COVID-19 has reshaped our personal relationships. Life in lockdown has forced us to live in close proximity to one another and balance work, children, homeschooling and finances during an already stressful time. On the other hand, social distancing has isolated us from our friends, family, communities and activities that we once enjoyed.
Although we are beginning to see some sense of what used to be normal, it is not to say that the experience of the pandemic hasn’t left some of our relationships somewhat fractured.
If you haven’t been accustomed to working at home with your partner and then suddenly found yourself around each other 24/7, well that requires an adjustment and a new way of relating. If the relationship was dormant and you were living day to day, the lockdown and lack of activity outside the home has accentuated all that was wrong. What we were able to overlook at one time, we can no longer tolerate. COVID-19 coping skills need to be implemented.
This does not mean that your relationship is doomed. Reframing how you perceive this can lead to a healthier way of communicating and getting along. Recognizing that COVID-19 took us all by surprise and that we have been dealing with a great deal of stress for the last four months is enough to change any family system. It is not only stress we have been dealing with, but also fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of one of us getting the virus and fear for our loved ones. Many of us are grieving the loss of our loved one and grieving the pain of a proper farewell.
In 1967, psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe decided to study whether or not stress contributes to physical illness. They devised a stress scale that can score your stress levels based on significant life events. The event with the highest score for stress was death of a spouse, followed by divorce and then marital separation. I think that today Dr. Holmes and Dr. Rahe would add pandemic to this stress scale. Stress can affect us physically, mentally and emotionally.
When I am seeing patients in my practice today, my first question is always “Did this exist prior to COVID-19”? Most often I hear “not really.” Other times I hear there were some problems prior to COVID-19 but that living together around the clock, has exacerbated whatever was already wrong.
It is important for us to take into account all that we have been through during these last few months and recognize our country is still struggling with COVID-19. Consider the amount of stress you, your partner and your family have experienced and do not make any abrupt decisions regarding your relationship. Let’s give this stress some time to settle and seek professional help before calling it quits.
We make all kinds of rash decisions under stress. In all of my grief groups, I counsel and inform people to not make any major decisions once there has been a loss of any kind. Let the dust settle and think things through rather than acting quickly on what might feel right at the moment.
On the other hand, if you are living in an abusive relationship, please seek help immediately and call Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
At The Hellenic Therapy Center, 567 Park Avenue, Scotch Plains, New Jersey we are currently offering Zoom, FaceTime and Phone sessions. Call us at 908-322-0112 or visit us at www.hellenictherapy.com or Facebook.com/HellenicTherapy.