Like most things in our lives the COVID-19 crisis has affected relationships. Many married couples have reported increased marital stress. Others have found that the external challenge served to strengthen their bonds. Here is a look at various ways in which relationships have fared.
Common challenges in marriages
The correlation between COVID-19 and marital stress is evident. American Family Survey recently found that 34% of married men and women under the age of 55 are experiencing increased stress in their marriage from the COVID-19 situation. Stress was highest among working class couples and those who suffered financially from the crisis. Paula Pietromonaco, professor emerita of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Michigan explains. How the pandemic affects a relationship depends on the internal and external stresses each partner might be facing. It also depends on their individual vulnerabilities. Common stressors which have existed in marriages even before COVID-19 are balancing work-life and raising children. These are now exacerbated with worries about finances, job security, and the health of loved ones.
The Knot blog says that conflicts in marriage are not necessarily a sign of serious relationship problems. Frustrations are inevitable when tiny problems keep popping up. Couples may fight about trivial things like a messy kitchen, and whose turn it is to do the dishes. When partners are yelling over who should take the trash out, they are actually using that as an outlet for their other frustrations. The underlying cause is often insecurity about something completely unrelated to the partner (such as finances). Emotions that arise from living through an unusual time are bound to make married couples feel more stressed. The solution is to recognize and address the real issues.
Long distance relationships
America is home to millions of migrants. Many of these expat professionals live far from their loved ones. They transfer money in the form of remittances to support their families back in their home countries. Physical distance is the biggest challenge these married couples face. Such marriages are strained at the best of times. Travel restrictions during COVID-19 made it harder than usual to visit family. Virtual connections are a poor substitute for being together. However, it has been the only option for many.
Not all bad
Some bonds have grown stronger, not despite the challenge, but because of it. In April 2020 researchers surveyed a national sample of 1,117 people aged 30-50. Most individuals reported experiencing some stress from the pandemic. However the overall marital emotional satisfaction stayed about the same for most men and women. The Institute for Family Studies (IFS) found that adversity brought partners closer. 65% of married adults whose financial situation got worse said that the pandemic made them appreciate their spouse more. 60% said it increased their commitment to their marriage. Dr. Feuerman of The Gottman Institute stated that in many cases lockdowns magnified the existing dynamics in relationships. Marriages that were strong before became even stronger.
The way forward
Since COVID-19 many couples are spending all their time together. Unfortunately very little of that is quality time. It is important to consciously make time to be together as a couple. Also make sure to spend some time apart as individuals, even while in the same house. The Philadelphia Inquirer explains that conflict is not necessarily a bad thing. Couples are bound to get into arguments occasionally. What matters is how those negative exchanges balance out with positive interactions. Couples faced with such problems should look for ways to meet each other halfway. Complain less and appreciate each others’ efforts more. Work together on important issues to find practical solutions.
Many married couples now face the challenges that arise from working at home. This can occur because of work-home boundaries blurring. Creating a viable work-from-home routine can help. Craft a schedule collaboratively. See that it fits the need of each spouse. Address challenges before they magnify. Married couples must take some time out to do things together. Watching movies and doing chores as a team can be good distractions from the COVID-19-induced chaos. Spend quality time with each other. The external crisis necessitates that we learn to solve problems in our relationships. A good way to resolve issues is to let go of power struggles and start cooperating.
About the author:
Hemant G is a contributing writer at Sparkwebs LLC, a Digital and Content Marketing Agency. When he’s not writing, he loves to travel, scuba dive, and watch documentaries.