COUPLES CORNER —
Over the past few months, we have observed the wide-spread effects of COVID-19 across the globe. In response to this crisis, many communities have put quarantine measures into place, and as a result, couples have been spending more time at home. Not only is space confined, but many also notice that they have less access to social supports outside of the relationship due to social distancing procedures. You might ask: How does this impact the couple’s relationship dynamic? As a couples therapist, my answer would be: How does it not?
I would like to take a moment to normalize for couples that more consecutive time with your partner may lead to increased closeness, but it also may lead to increased irritability, frustration, and ambiguity in the relationship as well. I would emphasize that with changes in our environment, come changes in our responses to one another; it is okay to go through a period of adjustment as a couple. This is a good time to remember that your partner is likely experiencing some additional stress in response to these changes, and that likely, if they are frustrated, they are not targeting you maliciously.
I like to use the metaphor of a mobile in times like these. A mobile is made up of perfectly weighted pieces that all work to balance together. Should you remove a piece from one end of the mobile and replace it with a heavier piece in its place, the result is that the mobile will need to re-adjust; it will shake, wobble, and over time, it will eventually re-stabilize into a new position. Imagine for a moment that this is your relationship – you may require some time to re-stabilize as COVID-19 is a new piece that has been added to your relationship. As a result, the structure of your relationship may change and responses to this are to be expected.
That being said, now you might be wondering: How can we navigate this as a couple while we wait for our mobile to stop shaking? Remember what worked for your relationship before COVID-19. You likely had a routine as a couple that involved time together AND scheduled time apart where you could enter into your own responsibilities and activities as an individual. Consider how you can adapt your current surroundings to facilitate this. For instance, do you have separate spaces that you could claim as your own for predictable periods of time? Can you create a new routine that balances your needs with those of your partner? During your individual time, can you maintain connections with supports outside your relationship via technology so that you can also lean on those close to you?
Furthermore, I also wonder about the opportunities that quarantine measures introduce. Sometimes, long-term couples can settle into routine together over the years so much so that the relationship becomes slightly stagnant. With COVID-19, relationships have now been flipped on their heads! We now have a bit of an adventure to navigate together – is this a time to check in with your partner in a different way, to enjoy new activities together, or to sit down and ask questions that you have not had time for that would bring you closer together? It can almost act as an opportunity to get to know each other differently within a new context.
You may have heard that age-old phrase: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Now that we are spending more time together due to COVID-19, what do you want your reaction as a couple to be?
By Jennifer Goldberg, RP, M.Ed., CCC.
Jennifer Goldberg is a registered psychotherapist who works extensively with couples at The Counselling Group. She incorporates current topics arising out of her couples therapy sessions into themes and issues covered in Couples Corner.
Looking for couples counselling? The Counselling Group offers a variety of experienced couples therapists who can support positive changes and growth in your relationship. For more information, please call 613 722 2225 ext 352 to speak with an intake worker today. We are offering appointments remotely at this time and are available to speak with you for new requests.