There are a number of resources out there that are helpful with managing pandemic anxiety and keeping connected to group resources:
I will add more resources as they come up so stay tuned!
This post is for couples struggling with staying home together during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tensions are high with job losses, risk of contagion, loved ones with underlying health issues...all of which can exacerbate an already contentious relationship. Let me sympathize by saying it’s hard enough to be in a relationship and now our governor wants us to stay indoors together? For a month? I imagine some people are thinking No F’n way. What are we supposed to do? Talk to one another? We can barely get through the day without arguing. Maybe this is an opportunity to do something different by practicing boundaries and communicating with one another more openly.
I’ve been home for the last two weeks aside from one day I went into the office. Luckily my partner and I get along but I still get annoyed and need my alone time. As does he. It’s normal and I consider it a healthy sign of differentiation. Following are tactics we’ve been using at home to make things more harmonious. My hope is that they may also help you.
Together separateness is an important skill to learn in any relationship. It can look like being in the same room doing different things. Right now, Lucas is watching TV while I plug away at my computer. It takes comfort with silence and not feeling like you have to entertain the other. Plug in your earbuds and create an environment for yourself. You’ll be giving your partner the opportunity to do the same for him/her/their self.
Setting boundaries is trickier as it requires planning, clear communication and reminders about what you need and feel. Sometimes it takes Lucas saying, “Hey, are you okay? I feel like you don’t want me around,” until I realize I need alone time. This is totally unfair to Lucas because it’s putting the initiative on him rather than me taking accountability for my own needs. Yikes! It’s reminded me to practice checking in with myself more regularly so I know what I need. Perhaps checking in with one another at the start of the day is helpful or schedule time for yourself on a shared calendar if you need to. And if you need to get out of the house, go for a walk alone. Give one another permission to talk about what you need.
Stagger your routine. Lucas and I have different bedtimes so I get alone time at night and he has the mornings to himself. I typically suggest launching and landing together so couples stay connected but this is something we’ve had to be flexible around to find time to ourselves. I suspect couples with kids are already pretty skilled at this by tag teaming who does bedtime routine, breakfast, etc. Use that skill for your relationship and finding alone time.
Share your schedules. If you’re lucky enough to still be employed and both working from home, write your schedules and/or meetings on a board somewhere in a community space so you can be mindful of the person’s commitments. It’s really frustrating when you’re in a professional space and your partner’s howling with the dog in the kitchen.
Reach out to friends and family. It’s very important to maintain your relationships outside of your intimate one so you can find a social balance during quarantine. This is especially important for extroverts.
Designate a space you can claim as your own. It’s important to have a space where you can retreat. The quarantine situation is temporary and so will be the designated space. If one of you has to claim the living room, do it. If you live in a studio take the bathroom when/if you need it. There’s always another space you can occupy.
Plan a date at home. Change out of your day or nighttime pajamas, dress up, dance in the living room, plan a romantic dinner in the backyard (if you have one), get creative!
What I know from working with couples is we all want relief. We want to be heard. We want our needs met. Try something different. Use this as an opportunity to find intersections of connection or reconnection. Anything’s better than sitting around and being resentful toward the person you’re committed to.
Infidelity can be hard to define but you can feel it when it's happening. Infidelity is not about sex, it's about betrayal. A betrayal of the couple’s commitment to one another. It’s an interpersonal trauma where the betrayed partner may experience symptoms akin to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Yet, infidelity is not the problem, it’s a symptom of the relationship’s dysfunction.
Infidelity can look like the Hollywood version of a sexual affair to the more subtle emotional infidelity of oversharing with a stranger online. Infidelity can serve as an attempt to save the relationship or passive attempt to end it. Infidelity can signal an inability to communicate unmet needs on the betrayer’s part. Infidelity can stem from family beliefs; sometimes it’s an addiction, although this etiology is open to debate.
That said, there is hope for the couple that experiences infidelity - even if it may not feel that way after its discovery. In my work with couples, I have witnessed more of a willingness toward working through the wounding than allowing infidelity to destroy the relationship. Sometimes the discovery of infidelity can actually strengthen the couple's bond. Unfortunately, a lot of couples don’t seek counseling and choose to separate instead, missing an opportunity for growth and re-connection.
I bring a number of interventions to the table when working with the betrayed and betrayer. I explore family of origin issues, attachment styles, communication and conflict resolution, the quality of the couple’s emotional connection, goal alignment, values and boundaries, to name a few. It’s challenging for both parties to move through the different stages of healing from infidelity. Having a safe space to honestly engage, rebuild trust and forgive can make healing from infidelity more of a possibility.
Since the official shelter in place due to the COVID-19 virus, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the backyard pulling weeds. It dawned on me 4 buckets in that I was avoiding how I felt toward the pandemic.
Yesterday is when the panic hit as I felt it surge through my body. My legs weakened and almost buckled under my weight while a conveyor belt of catastrophic thoughts pushed their way into my mind. My first impulse was to run to my partner (who’s also working from home) and dump my stressful thoughts on him. “That’s what a partner is for, right?” said the scared part of myself. But my adult self empathetically realized how stressful the catastrophe dump would be for him (not to mention the boundary intrusion). Instead I kept weeding, avoiding, stressing and obsessing when I remembered a quote I learned in early recovery: panic doesn’t change the outcome.
I chose to sit down, give my legs a rest and repeated the quote over and over while taking deep breaths. Panic doesn’t change the outcome. Then I was able to tell myself that everything will be okay. Another deep breath. Panic doesn’t change the outcome. No need to run in the house freaking out. No need to torture myself with big scary stories of living in a tent. Just breathe and know that everything is okay right now.
This isn’t to say I always catch myself when I feel anxious but the calm is more accessible the more I practice redirecting those unhelpful thoughts and cutting off the feedback loop between the thought and feeling.
Fear is a normal response to what’s happening in the world and a degree of it is helpful. It motivates us to respect social distancing and connects us through a shared experience. Panic on the other hand just gets in the way. It’s the culprit behind toilet paper hoarding and long lines at gun shops. It increases cortisol, which weakens the immune system. Panic isn’t helpful but you can choose to cope with it by using your mind to redirect your thoughts. Following are a few more of my favorite redirections if you find yourself in a panic state.