Caroline Thomas

Evidence-Based Parenting

Protecting Your Relationship From Corona Damage

Five tips to help your relationship thrive during this stressful time.

Posted Apr 30, 2020

None of us are designed for this. We are social creatures with brains that don’t love ambiguity or uncertainty. No one is at their best right now; this global crisis is creating an experience of collective anxiety—about our health, our financial survival and careers, the future, our families, and our safety. Meanwhile, many of our typical supportive resources have been pulled out from under us. 

 Soroush Karimi/Unsplash
We need to focus our energy on turning toward each other with kindness, patience, and an understanding that this is really hard.
Source: Soroush Karimi/Unsplash

This level of stress can be toxic for a relationship. 

We are in survival mode—getting through each day when we’re flooded with anxiety and uncertainty is extremely psychologically and physically taxing. Many people are struggling with exhaustion, decreased motivation, mood fluctuations, and feelings of overwhelm. 

And we're stuck in a confined space together!

At times like this, we are programmed to go into self-protection mode—fight or flight. Flight isn't really an option right now, and going into attack mode with your partner is not going to improve the situation. Instead, we need to focus our energy on turning toward each other with kindness, patience, and an understanding that this is a really hard time.

This is impacting couples at different stages in different ways: 

  • Some couples are being asked to stay home and only see each other—for months! 
  • Some are being asked to do the actual impossible—care for children and work from home at the same time.
  • New couples are being forced into a much more intensive relationship than they may have felt ready for. 
  • Some couples are distant from family members who they usually rely on for support and have only each other right now. 

So how do we not only survive this together, but help our relationships to thrive? 

 Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash
What we are reacting to is: feeling unsafe. Do your best to make home a safe space for each other.
Source: Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash
  1. Focus on creating safety for each other: When we are going through a crisis of this magnitude, what we are reacting to is: feeling unsafe. You will have different needs, and now’s the time to be flexible with your partner and do your best to make home a safe space for each other, because the rest of the world feels pretty overwhelming and scary. That may mean following social distancing rules you don’t necessarily agree with, or taking a scheduled break from news/media/talking through current events. 
  2. Take time to intentionally think about what you need, and communicate it directly: Do you need someone to listen and validate while you verbalize your stressors? Do you need a break from thinking about it all and time to just veg out (while not being exposed to your partner reading you news headlines from their phone)? Identify what you need and communicate it directly. Now is not the time for subtlety or hoping your partner will intuit your needs. 
  3. Find ways to create space for yourself: This may not be possible physically, but it can be done figuratively. Maybe it’s listening to a favorite podcast in your headphones, taking a solo walk or long shower, or taking shifts with childcare to ensure you get a break occasionally. Relationships need room to breathe and right now we may have to create that artificially. Talk about the fact this isn’t a rejection, but a long-term survival strategy.
     Alex Suprun/Unsplash
    Connecting with a voice outside your immediate household can be immensely helpful.
    Source: Alex Suprun/Unsplash
  4. Call someone outside your home: It sounds counter-intuitive when we’re struggling with not having personal space and feeling exhausted at the end of the day, but connecting with a voice outside your immediate household can be immensely helpful. We can do our best to make this an experience of physical distance, but not social isolation. If this is hard to energize for, set up a standing FaceTime or Zoom date, so it's locked into your plan for the week.
  5. Be gentle with yourself and your partner: Remember we’re all doing our best but we’re not at our best. Give both yourself and your partner a little extra grace. As long as we’re not being hurtful to ourselves or others, there’s truly no wrong way to get through this. Survival is success. 
 Alex Suprun/Unsplash
Connecting with a voice outside your immediate household can be immensely helpful.
Source: Alex Suprun/Unsplash