In a recently published article in USA Today, Maria Puente explores how the Covid-19 quarantine could impact couples deciding to split. Maria interviews a number of relationship experts to explore this issue I was grateful to be able to give my perspective on the issue. Along with what was quoted in the article I wanted to elaborate a bit more.
Relationships are hard during the best of times they push us to communicate differently, be more vulnerable, compromise, and face our own baggage and weaknesses. When you add any stressor it gets harder, our brains can only handle so much uncertainty. Right now much of life is as uncertain as it gets.
Our individual ability to handle pressure decreases and our sensitivity to being emotionally triggered increases; this does not help relationships. Couples with kids often rely a lot on outside help; now that is not an option. Many couples are facing a decrease in income or unemployment. Both people being home and trying to work have confused schedules and roles. In couples therapy some of the issues people struggle with the most are parenting, managing time/responsibilities, and money. These issues are all amplified by the quarantine.
All the increased challenges couples are facing right now are creating disconnection and pain in their relationships. Naturally, our brains want to protect us from pain and danger. Divorce is not an uncommon response in the face of a big struggle, whether it’s a pandemic, quarantine, family member’s death, loss of job, etc. when overwhelmed we’ll look for something to alleviate the pressure. Often times in these situations, the choice to end a relationships/marriage is a choice based on moving away from pain; it’s reactive.
The best thing for individuals and couples to do is not make reactive decisions, especially not if the face of huge challenges. Work together to create routines based on the newly defined roles and responsibilities for this time. Slow down communication and try to understand where you are each coming from before jumping to a solution. Find ways to be grateful and laugh together.
Reactive decisions are often the ones we end up regretting. If you get stuck, look for help. There are a lot of options out there. CICS works with people online throughout California, workshops to help with communication, and groups that allow you to receive the support you need. Reach out to us, we can help.
Stacy Lee, LMFT, has been employed at The Couples Institute in Menlo Park, CA, since 2008. She has trained with relationship experts Ellyn Bader, Ph.D and Peter Pearson, Ph.D. to provide innovative tools to couples and individuals. In 2019, Stacy became the Clinical Director of the institute’s therapy services. She is passionate about providing people with quality resources which includes building a network of skilled therapists to reach more couples and individuals.