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Couples, Conflict and COVID-19

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When social distancing and self-isolation became the two terms that will undoubtedly define 2020, we understood them first as a means to protect the physical health of ourselves and others. But with all this new time spent indoors, we must also be aware of our mental health, our partners’ mental health, and the kinds of conflicts that may now arise.

For couples (or roommates or even friends for that matter) currently living together through the COVID-19 crisis, the heightened stress and prolonged time together can prove challenging. And where challenges arise, so too may conflict.

We have several pieces of advice for you here. They’ve been shared by our therapists in order to help couples lessen the tension, arguments and misunderstandings that may arise.

Create a “We Need to Talk” Plan
Figure out how and when to discuss the stresses you’re both feeling, and limit how much time you spend discussing relationship problems. This could be for 30 minutes one day, then nothing the following day.

When your discussion begins, it’s important to do the following: listen and validate each other's feelings about COVID-19; show support by listening and not by going into problem solving mode unless your partner asks for that kind of help; focus on developing creative ways to survive the remainder of the crisis.

Make Plenty of “Just Me Time”
Discuss a plan and create firm boundaries for spending time together and apart. List your expectations and be prepared to make compromises, and try to use statements like “I feel,” and “I need,” to discuss your requirements, rather than criticizing while the other partner becomes defensive.

Know When to Give Each Other Space
Recognize personal signs of irritability and have a safe space to take time apart in. If you need a time-out, communicate that clearly with respect to your partner. (It may help to make a plan ahead of time on how this will look.)

You can also create new positive activities to connect on while also keeping the romance alive. Figure out what mutually beneficial activities will look like – going for walks, playing board games, learning a language together, cuddling and watch movies, or cooking and eating together.

Important Information for Abusive Domestic Situations
If you are in quarantine/self-isolation while also in an abusive relationship, this is a difficult time with many additional challenges. *If you are in immediate danger, call 911*

These resources can help you with the following:

Creating a safety plan for yourself.

Finding safe and alternative shelters across Canada.

Aboriginal support for finding safe, alternative shelters across Canada.

A province-by-province list of helpful resources.

By keeping the lines of communication open, and being clear about your needs and wants, creating a living situation during the COVID-19 quarantine can be a safe and healthy experience. As long as there is mutual respect and empathy, it’s possible to lessen the stress of a difficult time.

With all this new time spent indoors, we must also be aware of our mental health, our partners’ mental health, and the kinds of conflicts that may now arise.

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Stronger Minds content is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to establish a standard of care with a reader, you should always seek the advice of your mental health professional, physician or other qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition. If you think you may have a medical or mental health emergency, call your doctor, go to the nearest hospital emergency department, or call emergency services immediately. You should never disregard or delay seeking medical advice relating to treatment or standard of care because of information contained herein. Medical information changes constantly. Therefore the information herein should not be considered current, complete or exhaustive, nor should you rely on such information to recommend a course of treatment for you or any other individual. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.