As we have recently examined, extensive time with your spouse can do damage to your relationship and result in separation or divorce. Within the last few months, Covid19, also known as novel Coronavirus, has moved from a faint glimmer to dominating our daily lives and relationships with others. Whether you are mandated to “self-isolate” because of travel, or whether you are following the governments’ directives to “social distance one’s self“, these extraordinary circumstances can be challenging to your relationships with your spouse, children and extended family.
We recently reached out to Allyson Gardner, MSW, RSW and to Karen Guthrie-Douse, MSW, RSW to provide us with their advice, tips and suggestions to help you and your partner manage the physical and emotional challenges that we face in these uncertain times.
Tips for Couples in Quarantine:
- Self reflection: It is important to be able to explore and identify our individual thoughts and feelings. How are you feeling about the uncertainty and unprecedented changes in your work and home life? What are your own fears and worries, monitor your reactions to them and seek out support as necessary.
- Communication: Communication with one’s partner is always key to a well functioning relationship. Be open to both expressing your own thoughts and feelings, and actively listening to your partner’s thoughts and feelings. Be mindful to not minimize your partner’s expressions, and offer support and encouragement.
- Maintain Routine and Structure: In uncertain times, routine and structure helps people feel safe and secure. As much as possible, stay in your normal routines regarding eating, sleeping, exercise and working. Some of these may have changed, such as working at home rather than going into an office environment. Spend time with your partner accomplishing routine things such as preparing meals, doing laundry, and maintaining your home. While your local gym may be closed, partners can modify their exercise routine by getting outside and going for a walk together, or working out in your home together.
- Balance Couple Time with Individual Time: Given that you may be spending more time together than normal, it is important strike a balance between being together and having alone time. Carve out private places that you can decompress alone if you need to. Don’t misconstrue your partner’s decision to spend some alone time or solo activities as ignoring you. For example, their decision to read a book may be their way of finding a healthy distraction from endless news coverage.
- Normalize Stress Reactions: Understand that everyone has different reactions to stress, and this may result in heightened emotional expressions. One’s patience may wear thin at times and try to not beat yourself up about it. Be aware that your partner may be prone to anger, sadness or crying in these unsettling times . Implore strategies to be open to one another’s feelings and avoid blame. Be especially sensitive if your partner has pre-existing mental health issues such as anxiety or depression, and check in with them as to how they feel they are managing.
- Promote Resiliency and Positivity: You and your partner have likely faced other challenges together throughout your relationship, and it may help to reflect on how you have previously handled them as a couple and moved forward in a productive manner. Understand that the current environment is a temporary situation, and “this too shall pass”.
Things Couples Can Do When Social Distancing:
Here is a list of ideas of things to do which may assist couples in managing these uncertain times and “staying at home”:
- listen to an upbeat podcast
- watch tv sitcoms that lighten the mood such as “I Love Lucy”, “Seinfeld” or “Friends”
- access faith based resources online
- watch museum tours and concerts online
- watch educational videos of something you’ve always wanted to learn about
- avoid obsessively watching Covid updates that can spin into an apocalyptic scenario
- watch classic Disney movies
- prepare a meal together or surprise your partner by preparing one of their favourite meals
- bake something that you enjoyed from your childhood
- go for a walk or hike
- tune up your bikes and go for a ride
- take a drive to somewhere in the community that you’ve wanted to explore
- play card games, board games or do a puzzle together
- work out together in your basement or backyard
- yoga or meditation
Professional Support is Available
Remember you are not alone in this and seek out support from your partner. If you feel you need professional assistance, please reach out to your local family professional or your local mental health centre.
Look for our podcast with Allyson and Karen on this subject in the near future at Family Law Now.
Allyson Gardner, MSW, RSW is a clinical social worker specializing in working with separated, divorced and high conflict families. Her goal is to provide child centered services, reduce conflict between parents, and improve overall well-being of children and families.
Karen Guthrie-Douse, MSW, RSW a Collaboratively Trained Registered Social Worker, in practice specializing in custody and access issues, separation and divorce, parenting and blended family issues. With years of clinical work at a children’s mental health centre in Toronto. Karen is a clinical panel member of the Office of the Children’s Lawyer since 2004. She provides Section 30 assessments, Voice of the Child reports, parent coaching, counselling, parenting plans and consultation to families and professionals.