There's nothing like a global pandemic to really put your relationship in focus. A lot of people around the world right now are reflecting on their relationships, as they're dealing with changes to daily life and work. Maybe you're stuck at home together in home quarantine, or maybe you're separated for several weeks at least. In either case, a global pandemic can put a lot of stress on a couple, especially if you have reacted to it differently. Times like these are the ultimate stress tests for relationships, and they may even lead to more arguments and, later, divorces.
Jennifer Senior, a columnist at The New York Times, recently shared the story of her own marital struggles during the coronavirus pandemic. She described how she and her husband have often coped with major changes differently, whether it was the election of Donald Trump in 2016 or the current spread of coronavirus. In her research to understand why, she reached out to relationship expert Esther Perel for advice.
Esther Perel's advice centered around the idea that couples deal with uncertainty differently. Speaking to Jennifer, Esther said: “If you polarize and you think that there’s only one way to do things...it’s fake certainty. The whole point is that you’re discovering it along the way.”
She broke down a few stylistic differences couples may have when it comes to dealing with coronavirus:
How you approach information in moments of crisis - you may want to "binge" or know everything and others may have more boundaries in place when it comes to reading the news
How consumed you become by an emergency - one of you may be completely focused on the emergency, while the other "may focus more on maintaining the rhythms of a normal life."
How you move through the world when disaster strikes - you may be "structured, purposeful, proactive" while your partner may be "passive or fatalistic"
Her advice reaches far beyond romantic relationships and may also help us navigate relationships with friends and family right now. It's a good reminder that while we may handle things differently, it doesn't mean that our relationships won't work. This is a moment of high stress, and some understanding and empathy can go a long way. Instead of letting these differences cause more stress, try to be gentle with yourself and your loved ones as we all navigate uncertainty and do the best we can.
And if you're separated from your partner or loved ones because of confinement, quarantine or social distancing, be sure to check out Esther Perel's advice for maintaining social connection while social distancing as well as our suggestions.
You may also be interested in how to avoid a breakup during the coronavirus pandemic, how relationships and breakups will be affected by this pandemic and what will happen to dating during coronavirus.
If you could use more daily support through a breakup or divorce, you can download our app Mend (iOS only). You can also sign up for our free class on "Staying Home: How To Support Your Mental Health During Coronavirus."