12 Things to Consider so that your Relationship Doesn’t Go into a State of Emergency
As a psychologist that does a lot of couples therapy and a relationship coach who does phone and Skype relationship coaching, I’m aware of what improves and harms marriages. In addition, I’m aware that when stress hits, marriages and relationships can suffer. When my couples are aware that there is a stressful event coming, I tell them to, ‘Get ahead of that train,’ by discussing it ahead of time and to come up with some solutions. Often this is easier to do when they have experienced this situation before and they know what to expect. It can be harder when it’s something unknown that’s stressful, like this Coronavirus situation. They don’t know if the school will close, if they will work from home, if the stock market will continue to fall, if they will get sick and be quarantined, etcetera.
Given the unknowns, it is still possible to consider some possible impacts of this added stress of the Coronavirus on your relationship. So, below are 12 things you can be aware of regarding this:
Differing Attachment Styles:
Our attachment styles are the way that we formed bonds with our primary caretaker in childhood. These attachment styles often extend to our primary love relationships, especially during times of stress. So, if one partner has an Avoidant attachment style, they learned to disconnect and to become independent during times of fear. The other partner may have an Anxious Avoidant Attachment Style and may need lots of hugs and reassurance when afraid. This can cause problems under normal circumstances but can exacerbate differences during times of extra stress and while in close quarters. So, it’s important to understand your partner’s needs and your differences and to try to compromise.
Minimizers vs. Maximizers:
Minimizers tend to diminish difficulties during stress and to downplay things. They do not like to focus on the stressful event and may even refuse to discuss it. Maximizers can turn hardships into catastrophes in their minds. They can plan and really focus on it. So, you can imagine what conflict can ensue when one partner sees the Coronavirus as a life and death event that needs to immediately be addressed and the other partner thinks that they are nuts and overreacting. Respect needs to be paid for these different styles and partners may need to decide how best to work together and respect one another.
You May Fight More:
Research shows that couples fight more under times of stress. If this is the case with you, here are a few tips about how best to fight. Use a soft start-up. Don’t attack your partner’s character and try to keep a kind or a neutral tone. Try to hear the sense that your partner is making, even when you don’t agree. Attempt to compromise.
Figure Out a Budget:
With this virus situation, some people are buying food in case they are quarantined, hand sanitizer and soap. They may need to work from home and schools may close down so that families are home for a while. It may help to put aside some money to be spent on this so you don’t fight or scramble to make a plan later.
Self-Soothe & Up Your Self-Care:
Stress can lower your immune system and make you physically and emotionally exhausted. It helps to refuel. You can meditate, walk in nature, listen to music, read or take baths. You can order a copy of my book, ‘The Book of Sacred Baths: 52 Bathing Rituals to Revitalize Your Spirit,’ on Amazon. It has baths for you and for couples. They combine bathing with meditation, affirmations, essential oils and more to lift your mood and to re-center you.
Create a Family-minded Emergency Plan:
If the kids need to stay home from school and you are both working, you’ll need a plan about who will pitch in and whether it’s fair. Best to weigh in and discuss it soon so it’s not a complete surprise when someone needs to stay home for a few weeks.
Focus on Health:
It’s good to be proactive and to see if there are ways you can do exercise (a home gym or yoga at home), that you have a month’s worth of medication prescriptions and over the counter cold supplies and that you are getting enough sleep. Your health impacts your relationship and vice-versa.
Being in Close Quarters:
Many families and couples in cities live in small apartments. If you are all confined for a few weeks together, you can discuss ways and times to get some alone time and space, if possible. This can be a good way to decompress. There’s always taking over the bed or the tub/shower!
Your Libido Can Go Down:
Research shows that stress can affect your libido so don’t be surprised if you have less of a desire for sex. You may feel more anxious, depressed, tired or distracted. If this is a concern to you, you can discuss it with your partner and make an attempt to keep your physical intimacy going.
Have a Fun Weekly Date Night:
The research shows that weekly date nights do wonders for relationships. It increases relationship and sexual satisfaction three-fold and wives are 4 times less divorce-prone with a weekly date night. Even if it has to be at home- you can cook together, dance, play a game, take a couple's bath or more.
Old Losses May be Triggered:
Under times of stress when people are getting sick and some are dying, old losses can get triggered. You can be especially sensitive to your partner’s feelings. Maybe they miss their late mom or grandmother now. Being an empathetic ear can help them calm down and get those feelings out so they don’t unconsciously act out under that sadness and stress.
Mental Health Issues May Arise:
Stress can worsen depression and anxiety. If you are quarantined you may want to do some online therapy or coaching. You also need to make sure that you have any prescribed psychotropic medications on hand. As a partner, you can suggest these things to your spouse.
Those are 12 items for your consideration. Hopefully being aware that these potential issues could arise will better enable you to address them. Then you can work as a team to get through this chapter and make your relationship even stronger.
Dr. Paulette Sherman is a psychologist, couples therapist and she does couples coaching, dating coaching and life coaching via phone and Skype. Find out more on her podcast, ‘The Love Psychologist’ on iTunes and on her website www.DrPauletteSherman.com