The Coronavirus is wreaking havoc with education, the economy, social and religious activities, the healthcare system and even relationships, marriages and families. According to a recent online article entitled, Coronavirus Drives Divorce Rates Up in China, “Spending more time at home with your loved ones doesn’t seem to be going well in China. The country reported a spike in divorce cases ever since the coronavirus outbreak. Register offices in the country saw a rise in divorce applications with one center recording over 300 applications for divorce since February 24. The offices said that the main reason for the sudden spike was because ‘couples were spending too much time together at home’.” The Week online.
With policies in place now in the United States for social distancing, including schools closing and the workforce being forced to work from home online, Americans are spending more and more time together at home. While this might sound like a good thing on the surface, the reality is that fractures in a relationship, which are typically glossed over, now become highly visible and inescapable. We could very well see the same effect on marriages in the USA in a few months as China is experiencing now.
The coronavirus could prove to be an intense stress test for couples. In 2002, for instance, The Journal of Family Psychology published an extraordinary paper that looked at couples in the aftermath of a 1989 storm, Hurricane Hugo, comparing those who’d lived in the afflicted counties in South Carolina to those who hadn’t. The results? More people in the devastated counties divorced the following year. So, just as with the recent divorce rate spike in China, we see that a crisis can break apart a relationship.
Will your marriage or relationship be another one of the casualties of the coronavirus? It all depends upon several factors.
DIFFERENCES IN HOW WE HANDLE CRISES
Because we have different personalities, we also have different ways for handling crises. These differences, combined with the stress of the impending or actual crisis, can drive us apart instead of bringing us together.
- Binging on Information vs. Turning off the News
For some, having all the information that they can possible gather gives them a sense of power when they feel helpless. Others have a good sense of how much news is enough and they can shut down the newsfeeds and engage in other parts of life. Their partner’s continued binging on the news about the situation can frustrate or anger them and cause them to “shut down” their mate as well. The key here, of course, is balance.
- Driven by Emergency vs. Maintaining a Sense of Normalcy
Recently we have seen shelves in grocery stores and discount warehouses emptied of food, water, paper towels and toilet paper. Lines of people waiting just to get into these stores have formed before opening hours and, in some cases, extended around the block and the parking lot. Clearly the behavior of many has been driven by an emergency mindset. What happens when someone with such a mindset lives with someone whose main focus is on maintaining a sense of normalcy? Arguments about the time, money and energy spent on emergency preparedness can ensue and begin to drive a couple apart.
- Proactive and Structured vs. Fatalistic and Passive
When a crisis does occur, we can be at either end of the spectrum in how we deal with it. In a relationship, one might devise a proactive plan with structure and the steps involved to deal with the crisis. The other, however, might be less aggressive and, instead of leaning into the situation, lean away from it or even out of it. Resentments can develop from either side. One sees the other as controlling and the other sees their mate as lazy or uncaring.
Of course, you and your mate will probably fall somewhere between the two extremes in these categories. The key is to communicate thoughts, feelings and perspectives clearly and come to agreements regarding the amount of news input, the resources spent on emergency preparedness and the plan for your family should a crisis become real. If you need help in communicating and reaching agreement in these areas, Recon Coaching can help. To inquire about our online coaching program, call 866-218-1716 or email [email protected].
IMMUNIZATION FOR YOUR RELATIONSHIP
Just as there are steps to take to build your resistance to any virus, so there are steps that you can take to build immunity from outside forces on your relationship.
- Express Your Emotions. If you suppress what you are feeling, you will only feel more tightly wound and anxious. This will influence the way that you interact with you mate and/or family. Almost all of your interactions will have undercurrent of anxiety which can erode your love and connection. Laugh if you can. Cry if you need to, but whatever you do, don’t suppress your feelings!
- Don’t Minimize Your Mate’s Feelings. In an honest attempt to calm your mate’s fears and soothe their anxiety, you might be tempted to say, “Oh, don’t worry about that!” Or “Don’t be silly. That would never happen.” Or “You shouldn’t feel that way.” Or “Don’t you have faith in God?” To minimize their feelings is to minimize them as a person. Their feelings are real and valid to them. It is important that you listen to them and let them know that you hear them and value them. Affirm them, even if their feelings don’t seem reasonable to you. It’s not about you!
- Avoid Pushing “Hot Buttons.” Every person has hot buttons – emotional triggers that evoke responses that may lead into arguments and misunderstandings. Do you know what yours are? Do you know your mate’s Hot Buttons? For more on Hot Buttons, see the LoveRecon blog: Help! My Mate Pushes My Hot Buttons.
- Call a Time Out. Whether you are in a heated discussion/argument or just really getting on one another’s nerves, take a time out and get out of each other’s space. Especially in the days of Coronavirus containment when you both may be working from home and too much in the same space, it is important to take healthy breaks from each other. Go for a walk/run, go to another room and listen to music or mindful meditations, read for “escape”, etc. It’s okay to have space – the heathiest relationships make room for it.
- Establish Boundaries. You may need to set boundaries with your mate and/or kids if you are working from home. You also may need to set boundaries for yourself so that you don’t let work and responsibilities overtake your relationships. In addition, you may need to set boundaries related to coronavirus news reports or “dark” television shows and movies. Lighter, fun, romance or action movies are better during a time of uncertainty.
- Have a Daily Dialogue. Turning off all electronics and creating a calm environment before bedtime will provide time for a daily dialogue with one another. Even though you may have spent the day in the same house/apartment, you still need that time to connect on a deeper level with your mate. ReconCoaching can provide you with tools for this daily exercise in creating intimacy.
- Plan for Fun and Romance. Working from home can create a workaholic environment in which your work never shuts down. Plan for game nights, movie nights snuggling on the couch, ordering dinner in, etc. Play together. You thought your spouse was fun when you were dating, so give them a chance to be fun again! For romantic ideas, see LoveRecon’s 50 Creative Ways to Love Your Mate.
- Help Others. Sometimes the best way to deal with anxiety is to take the focus off of yourself or your relationship. Particularly be aware of the elderly, children who might not have enough to eat, since school food programs have been suspended, single moms, etc. There are possibly people on your street, apartment complex or neighborhood who are in need of help during this time of uncertainty.
- Get Unconditional Support. Your relationship doesn’t have to become a casualty of the Coronavirus pandemic, or any crisis. The key is to be intentional about making your relationship a priority and using proven tools to deepen your connection. You can actually use this situation as an opportunity for relationship growth. Make the most of this opportunity.
Recon coaching can help! Our online coaching program has proven to be both effective and convenient. You can remain in your own home or office and meet with a coach at a time that works for you. To find out more or to schedule a free session, call 866-218-1716 or email [email protected]