, S. Nicole Lane said that much of her time with her boyfriend was spent going out, dancing and drinking.

"We both work pretty demanding jobs, so our days off were spent in a whirlwind," she said. "I think many of our fights and arguments were fueled by alcohol."
During pandemic lockdown earlier this year, the Chicago couple started hiking together, often covering as many as 20 miles in a single day on the trails. "I don't think we went into hiking saying, 'This will help our relationship,' but it's really brought us a lot closer and more comfortable with one another," she said.
"In conjunction with cutting out our previous vices and introducing a new obsession, I think it's made our bond much stronger and our love much deeper," Lane said. "It's made me realize that I want him as my long-term partner even more so because we can get through really stressful experiences and feel great afterwards."
    In these trying times, many couples have been pushed to the brink and decided to separate or divorce. Others are navigating the wild ride of sex and the pandemic. Then there are the couples who have found a way not only to survive but get closer despite all the stresses of this year's many challenges. Here are tips on how to make your own relationship thrive.

    Novelty can help

    Couples introducing novelty into their relationships at this time of extended togetherness are onto something, according to Pepper Schwartz, a professor of sociology at the University of Washington.
    "People are saying, 'We love each other, but it (the pandemic) is too much,'" she said. "There needs to be some third entry into (the relationship). A task, a course, new things to talk about and feel good about."
    Instead of letting the stress of the pandemic make them implode, Schwartz said, successful couples are getting creative when it comes to introducing new interests into their lives, both together and alone. "I know a couple who started a chicken coop and researched exotic chickens. It had been something like a joke between them before."
    "Instead of sinking into a depression, figure out something else to feel good about, either separately or together," she said.
    That's not to say you should buy chickens or sell all your belongings and move to the Maldives together. It could be as simple as taking the dog out on an extended route or going for a walk in the woods. "The desire to get outside into nature is almost a primordial drive," Schwartz added.

    Talk less, listen more

    For American Ruth Terry, 39, and her partner of almost 10 years, the idea of locking down in their 400-square-foot apartment in Istanbul earlier this year was initially alarming.
    "Mostly, I was afraid I was going to make him crazy," she said. "He needs his alone time, and that was already hard to come by in such a small place."
    The couple worked to communicate more about things like dividing the housework and also memorized each other's schedules for work-from-home tasks so they could sync better in such tight quarters, she said.
    Terry and her partner also put into action an important lesson they'd learned earlier in their relationship during couples therapy, which is "not to assume anything," she said. "We are wired so differently that there can be a lot of misunderstanding when we guess what the other one is thinking, even after being in a relationship so long."
    That communication is key, according to Diana Wiley, a Seattle-based licensed marriage and family therapist and sex therapist, who stressed the importance of putting your relationship first right now, as challenging as it might be.
    "Successful couples right now are prioritizing their relationships," said Wiley, author of "Love in the Time of Corona." "They're showing their feelings and making time for themselves. Divorce-proofing your marriage or relationship against the pandemic involves being considerate and staying in communication."