The Covid-19 Pandemic has adversely impacted the personal, professional, academic and daily lives of people across the globe. Additionally, the necessary restrictions of the pandemic have continued longer than most of us could have imagined. In turn, we have had to endure significant changes, limitations and stressors which were unforeseen by most.
Consequently, we have all had to engage in various degrees of quarantine in order to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 Virus. I have experienced an increase in couples seeking therapy in my practice who have encountered particularly difficult challenges.
Couples who are married or cohabitate have been forced to drastically expand the time in which they spend together with few outlets of activities outside of their homes. The considerable increase in “togetherness” dramatically reduces the amount of time and personal space available to each family member. Hence, the expanded time together may intensify existing relational problems, especially among couples. Moreover, the pandemic has imposed collateral worries, such as job loss, on the adults of the households. In fact, more than 1.6 million people in New Jersey have filed for unemployment benefits since the beginning of the pandemic. That is approximately 18% of New Jersey’s total population. Nonetheless, couples are also experiencing financial insecurity, food insecurity, loss of health insurance, concerns for loved ones who have contracted Covid-19, mourning the loss of loved ones who died from Covid-19, increased acute depression and anxiety as well as problematic substance use. According to nj.com, adults over the age of 30 in New Jersey are experiencing significantly elevated alcohol use when compared to last year. Also, binge drinking among women in New Jersey has increased by 41% during the past year. Furthermore, winsightgrocerybusiness.com reports in-person alcohol sales have increased by 41% and online alcohol sales have increased by 339% across the country since the start of the pandemic.
Couples who have children must manage additional conflicts and tension. Parents need to navigate the rocky terrain which has been created by their children’s anxiety and depression due to social isolation, home-confinement, boredom and difficulty adjusting to the new demands of virtual learning. Subsequently, many parents are struggling to balance homeschooling children while working either at home or in the office. As if all of that was not enough, parents need to work together to maintain a level of normalcy for their families while maintaining their households and nurturing the relationships with their partners.
Unfortunately, the nurturing of partner relationships may be neglected by some during the pandemic. Often the results are break-downs in communication which frequently lead to emotional tension, conflict, criticism, defensiveness, resentment and stonewalling (the silent treatment). Some tips to improve your relationship with your partner are: 1) Remember you are on the same team. It is unlikely that your partner is intentionally going out of his/her way to upset you. 2) Work on increasing and improving communication with your partner. Check-in with each other and offer each other help whenever possible. Validate your partner’s feelings (I can see that your upset). Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements when confronting one another (I feel___ when you ___…). Starting a sentence with “you” is almost always criticism and will usually put your partner on the defense. Instead, you will be able to own and clearly state your feelings without criticizing or blaming by beginning a sentence with “I”. 3) give each other space or call a “timeout” when emotions are high until each party can maintain a calmer and more logical demeanor. 4) Maintain appropriate and consistent boundaries with your partner. Should something upset you, calmly address the situation by expressing your feelings with “I” statements. If you permit behavior that is unacceptable to you, you are promoting more of it to occur which will eventually lead to feelings of resentment towards your partner.
Michael Calderon, LCSW, LCADC
President of the Hackettstown Stigma-Free Taskforce
If you believe that you may benefit from psychotherapeutic services, please contact our practice at:
A Center for Counseling & Psychotherapy Services, LLC
26 Route 46
Hackettstown, NJ 07840