Even if you love your partner truly, madly, deeply, you may find that spending time together, in virtual lockdown, has you feeling more well and deeply, truly mad.
The Coronavirus pandemic is challenging relationships and changing family life. The WHO estimates that 1.4 billion children are out of school without access to their regular activities. Parents are under additional pressure to maintain their jobs and employment opportunities, whilst caring for children and conducting or overseeing home schooling. This has serious implications. Evidence indicates that violence and vulnerability increase during periods of health emergency (1,2). The media in Britain has recorded 2 cases of femicide during lockdown. According to the French media, reports of domestic violence have increased by 36% during the lockdown period.
Even without the serious element of violence, conflict between couples appears to be increasing whilst individuals spend more time together during stay at home instructions. There are numerous social media comments indicating that even regular relationships are under renewed pressure because of the siege. According to some news reports, divorce applications in China spiked after their lockdown, and in New York, divorce lawyers claim an increase in calls regarding inquiries regarding divorce.
Perhaps you might be seriously considering divorce, and if you are, I recommend that you read our article on preparing for divorce in the references below (3).
If your desire to split is, perhaps, created by intensive time together and extreme focus on your partner’s habits or behaviours, here are some potential cohabitation conflict busters that might be of help.
“What was that?” The power of distraction.
Some of the arguments that you may want to have, or personal shortfalls that you might like to highlight, do not need to happen. Hit “Pause”. Eject the tape. Leave the room. Go for walk. Distract yourself. You don’t need to have a fight that you will possibly regret. The best fight you had, was the one you never had.
“Is it me?” Reflections that might help you hit “Pause” when you want to blow up.
If you are feeling particularly frustrated with your partner consider the following 5 questions to help you reflect on your position.
Question 1. Timing: Does this discussion have to happen right at this time? Would there be another time be more constructive to have this discussion? For example, if you don’t like the way your partner is caring for your child, is it better to shout at them at the time that they are conducting child care, or might it be better to wait until later in the evening when such a conversation may be held without the child present, and in terms of shared goals and expectations?
Question 2. Collaborative Partnership: Do you want your relationship to be a partnership? Do you feel that you and your romantic partner collaborative or more as rivals? Does one partner encourage change or demand change of their partner? If you think behaviours of your partner need to change, is this possibly based on your personal preferences rather than real necessity? If you have an irritation that you would like to highlight to your partner, is there a method that you could use that highlights your desire to be seen as a partner that is without judgement or threat?
Question 3. Status You: What is your emotional state right now, and will this be the same way you might feel later? If you are tired, hungry, feeling unwell, or coping with pain, you might feel differently after a nap or a visit to a doctor.
Question 4. The villain: Are you portraying your partner as some type of Disney-villain rather than a person who is a work-in-progress? Are their shortcomings, or issues, a big problem to your life, or rather, a small problem that you have become oversensitive to?
Question 5. Control: Is it possible that you are trying to control your partner rather than simply being irritated by their actions? This might include your response to Covid-19 precautions or to tidiness requirements within your home. Your standards may be different and you might feel that your partner should adhere to your standards, but is this fair?
You may like to journal written responses to these questions. Remember, that whilst conflict may be inevitable during increased time together, combat remains optional.
“It’s not me, it’s you”. If you are going to fight, fight fair.
We have a recent article below about the key aspects of fighting fair (4) This includes understanding that people have different values, and this is to be expected, accepted, and respected. Compromise and understanding are the goal or any discussion, rather than winning control over your partner. You need to own and take responsibility for how your feelings. Avoid name calling or threats. Focus on listening to your partner rathe than what you want to say, and waiting for the gap to insert your opinion. If you find yourself using terms such as “always” or “never”, I feel almost certain that you are exaggerating your arguments. Try to be specific. Remember. kindness is king.
“It’s not you, or me, its us”. Is it time for you to update your relationship operating system?
Companies regularly explore business continuity exercises in order to navigate possible problems which could derail delivery of their services. Various scenarios are explored, pitfalls identified, and the company responds with temporary or permanent changes in the operation of their business.
Perhaps it time for you to update they way that your marriage operates during this crisis, and potentially beyond.
Zoning: During the Covid pandemic there may be cyclical periods of “work from home” required.
Therefore, I recommend that you might like to zone your house in order to better support your ability to execute your work, and home schooling. Make changes that you can live with for a few months, rather than a few weeks. For more details please refer to your article on creating tension free work environments at home (5).
Your role or mine? It might be time for you to update your home task gender roles to the 2020 world, especially as you are at home more often. Men can cook? Women do not need to be the only parent supporting home schooling. Even kids, can step up their level of contribution at this time.
House rules: you might want to update your house rules as well. Given the amount of time we might spend on our screens – in zoom meetings, or google hangouts – our tolerance of the amount of permissible screen time may have drifted upward within in the early days of the pandemic. As we acclimatised to the novelty of all this screen time during the day, the use of screens outside of work and school might also need to be reviewed. Within our family I noticed we had become like workers each in our own silo, but all under the same roof. I have asked to reconstruct everyone’s day in order for us to spend more time together, especially around dinner, or exercise, or game time. This can be the same for couples as well as families. Reconnect in positive ways, and, perhaps, conflict can dissipate.
We want to celebrate our differences. But people who have different values and mindsets make conflict inevitable. Regardless combat is not inevitable. Hopefully these thoughts help you create some distraction, allow you to reflect, and perhaps even consider reconstruction, which might support your partnerships at this time. If conflict continues, and you want outside mediation, consider a counsellor.
Be well. Keep Calm. Wash your hands. Love one another.
- Alon,TM; Doepke, M; Olmstead-Rumsey, J; and Tertilt, M. April 2020. Impact of COVID-19 on Gender Equality Working paper – National Bureau of Economic Research. Cambridge MA.
- Cluver, L; Lachman, JM; Sherr, L; Wessel, I et al . Parenting in a time of COVID-19. The Lancet Vol 305(10231). April 2020.
- Red Door, Considering Divorce: Key Prep (2019) https://reddoor.hk/2019/10/28/considering-divorce-key-prep/
- Red Door, Fighting Fair (2019) https://reddoor.hk/2019/12/03/fighting-fair/
- Red Door, This isn’t what I signed up for – creating tension free work environments at home (2020) https://reddoor.hk/2020/02/13/this-isnt-what-i-signed-up-for-creating-tension-free-work-environments-at-home