How to Navigate Relationship Stress During COVID-19
Here is Mark Faris, CEO & Broker, and marriage expert Toni Nieuwhof, giving you insight into how to resolve conflict and feel more connected with your partner through the stressors of COVID-19.
Q: We’re all trying to manage what life is throwing at us right now- working from home with kids around, the challenges of home schooling, feeling the loss of personal contact and stress about money. What’s your advice for couples whose arguments turn heated over every issue?
A: The first step is to really look inside and be honest about whether you’re telling yourself a victim story. It’s so common for couples in conflict to see themselves as the victim in the impasse. Your tendency will be to examine your partner’s words and actions with a magnifying glass, but to view your own through rose-coloured glasses. I’m not going to sugar coat this, and say that it’s easy – it takes some time and practice – but you need to learn to actively resist your own natural tendency to do this. It’s a learned behaviour. You can learn it!
Almost every couple I’ve worked with, either as an attorney or as a mediator, saw themselves as a victim of their spouse in some way. You’re both victims and in a sense because there are no perfect humans – but where does this get you?
If you have a friend or a relative who has been married a long time, or who you know someone whose made progress in dealing with their conflict, reach out for advice. Nobody likes ‘airing their dirty laundry’ but confiding in someone wise and getting advice from someone who can relate can be a lifeline when you’re at an impasse.
Also, if you find your reactions to each other are overkill, not just the occasional blowing off steam but happening more routinely, or if one of you is finding it extremely difficult to actually come to the table, then I highly recommend seeking out professional help. There are counsellors out there, ready to help through an online environment.
Q: Some couples might not be experiencing a great deal of conflict, but perhaps they’re feeling disconnected these days. What do you suggest to add more fun and breathe more life into a marriage while we’re staying home?
A: Try something that’s novel or unpredictable, even while you’re in isolation. As humans, we’re wired toward growth. When we’re stressed, new things may seem to require more energy than usual, but making a little extra effort to get out of a rut could lead to surprising results.
Researchers have shown that if your goal is to establish a more satisfying connection, it helps to pay attention to your emotions around your shared activities. It’s worthwhile to distinguish between activities that are “exciting” versus “pleasant.” Researchers found that when couples shared an activity they both found “novel or exciting” as opposed to “comfortable or routine” for ninety minutes a week over several consecutive weeks, the excitement or satisfaction they experienced in their relationship was measurably higher. Now, while you’re staying home, your options are more restricted, but you could still try out something more interesting than your current Netflix series or a movie. How about doing a museum tour online? Or trying out a new style of cooking? Experiment with a new project or do an art project. Make each other new cocktails and a fancy appetizer for a cocktail hour. Do a yoga or dance class together. Try out a new mystery game. How about stand-up comedy, or learning that language you’ve been intrigued by? There are a thousand ways to try out something novel – the key is, you both need to be interested in whatever you choose.
If you have any relationship questions you can get in touch with Toni Nieuwhof through these channels:
Family Lawyer & Relationship Mediator
Facebook: Toni Karsikas Nieuwhof
For any real estate related questions, please reach out to us at Faris Team – we’re here to help.