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The Pandemic Is Destroying My Marriage

Don't let COVID-19 destroy your relationship.

Dear Dr. G.,

I am really afraid that the pandemic is going to ruin my 20-year marriage. My husband and I are both lucky enough to work from home. We are not experiencing financial strain. We are, however, bickering frequently.

We are arguing about unimportant things like whose turn it is to walk the dog to more important issues like whether or not our teen daughter should be able to see her friends. I feel that she should only see the one friend who has been quarantining. My husband says to let her see a few of her friends because they are young and healthy and are smart enough to keep their masks on and stay six feet apart. I totally disagree, and we are making our daughter confused, anxious, and angry with our differing opinions.

I'm at my wit's end. I am not an arguer and this fighting is exhausting me. Please help.

An Exhausted Wife

Dear Exhausted Wife,

Thank you for writing to me. You are in good company. Many couples are arguing with each other about the very issues which you described: both what seems unimportant and what is more important like the level of social distancing that family members should follow.

The combination of being together day after day during this time of stress and the ambiguity about COVID-19 has been leading to irritability and conflict in many — perhaps most — homes. You are currently spending a lot more time in your husband's presence, and as we know, we all benefit from some personal space. Without personal space, it is inevitable that you will be experiencing more conflict as your different ways of looking at things are under a microscope.

Consider taking some time apart. Work in different rooms if possible. Schedule a daily walk during which you can be alone with your own thoughts. Reach out to friends. You need some outlets for your thoughts, feelings, and ideas which do not involve your husband. It sounds like there is just too much contact, and this is not good for either of you or the marriage.

Of course, you are in disagreement about your daughter and social distancing guidelines. Prominent infectious disease doctors also appear to have differing opinions. You and your husband need to sit down calmly with as many facts as you can gather and make a decision based not only on expert guidelines but also on your daughter's maturity level.

Will your teen daughter really keep a mask on and maintain six feet of distance when she is with her friends? You both must keep in mind that the teenage brain is not programmed to make careful choices. Your daughter needs the two of you to set clear and careful guidelines for her. And then, check in and see if she is following these guidelines.

We are talking about important and meaningful decisions here. We are talking about health and safety. If you can't agree, perhaps you can involve your child's physician. You may need a third party to weigh in.

I wish you luck. Stay healthy and safe. During this time we must take care of our relationships as well as our health.

Dr. G.

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