Covid-19 Survival Tips for Couples
Relationships can be challenging at the best of times but the current Covid-19 situation presents some unique challenges for couples. Kids are at home doing home schooling, our partners may be working from home with us, and we have lost our social interaction with grandparents, friends, colleagues. Those other external sources of support and interaction being limited has a big impact on coping.
Stress levels are high as we juggle new and competing demands while being cooped up together for days on end trying to navigate shared spaces and resources. We are also dealing with a high level of uncertainty and anxiety about our health and safety, financial and economic future, and how we will cope as the situation continues. Living in “survival mode” shifts us into an ongoing sense of threat that can put pressure on any intimate relationship.
Following are some tips to help you through this time as a couple, protect your relationship and even strengthen it.
Understand that you and your partner may have different coping styles. There are different ways we each deal with uncertainty and change.
Some people move into action quickly, going full steam ahead into organising, putting things into place, and seeking as much information as they can to try and regain some sense of control in the situation. Their partner may experience this as an overfocus on risk and become frustrated as their partner appears hypervigilant or anxious – constantly watching the news feed! Others may try to maintain some semblance of normality, which may seem like avoidance to their partner.
Remember that there is no right or wrong way anyone should feel during this time – what is important is that you feel heard, understood and validated by each other in your vulnerability. Have conversations to talk about how you are each dealing with what is happening and what you each need from the other to feel supported in both emotional and practical ways.
Think back to times when you have made it through difficult periods together as a couple. What were you doing specifically that helped? How did you stay connected? If you were you able to turn each other, how did you ask for what you needed and how did you respond to your partner’s needs? If you as a couple have not done this, perhaps this an opportunity to start to build this capacity with each other.
Dive down a bit deeper under the surface emotions of frustration, anger, withdrawal, and detachment for each of you. You will usually find more vulnerable emotions like fear, sadness, or rejection for example. Talk about these with each other. These are not necessarily easy or comfortable conversations for all couples but are the doorway to maintaining your emotional connection at this time.
Create some times where the two of you can do things you may not have time to do in the rush and busyness of normal life, such as working on a project in the house, going for walks, setting goals, or even trying a fun online course together. When life eventually returns to a new normal (which it will), you will likely reap the benefits of this investment into your relationship and look back upon those moments as invaluable.
Your relationship can be a safe haven when things happening on the outside feel threatening and uncertain.
Olivia Shorten – Psychologist, Couple and Family Therapist
Olivia offers consultations via our interactive and secure telehealth video platform which means you can access online couple therapy. During Covid-19, Olivia is offering “check in” sessions to help couples during this time.