Relationship survival during Covid-19 crisis.
The Ways to Help Your Relationship Survive During the Covid-19 Crisis. We’re now faced with a number of almost unprecedented circumstances, financial, health, job loss, future worry, normal everyday pursuits, family and generally, “unknowing the true picture and likely outcomes. How can we help our relationships survive during the Covid-19 crisis.
As the weeks of social distancing go on, the consequences of each of these things go on ( and on and on …). Coronavirus has taken its toll globally, some suffering worse than others. We don’t know how or if, that will change as we all wait for the graph of cases and deaths to “flatten out”.
We’ve had the livelihoods of our friends and families put on the line, and our fast-paced, hyper-social lifestyles are for many, at this time, on hold indefinitely.
We’re learning to adapt to our new way of life while learning a lot more about ourselves, each other and how we interact in the process: how we deal with our emotions, how we prioritize safety and cleanliness, and now, since many are either staying or working from home, how we behave with our family and co-workers.
Some of us are juggling roles as housekeeper, our children’s teacher, an employee, wife and psychiatrist all on the same day.
Sometimes we’re at home with our spouses, sometimes just our children, sometimes just with our co-workers. Whilst this is primarily aimed at those “stuck indoors together” the principles remain true for most situations.
Family disputes on the rise?
Through disagreements, difficult conversations, and extended periods of seeing each other’s faces, many of us are wondering how we will manage in such close circumstances.
According to US’s Bloomberg News, Chinese marriage registration offices are reporting an increase in divorce filings already!
Is this now that China is coming out of extended quarantine, should this serve as a social warning to the rest of the world?
Family disputes on the rise? Lawyers in family law have said says that they’ve seen a significant rise in family dispute consultations (via the internet or phone calls) since these quarantines began.
More people are accepting that the person that they thought they enjoyed being with just isn’t the one they signed up for! When you’re stuck with someone you didn’t realise that you don’t want to live with, these weeks can be a final straw.
In most relationship experts (if there is such a thing), quarantine doesn’t necessarily have to mean doom for your marriage or relationship, in fact maybe, as in so many aspects in the Covid-times, there are some positive answers in the lessons we can learn from it.
Create structure for yourself and each other
Creating structure for yourself is important, it is all so easy to get out of any semblance of routine, all the days start to look and feel the same. This may be completely understandable given what we’re going through.
Most people are simply not together all day whether they’re married or not, so when you’re suddenly thrown together and forced to upend your usual separate routine and habits, it can lead to irritation and potential conflict. Of course, couple who have experienced retirement can attest to that!
This is a good reason for not retiring yet keeping busy with routine and projects (the things you always wanted to do). For those not working at home and not clearly out of work when this ends, a similar approach can be taken.
Creating some semblance of structure and individuality in your daily schedule is crucial.
If you realise that you’re aware that you’ll not have a job at the end of all this, it’s important to remain positive and imaginative. To do this you still need routine however pointless it may seem right now.
If you’re used a routine, like waking up, exercising, and having a coffee, continue to do it. Stick to your regular day-to-day as much as possible or develop a routine that feels uniquely yours in this time of change—and give your partner the freedom to do that as well. Keep communication open about how successful you’re managing (but don’t be critical if the other party isn’t doing so well.
Structure lends a sense of order to life and your time together, and that helps you feel productive, useful and positive. Above all, remain realistically positive, be empathetic and sensitive, be supportive and try to understand the other’s problems.
Be supportive but you can’t afford to be a ‘door mat’ either. Just stay rational, be firm but fair, learn to apologize, give yourself some forgiveness – we’re all going through this thing together.
Live in the day and don’t worry about the future.
Plan, but don’t plan on the outcome. Sharing your anxieties and fears. Headlines about hospital and PPE shortages, fears for loved ones who are more at risk of COVID-19, and rising death rates bombard us daily. We’re all in a heightened state of anxiety.
Some types of stress can be good, strain is not.
Anxiety is driving a lot of people’s irritability right now and creating a cauldron for the worst of what’s occurring in your relationship at the best of times.” Recognizing the specific anxieties that are fuelling interactions with your partner and then talking openly about them can help diffuse the dissatisfaction but don’t be judgemental or critical, that’s not going to help anyone.
