Spending more time indoors while waiting for the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to calm down has us all understandably on edge. For couples, that can mean minor annoyances that you ordinarily overlook — like leaving the sink full of dirty dishes or forgetting to put the toilet seat down — might blow up into major fights. If you’ve found you and your partner getting into more arguments lately, there are a few easy and essential steps you can take to keep the peace.
Jessica Baum, a licensed mental health counselor and relationship expert, tells FIRST that self-awareness is the key to quelling any quarantine quarrels. “Choose carefully before you raise a concern with your partners and loved ones,” she explains. “Ask yourself, ‘Is this really important in the scheme of things? Or am I picking a fight because I’m scared?’”
It’s fair to say we’re all filled with more fear and uncertainty right now, so it’s important to acknowledge that and reflect honestly on how it’s sparking our emotions. “Connection with your loved ones can actually grow when you are vulnerable and expressing what is beneath your anger,” Baum says. “Recognize what’s going on inside you.”
Along with looking for the root of your anger, remember to give your partner the same consideration. Baum says validating each other’s feelings — which means honoring their emotions even if they seem irrational to you — will help avoid switching into reactive modes. “It’s saying, ‘Hey, it makes sense that you’re anxious right now, and that’s OK,’” she explains. “You allow those feelings to be there. Not fixing them. Not discounting them. Just honoring them.”
Once you’ve given each other validation, you can team up to find a way to tackle the issues you actually have control over. You might not be able to magically make the whole COVID-19 situation disappear, but you can work together to help ease the anxieties surrounding it (like checking out our tips for managing quarantine stress).
Of course, even couples who excel at self-awareness, vulnerability, and validation on a regular basis can still find themselves at odds while stuck inside together. If a fight does break out, Baum recommends putting up boundaries. Not necessarily physical distances from each other, but things like tuning out of constant news updates that are likely to amp up your mutual fears. “And remember the positive qualities about your partner,” she adds. After all, you chose to be with them for a reason. Don’t let this strange time make you forget that!
Baum’s biggest advice: Take the high road. “Take breaks and breaths. We’re all in this together! It is not a time to fight. It’s a time to pull on the ability to have team work, not just as a couple but as a community.”
With just a little extra care and compassion, we can all get through this with healthy hearts and happy relationships!