Protecting your relationship from becoming a Covid-19 victim
From an article by the Institute of Family Studies
The coronavirus pandemic has elements that represent acute and chronic stressors. We are going to have multiple opportunities to share aspects of ourselves with our spouses and loved ones.
There will probably be times when we are not at our best. We will become emotionally dysregulated, maybe use a curt tone or harsh words, or maybe go inside ourselves and cut off from those around us. Being able to get back on track with our relationships will require a forgiving heart as well as a willingness to ask for forgiveness and to attempt (a yet) another try at managing this crisis together.
As with most crisis events, there is still a lot of unknown regarding what lies in front of us. Fearing the unknown is normal but having healthy and loving connections with others can help us feel grounded and better able to take on the challenges we face.
Steven Harris, Professor of Family Social Science and Director of the Couple and Family Therapy program at the University of Minnesota outlines the following tips for protecting our relationships:
Understand that when humans get stressed, they typically do “more of the same” in response.
If you tend to be a person who likes to take control of a situation, you’re more likely to ratchet up your efforts to control things when you’re feeling stressed. The person who typically gets more passive in response to stress may end up feeling more overwhelmed and back away from efforts to control the situation. This makes it imperative for couples to remember how the other person responds to stress. Both responses, rush-in or hold-back, have their place in managing both acute and chronic stressors.
Understand your unique pattern of interaction as a couple.
Couples tend to develop identifiable patterns of behaviour over time and either learn to change their part in the pattern, accommodate one another, or experience repeated conflict. Some common patterns that arise in times of prolonged stress and contribute to a decline in overall marital satisfaction include: pursuer/distancer (one person wanting to talk/the other avoiding the heart of an issue); attack/withdraw (one person comes on too strong verbally/the other does not engage at all); attack/attack (both people come on too strong); or withdraw/withdraw (both partners avoid potentially difficult relationship situations).
These patterns can be amplified when emotional resources are low. Knowing how you show up, and your specific role in the pattern, is key in being able to make a change in how you interact in healthy ways with your partner.
Be intentional as a couple in how you spend your time during the quarantine.
Keep a routine and plan the day out. Striking a balance between work obligations and child care can ensure that neither spouse is feeling the entire burden of childcare alone. Couples need to understand that time apart can be necessary to keep each person connected. Some of this time apart may come from work obligations, but some of it might be needed just to have some downtime or a way to recharge.
Be aware of each other’s social needs.
While a quarantine might feel like a godsend to an introvert, it could be a form of torture for an extrovert. Wanting to connect with others doesn’t mean your partner doesn’t also like being with you. It probably has more to do with how he or she recharges and stays centered.
Make a plan together on how to manage the household, childcare, and work, checking in with each other frequently.
This is a good time to include children in a family council and check in to see how they think things are going. Being open and honest with the children, and each other, about what is happening, how long the family will be living this way, and answering questions (at developmentally appropriate levels) will go a long way in helping everyone regulate their own emotional energy.
Read the full article here.