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This past year, everyone has gotten used to the pandemic life, and with that has come relationship stress. Whether you live with your partner or not, this is a big stressor many people are feeling. Those that live with their partner are together more often than usual with their partner as we all have been quarantining, on lockdown, or trying to stay safe. You’re also seeing couples working remotely, juggling multiple jobs, handling child and elder care, and struggling to find that disconnect between work and home. Those couples that don’t live together are struggling from similar situations, but also not being together as often, relying on virtual time together, and possibly having a long-distance relationship.
Most relationships are feeling tremendous stress. It is important to identify your feelings and concerns and find ways to manage any stress that you might have. Here are 8 ways to manage relationship stress during these times.
1. Acknowledge what is happening. Recognize that there is a pandemic, and this is going to be a time of uncertainty, fear, and a lack of control. You may feel negative emotions and stress, or your everyday tasks may feel like a burden. People miss the normalcy we once had and the spontaneity of it all. Acknowledge that you and your partner are coping together, and you are both experiencing similar feelings. Identifying this will help lessen the possibility of an emotional reaction that leads to heightened disagreements and resentments.
2. Check anger levels. Make sure to communicate your feelings to your partner but try to stay away from angry confrontations. If it does happen, check your emotional state and your tone of voice that comes with it. If you find yourself getting angry, try to bring yourself down from that anger. Try walking into a different room, take a drink of water, take a few deep breaths, or use a distraction.
Next time talk calmly to identify each other’s underlying concerns. Look for what you each could do differently in response to your partner’s concerns and aim for a plan of action that addresses both of your concerns. At any sign of increasing anger, both partners should take a calming time-out.
3. Forgive freely. The occasional disagreement or relational jab is inevitable for most couples living under stressful conditions. However, under pandemic conditions the likelihood of fighting increases. To recover from the fights and make sure they don’t become volatile, forgive quickly and easily. As long as you and your partner are not engaging in emotional or physical violence, be quick to forgive and move forward.
4. Take time for yourself. Humans thrive with positive human connection and positive relationships. However, in order to maintain healthy relationships and a sense of personal identity, making sure you take time for yourself is vital, especially now when we’re spending so much time with our household members and/or partners.
5. Be compassionate towards yourself and your partner. Be kind towards yourself as you navigate how to cope with all that is happening. Remember that your partner is also most likely experiencing stress, fear, and anxiety during this pandemic. Be sensitive and empathize with them towards these worries and hardships.
6. Remember the love. Conflicts are easier to resolve when a couple has a foundation of loving interactions to take from. Richard Slatcher, Ph.D., a social and personality psychologist lead an online study called Love in the Time of COVID to track people’s experiences in isolation and lockdown. Data found shows that people who were in happy relationships at the beginning of stay-at-home orders are doing well, while those who were struggling in their relationships have found their problems magnified.
7. Create playfulness. If you are spending so much time together and you see that tensions are rising in your household, try adding playfulness and fun into the daily routine. Sharing new experiences and playfulness brings couples closer together and reduces stress in relationships. Playfulness can be as simple as a morning routine that includes a silly greeting or as elaborate as learning a new skill together.
8. Get fresh air daily. Staying home and staying inside all the time can make you go stir crazy, so get outside, sit on the porch, go for a walk, open the window or listen to the birds. This can help reduce your stress, so connect to the outdoors in any way that works for you. This could be hearing and seeing animals, feeling the sun, gazing at the stars, smelling flowers, feeling a breeze, taking a hike, or walking around your neighborhood.
The pressures of the pandemic can affect even the strongest relationships. Important aspects of our lives – work, finances, family connections, health, romantic relationships, and many more have all been jeopardized by the pandemic. Humans have proven to remain strong and overcome the hardships that brought them closer together. Eventually, the pandemic will pass, our stressors will ease, and our relationships will still remain.
Pappas, Stephanie. “Four Ways to Strengthen Couples’ Relationships Now.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, 12 June 2020, www.apa.org/topics/covid-19/strengthen-couples-relationships.
Forti, Allison. “9 Tips for Navigating Relationship Stress During COVID.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 8 Oct. 2020, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-the-mile/202010/9-tips-navigating-relationship-stress-during-covid.
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