Love and couples during the pandemic
For many, love means romantic meetings with romantic gestures involving flowers, candy, and counting the hours until the reunion with the loved one finally happens.
In the age of the coronavirus, along with many other aspects of life, the mechanics of romance have changed. New partners long for romantic closeness in vain, after weeks of social distancing; long-term cohabiting partners and married couples spend more time together than ever before, which can deepen emotional ties for some, while for others it can be a form of "suffocation". Also, the pandemic has added a new challenge for divorced or separated parents who have joint custody of their children.
The coronavirus crisis has ushered in a rewriting of frustration, fear and pain for many, due to the significant changes in our daily lives. Meanwhile, our coping mechanisms - going out with friends, shopping at the mall, exercising at the gym - have become distant memories. For some this means sleep disorders, while for others it may mean involvement in avoidance behaviors, difficulty concentrating or depression. All of these things can lead to conflicts in a relationship.
Moreover, the pandemic has led to changes in roles within the relationship. Perhaps one partner suddenly became the one responsible for the care of the children who stay permanently in the house, and another became the only one who brings an income to the household, dramatically changing the dynamics in the couple and family. Conflict can arise or worsen when couples perceive that they have no control over these seemingly cascading changes. Also, a changed routine could affect a couple's intimate life. When children are constantly around and things are generally more stressful, it can have an impact on decision making and time spent together as partners. This new experience of isolation at home has created a higher rate of conflict, which as a result of individual problems can lead to situational domestic violence. This happens when the conflict escalates to physical violence.
How can we effectively manage all these situations?
A first step could be to find strategies to reduce individual anxiety: exercise, exploring new hobbies, setting simple, measurable and achievable daily goals, mindfulness, involvement in humanitarian causes, etc.
A second essential step is the contribution of each partner to reduce the tension in the couple: avoid entering an upward spiral of contradictory discussions, give your partner the benefit of the doubt, starting from the assumption that she/he is well-intentioned even if she/he doesn’t get the results expected of him/her, give your partner time and space to be with her/himself, recall pleasant moments spent together (photos, movies), use humor as a strategy to get out of various conflict situations, etc. Ultimately, history tells us that any crisis eventually passes, leaving us stronger and wiser ... as relationship partners.
Alina Neagoe, primary clinical psychologist, trainer