COVID-19 and Couples' Relationships
If you caught the most recent episode of Saturday Night Live, you heard Chris Rock deliver a monologue that referenced just how difficult the COVID-19 pandemic has been on couples:
“One thing I’ve noticed about this whole pandemic is people are reassessing their relationships. That’s the big thing, taking inventory. A lot of breakups, divorces, and a lot, of like, negotiations. The couples stay together but they’re like, ‘we’re going to stay together but I’m telling you EXACTLY what I don’t like about you right now. If we are going to keep thing this going, you’re going to have to change some stuff, okay?’”
I think we all can agree that the current pandemic has greatly impacted our lives, including our relationships. The impacts include how to spend quality time together when you are always together, how to navigate parenting challenges and childcare logistics, financial burdens and/or uncertainty due to job insecurity – just to name a few. In order to navigate these challenges, we need to know what is important to consider and how to implement these considerations.
In times of stress, our interactions with our partners are at risk of becoming problematic. Being in a prolonged state of stress can bring forth hostility, withdrawal, and decreased support (Pietromonaco & Overall, 2020). Anyone who works with me knows this sounds like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse- criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. We know that over time, ineffective communication can do lasting damage to a relationship.
We also know that if we can provide and maintain support and security for our partners, our sense of physical and emotional well-being is increased- two things we absolutely need during this time (and truly at any time). Therefore, it is important to focus on constructive and effective ways of interacting so that you and your partner are able to navigate this difficult and stressful time without feeling disengaged from one another. This includes:
Effective communication - a process of exchanging ideas, thoughts, knowledge and information. The speaker is able to present their views in a way best understood by the listener.
Problem-solving - is the act of defining a problem; determining the cause of the problem; identifying, prioritizing, and selecting alternatives for a solution; and implementing a solution.
Responsive support - when people feel connected and supported by responsive partners who are concerned with their welfare. Responsive support in the face of adversity not only helps to relieve distress and enhance well-being, it can also lead to relationship growth and trust building. (Pietromonaco & Overall, 2020)
These constructive dyadic processes may seem simple in theory, however, they can be challenging in practice. If you and your partner are needing help building and/or strengthening these skills during this difficult time, please do not hesitate to contact us. After all, we are #inthistogether.
Pietromonoaco, P. R., & Overall, N. C. (2020). Applying Relationship Science to Evaluate How the COVID-19 Pandemic May Impact Couples' Relationships. American Psychologist. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/amp0000714