Surviving COVID Couple Distress

There has been an increase in legal separation and divorce rates across Canada within the last four months. The coronavirus has placed additional stressors on intimate relationships, including layoffs, loss of income, changes in routine, being too close to each other for extended periods of time, less contact with supports outside of the home, and reduced quality couple time for parents trying to balance home-schooling and working from home. Cumulative stress can put relationships at risk of divorce. However, those who experienced challenges before COVID-19 can be at higher risk of divorce.

What can couples do to protect their relationships from separation or divorce? Here are some divorce-busting tips:


Embracing Opportunities

How could the changes in circumstances in your home be used as opportunities to help improve your relationship? If you experienced conflict within your marriage during the pandemic, how could understanding each other’s concerns help you resolve your problems? If you have children, how could you work together to make your reduced couple time extra special? How could surviving the stress of COVID-19 together help you feel like you can survive other external stressful situations?


Practicing Healthy Communication

Everything you do, don’t do, say, and don’t say, communicates information. You might as well make sure that you are saying what you want to communicate. First, inform your partner that you would like to talk about “x” and ask if he/she has time to talk about it. If not, then find an agreeable time. When starting the conversation, address your concern by describing it from your perspective (what you’re noticing, seeing, hearing, etc.). This can help you own your perspective and try to reduce the chance of your message being heard as accusatory. As well, talk about how you feel about your concerns, using feeling words.


Working Together

As a Couples Therapist, too often I have seen couples seeing each other as the problem and attacking each other rather than working together. Describe your concerns, then describe what you would like to see instead and ask for their thoughts. Try to be respectful; think of your partner as a co-worker who you’re trying to work with on resolving problems together. Try to agree on a plan for solving the problems identified and how to implement it.


Using a Time-Out Code Word

While talking, if emotions begin escalating once one or both of you are triggered, its best to call for a time-out. Each partner go to their safe place and do something relaxing to calm themselves. Having a code-word for time out, such as “pause”, “time-out”, “recess”, “break”, or something that has special or humorous meaning between both partners works well when emotions are rising. Then, reconvene after a prearranged time period (20 to 90 minutes) to try and discuss each person’s concerns.


Practicing Self-Care

Quality me time is vital for your own emotional well-being. Refilling your tank is essential for being strong for your partner and your relationship.


Connecting with Social Supports

Connecting with trusted friends and family members can be therapeutic for you but also your relationship. Seeing loved ones outside of your intimate relationship can help you feel like you’re not alone and that your relationship is not the center of the universe. It can help you feel like the relationship struggles you are faced with are not uncommon and sometimes, inconsequential in the big scheme of things. It could even help you feel grateful for your relationship.


Reaching Out for Help

Therapists who have special training or experience in marriage or relationship counselling can provide a great deal of support for your relationship, particularly during difficult times. If your partner is unable or unwilling to attend couples counselling, by seeing a therapist on your own, you can learn how to make positive steps in your own life which in turn can create positive effects in your relationship.

There are various mental health professionals within Lethbridge and area, and many are providing options for access, including face-to-face and/or telehealth opportunities during the pandemic. At Associates Counselling Services, we are providing both in-person and telehealth options. If you would like to get set up or ask questions, please call (403) 381-6000.

Brad Moser, Registered Psychologist

Brad Moser has over 12 years of experience providing therapy for children and teens, adults, couples, and families. His areas of practice include anger, anxiety, bereavement, childhood and family of origin concerns, depression, identity concerns, marital/relationship distress, men’s and dad’s issues, parenting, self-esteem, separation/divorce, stress, and suicidal ideation. Brad is now accepting new clients and is providing a sliding scale for those who cannot afford the normal rate.

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