I think it’s fair to say that 2020 has put the majority of the world to the test on so many levels. The COVID-19 pandemic, quarantine, school cancellation, work from home and layoffs, caused everyone to learn to adjust to a new type of normal. Re-openings of states and business, changes and restrictions began to happen in May and June. Then came cultural unrest and massive movements, protests, violence, in the name of demanding social change.
Have you seen the meme that compares 2020 to the movie Jumanji? It sure does feel that way sometimes. We definitely do not know what is coming up next or what to expect. What all of these events have in common is they are extreme change and an uprooting of comfortable and routine.
Many families have had to work from home, finding space for two to work and be productive, and often having to also create space and time for children to work on school from home.
Routine and schedules had to completely change and many families were together in the same space for significantly longer periods of time than they were used to.
Some families were separated from one another and were required to quarantine apart for an extended period of time. News and ever-changing information about the Coronavirus and COVID-19 creates a general sense of anxiety as people around the world are questioning the health and safety of themselves and their loved ones.
Having to cope with high stress and anxiety together is difficult in any marriage. Coping with stress together with your spouse, when you yourself are not coping well is enough to create more tension and difficulty in the relationship.
High uncertainty, high anxiety, financial strain – seems like the perfect storm! In fact, most couples could probably use some help with stress and communication, especially during this time of extreme change.
Here are 4 expert tips for staying married during COVID and social change
According to the work of Dr. John Gottman, criticism falls under what he refers to as The Four Horsemen – communication styles in marriages that are detrimental to the relationship.
There is never really a good time to criticize your spouse, but a country in crisis is especially not a good time. Criticism means attacking your spouse’s character. Gottman goes as far as to say that continued criticism in marriage dismantles your spouse’s entire being.
Criticism is different from a specific complaint, which is pointing out a specific issue that you are not happy with.
To avoid criticism, be intentional about how you voice your concern to your partner. Sentences that start with “You are …..” tend to be criticism. What is your specific request? Voice that instead.
Another way to avoid criticizing is to be intentional about showing your spouse gratitude and appreciation. Look for the things you appreciate, even small things, and point them out. Nobody likes to have all of their failures pointed out, so be appreciative rather than critical.
Set your mind to ask questions rather than give answers. When people are anxious or under pressure, a common coping strategy is to try to find something they can control – especially when things around them are very much out of their control. With so much happening inside the home, division of household and family responsibilities looks different. You may start to build resentment towards your spouse and feel like they are not doing enough, or not doing their part.
In marriage, that looks like letting the things your spouse is doing (or not doing) drive you insane, feeling like you have to nit-pick and micromanage.
The truth is, there is no way that you know what your spouse is thinking or feeling. Before assuming that they are not carrying their weight, and get angry or frustrated at them, try this:
Breathe (deep inhale through your nose, full exhale through your nose)
Repeat if necessary.
Get curious and ask questions.
Listen to understand what they are saying.
Do not – I repeat, DO NOT – listen to respond and intend to fire back with an argument or position. Instead, truly listen to understand their point of view.
Practicing getting curious and listening is a great way to stay calm and communicate about whatever is (or isn’t) going on!
If you are both working from home, it’s tempting to just strike up a conversation whenever the thought occurs to do it. Set up designated working time, and respect each others’ boundaries. You can respect each other’s time and space by asking first if it’s a good time.
If your partner interrupts you during working time or whatever you are in the middle of, say something like, “Now is not a good time, I’ll be finished in 30 minutes.”
Schedule regular time together for just the two of you. It’s important to get a break from your routine together and re-connect. Google a list of date night questions to ask each other. Get takeout and bring it to a park or lake. Eat at a restaurant together. Take a walk together. Go kayaking or fishing. Get takeout, bring it home, and rent a movie.
Usually, if something is not scheduled it is less likely to actually happen. Put date night on the calendar. Honor your time together the best you can!
2020 doesn’t have to be all stress and crisis. With a little guidance and intentional communication, your relationship can thrive during this stressful period of change. The Coronavirus has proved to be a major test for couples, so if you are struggling to make it work you are not alone!
It may be helpful to reach out for some help and support! Redeemed Life Counseling has licensed marriage and family therapists who are skilled at working with couples to improve their relationships.
Let’s connect! Call us today to schedule an appointment. We’re here to help!
940-222-8552 or email [email protected]
Teen Social Anxiety