Turning on the news these days is an invitation to become incredibly anxious. Watching rates of infection soar and the death rate increase; watching a global pandemic at times makes us wonder if we are trapped in a horrible science fiction movie. As we watch, read and listen, our anxiety increases significantly. As anxiety increases and becomes chronic over a period of time, our functioning begins to diminish; meaning anxiety makes us more reactive and, frankly, dumber. This, of course, has a powerful impact on our relationships. So what can we do during this very difficult time to help ourselves and those we love?
Understand that all couple “dances” are intensified by anxiety. All couples co-create dances. For example, if you tend to get caught in a pursue - distance dance where one pursues and the other distances, or an over-under responsible dance where one over functions and complains that the other underfunctions, chronic anxiety will provide rocket fuel to intensify that dance make it worse. If you tend to be reactive - or the opposite and avoid conflict, these patterns will also become exaggerated. As this happens, the pictures we have of each other tend to get more extreme. (“you know what I need but are refusing to give it to me…” ) Watch this carefully during this pandemic and try to slow things down. Give each other a break and try to remember that some of this can simply be reactivity born out of high anxiety. This is an opportunity for grace and forgiveness.
Remember that all relationships are a delicate balance of closeness and distance. All couples must find a way to continually balance this equation. One person needs more closeness while the other needs more distance. All relationships struggle to balance this dynamic. However, now that most people are working from home and locked in together, what happens to the closeness distance dynamic? It obviously gets intensified, creating more stress and tension in relationships and intensifying conflict and unhealthy “dances”. Once again, give each other a break by understanding what is going on and try to keep communication open and talk about this.
In addition, family functioning will change. The first week may seem like an early spring break with everyone home, but after a few weeks “cabin fever” sets in. How do we educate our kids, balance our relationships, try to stay healthy and sane? The longer this lasts, the more intensely relationships will be impacted.
So practically what can we do?
For more information, check our book: Renewing your relationship: 5 necessary steps for more information. Also, you can see our facebook live talk from Friday 3.27.20 on our facebook page for more help.