In order to protect your health, as well as the health of those in your community, social distancing and stay-home measures have been implemented across the country. For many couples, this is placing strain on their relationships, causing increased tension, anxiety, and in more severe cases, domestic violence.

From the loss of income to constant togetherness, there are many variables associated with the current pandemic, many of which put immense stress on relationships. While some couples are concerned that the pandemic will threaten their relationship, it is possible that the opposite effect will occur. Here’s how to remain supportive in order to strengthen a couple’s bond.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Relationships

There is no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the daily lives of millions around the globe.

Past research shows that natural disasters can strengthen intimate relationships. However, these stressful events can also expose significant problems. For example, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, more couples were filing for divorce than normal.

Prior to COVID-19, the vast majority of couples would spend the bulk of most days apart. However, due to stay-home measures, couples are now spending all day together, all while dealing with a wide range of newly emerged stressors. Some are feeling anxiety due to financial insecurity, others are worried about elderly parents, many continue to worry about their health, and the list goes on.

Relationships that were already vulnerable are at a higher risk of worsening issues, as unresolved problems may now bubble to the surface. Once these issues do surface, each individual may rely on different coping mechanisms, which again, may cause friction.

The Importance of Support During Stressful Events

If you are feeling stressed due to COVID-19, know that you’re not alone and that this response is normal. However, being mindful of how you’re feeling is extremely important so that you can take healthy, proactive action.

When it comes to couples, stress can be felt like a game of ping-pong. Even if feelings of stress and anxiety are not discussed, the tension can be felt and is often passed back and forth. Both your actions and behaviors will show signs of increasing stress, which may result in anger, sadness, withdrawal, and disconnection. When left unchecked, long-term stress can cause depression and feelings of isolation, resulting in distant, unsupportive relationships.

Mental health professionals often discuss the importance of strong social support networks, especially when faced with a crisis. A classic example is when an addict enters a treatment program that requires ongoing support. Poor social support has been linked to everything from isolation to depression, increased alcohol use to cardiovascular disease, and during these unprecedented times, these negative effects may be exacerbated.

Ongoing positive support is a sign of healthy relationships, which in turn, makes for a happier, healthier life. Research shows that being in a committed, supportive relationship can result in less cortisol production, making partners less responsive to psychological stress. There is also evidence that supportive partnerships lead to better healing, a greater sense of purpose, and healthier behaviors.

How to Better Support Your Partner During Times of Quarantine

If you and your partner are currently under quarantine, here are some tips to remain supportive, approachable, and connected:

Recognize symptoms of stress

Unchecked stress can have significant consequences, especially during times of quarantine. Be mindful of your own stress levels, as well as your partners so that you can intervene as soon as possible.

While stress presents itself in a number of ways, it is particularly important that you remain aware of increased moodiness, anger, restlessness, sadness, or any other negative emotion. If you or your partner have also begun self-medicating with drugs, alcohol, or even food, it’s important that you communicate your concerns.

Be sure to communicate and listen

Poor communication can cause a never-ending cycle of stress and anxiety. During this time, it’s important to remain present and listen to your partner when they express their concerns. The goal here is to understand one another so that you can build your relationship up, not tear it down. Tony Robbins offers 8 great ways to improve communication, which you can read about here.

Carve out “you” time

Do you love to listen to music and write? Perhaps your partner loves to woodwork or garden. Now is the time for both of you to explore your own personal passions. Not only will you have a more fulfilling day, reducing your own personal stress and anxiety, but when you and your partner come back together, you’ll appreciate your time with one another. This is a great time to encourage your partner to build a new skill or explore a new hobby that makes them feel good.

Of course, there are some issues that should be discussed with a professional. Due to quarantine measures, therapists and counselors are offering a number of flexible options — including telehealth treatment options. Do not wait until you or your partner are in distress to ask for help.

For more information on how to seek treatment during the current pandemic, please refer to our COVID-19 Awareness and Information guide.

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