Helping Relationships Survive During COVID-19

The new normal! That’s one way to describe significant changes in home dynamics with all our “dear ones”. Dealing with our loved ones can even start to become annoying or difficult to manage.

Starting with our spouse or significant other (SO), tensions have been escalating as a result of major changes in daily routines. Prior to the pandemic, for most of us, the usual routine was to say goodbye early morning, leave for work, and reconvene later in the day to reconnect, share our day, and relax at our safe place, home. Now, we wake up, and no one goes away. We are “stuck” within a limited space and we have to maneuver between work and home life, with possibly many interruptions. This affects the ability to focus on our jobs while adding frequent interactions between the couple allowing for very little space and time for each other. This situation has added to increased stress.

On top of this, there are external pressures of COVID-19 that include reduced socialization, loss of access to some hobbies, the loss of jobs, the closing of businesses, health threats, and worries about the future outlook. The pandemic has become a major external stressor. Multiple research studies confirm that couples that experienced increased external stress had lower relationship satisfaction.

Even in the best of times, relationships require hard work. But with the added pressures of these major changes in day-to-day dynamics and the external stress of COVID-19, relationships are being put under extreme, adverse conditions that can easily fracture, affect, and, ultimately, dissolve a relationship. This has become so challenging that, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, divorce filings are expected to increase by 10% to 20% for the second half of the year.

Now more than ever, the importance of focusing on either preventing, managing, or minimizing the effects of this “new normal” has become more important than ever.

There are several actions that can help anyone and a couple improve coping with this situation.

First, taking care of self by adopting a healthy lifestyle (healthy eating, exercise, meditation) is a must.

Second, find ways together with your spouse or SO to have space for each other and to reduce being on each other’s faces all day. Also, continue to nurture your socialization in a safe way (e.g. using technology such as video calls, meeting in outdoor spaces with proper distancing, and other preventive measures).

Finally, talk with each other about what is going on and attempt to find joint solutions.

However, in extreme conditions, such as the ones we are currently undergoing, we might need more than that. Accessing outside resources, especially a professional that can help the couple communicate, mediate, compromise, and collaborate can often help save the relationship.