It’s no surprise that a global health pandemic has led to widespread anxiety as people try to protect themselves and loved ones from COVID-19. Individuals have changed the way they work, learn, and socialize to accommodate safety precautions and policies like social distancing. But in this effort to stay physically healthy, many are seeing the implications of all these sudden changes extend to their personal relationships. COVID-19 has taken a toll on even strong marriages as couples are forced to spend much more time together while also navigating new circumstances around working and parenting, sometimes leading to divorce. Legal Templates, which offers an online database of legal documents and forms, reported in July a 34% increase in sales of their divorce agreement compared to the same period in 2019.
For many couples, however, the pandemic simply requires some extra attention to each other and their relationship to come out on the other end intact, or perhaps more resilient than ever.
- Take care of yourself. Sometimes the first step in strengthening or mending a relationship is looking inward. If you are feeling overwhelmed, consider coping strategies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that will help you take care of your emotional and physical health. Mental health is an important part of your wellbeing and can affect how you handle stress and relate to others.
- Communicate wisely. This is not the right time to be overly critical or petty, although it can be tempting when the increased time together highlights any annoyances you might have with one another. Pick and choose your battles, agree to disagree when appropriate, and postpone arguments to allow time to cool off and find space away from your kids. Perhaps even more important, be clear about what you want and need (such as help with housework or personal space) and look for opportunities to show appreciation.
- Create structure. If COVID-19 has turned your normal routines upside down, make a new schedule and stick to it. If you and your spouse are both working from home, and perhaps helping kids with remote learning, consider making a schedule each week to ensure everybody has the space and privacy they need for important calls and meetings. Carving out some time away from your partner could benefit both of you, whether that’s a walk around the block, a new hobby, or connecting with friends and family.
- Don’t overlook physical intimacy. You and your partner may be spending a lot more time in close proximity, but that’s not the same as physical closeness and touch. If stress has taken sex off the table for one or both of you, cuddling and handholding can still go a long way toward showing your affection to one another.
Don’t be too hard on yourselves – these are difficult circumstances and you are not alone! If you and your spouse are struggling to adjust to these extraordinary conditions, remember that professional help is available.
David Lowenstein, Ph.D. is a psychologist and the clinical director of Lowenstein & Associates, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to providing therapeutic services to individuals and families, he offers training and consultation to numerous associations, schools and agencies around the country. Additionally, he is a frequent radio and TV guest and a resource and contributing writer for numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. Contact Dr. David Lowenstein at 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.