Try talking out your anxieties during a specific time of day, again routine. Such feelings can otherwise permeate definitely every hour of the day, taking a toll psychologically and physically on your relationship, setting aside time to talk about it daily keeps it from spilling over into other parts of your life and causing more stress.
If you can walk outside to do it or sit together in a quiet place over a tea or coffee, so much the better.
Accept and embrace the fact that you and your partner may be more different than you thought, and that’s OK. If you like to watch the latest news about the virus every morning, but your partner absolutely hates it don’t make facetious, judgemental or denigrating comments – if appropriate just ask, “anything new?” Remember you don’t have to answer the reply, a simple nod or “right” will suffice.
If you like to tidy the table, wash the dishes after every meal, put away condiments, but your partner lets them pile up, mention it, then move on. It’s not worth it for the next few weeks. Again, be firm but fair but accept when “you’re not going to win that one.”
Such differences therefore doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed, remember your partner likely feels as stressed as you. You are allowed to think differently, just remember that it’s supposed to be for the common good.
Aligned core values
What’s mainly important is that your underlying core values are similar. If you’re curious about your partner’s core values, now is the time to really pay attention and talk about them, remember this is not an opportunity to judge or criticize.
Make the time to have fun together
Most of us don’t do this enough anyway as so many studies show that laughter can reduce stress (even at ourselves!) – why not turn on your favourite comedy show or movie, discuss funny things, even play your favourite board game again. Sometimes it’s funny seeing how you’ve both changed away from what you thought you both liked – go easy on the other party if only one of you still thinks it’s funny.
Consider using this as a time to get to know and appreciate your partner all over again. Do things that you enjoy together, anything that will get you smiling and relieve stress together. Having fun or just relaxing together can help you remember why and what you loved in your partner in the first place.
Give each other space, physically and emotionally
Social distancing as a couple means a lot of face time. That’s tough for even the closest couples and leaving the house for a 5-minute walk or necessary trip to the grocery store run isn’t always enough of a break.
Alone time is healthy and necessary, but you may have to ask for it. It can be a confusing message to state, “I just need some space”, privacy and space can exist in the same house, or even the same room. “Can I have two hours to read a book on the sofa this afternoon?” states your case, and if you’re partner doesn’t understand they may be having an emotional blockage too. Roll with it and ask if there’s something they would rather do together.
Specific requests don’t send mixed and confusing signals.
Now is the time to learn to be specific, even gently assertive, and not aggressive or passive-aggressive. Enjoy your me-time and don’t feel guilty about it. When things get hard, take a breather. No relationship is perfect, and we’re all stressed right now, so conflict is going to be inevitable.
Retain your objectivity
Right now, people are looking for solutions to how they feel, and they may think it means separating from the people they were with, when they began to feel this. It’s difficult to be truly objective and realise what is the root cause of your feelings. Could it be Covid-19?
Remain objective about what you feel and why – If you feel your anger or anxiety rising, take a breath and think before you speak – before you say or do something that’s hard or impossible to take back. T
his may mean quietly (no door slamming) to another room or even just the corner of the room your sharing and listen to music or write out your emotions in a letter or text message to your partner BUT don’t send it, or sit on your front porch, deck or fire escape if you really need some air.
Always remember to review the true cause and reason for your current feelings when negative emotions are high.
If it’s much more difficult now, that doesn’t mean it will be more difficult when this is over. When all is done and we go back to the “new-norm”. At the end of this, for it will end, there can be positive outcomes for relationships that make it through, like learning to appreciate the little things you love or admire about your partner.
Let’s face it, there are times when people will realise that it is not a relationship that they either want to be, or indeed perhaps should be in. Even this is a step in the right direction. Life is too short for either scenario.
This will of course be true for the other things in life we’ve always had without appreciation.
We’ll likely appreciate those all the more when this is over too. It’s going to be difficult as in the outer world, we’ve got stresses and people dying and getting sick, we’ll likely come out of this being more appreciative.
The power of relationships
There is something life-affirming about connecting or reconnecting with someone,” most recovery programs work on the basis of think less about you and more about others.
When this is all over, we’ll look back and see what we learned during these remarkable times and how we can improve upon things further.
Take the time and opportunity now, to strengthen your ties with your partner if you wish.
Every cloud has a silver lining, they do say.
2020 Stephen Bray 20202