At this point, it's probably fair to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has defined 2020 for many Americans. From an unexpected financial crisis to stay-at-home-orders that never seem to end, the coronavirus has completely changed how many of us approach life—and relationships are no exception.
According to recent studies, many couples feel that the pandemic has put a strain on their partnership. Today, we're exploring why that is—and what you can do to maintain a healthy relationship during these challenging times.
A Financial Crisis Causes Money Problems for Couples
Writing "COVID-19 has negatively impacted the US economy" is an understatement. The US GDP shrunk by an annualized rate of 32.9%, the biggest economic downturn since the 1940s when the economy froze during World War Two. More than 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits since the pandemic's outset, and that's not including individuals who have had trouble getting benefits they're technically owed, like workers who use 1099s.
Money problems have been—and continue to be—a major issue for American couples. In around 34% of cohabiting couples, individuals don't know how much their significant other makes.
For couples that don't want to deal with monetary issues, a financial crisis can be enough to unbalance the relationship.
People Are Cooped Up at Home
Many people rely on the downtime they get at work or with friends to keep their relationship healthy. But in the midst of stay-at-home orders and quarantines, people don't have anywhere to go (and couldn't, even if they wanted to).
For many couples, spending extended amounts of time together means getting into more fights, which can build up and cause tension in the relationship.
The transition from office environments to work-from-home (WFH) positions only exacerbates this issue. Individuals fortunate enough to retain their jobs during COVID-19 may find themselves having to WFH, which can be stressful if their partner doesn't accommodate the change well. It can also increase the stress for partners who do lose their jobs, making them feel more pressured to find employment.
COVID-19 Presents New Issues for Families
For couples who share children, the hurdles don't end at struggling to find alone time or work from home. Schools across the country closed their physical locations and transitioned to online learning, and many are maintaining that policy into the 2020/2021 school year. As a result, many parents find themselves struggling as de facto teacher's aides for their children.
For some couples, trying to balance their relationship, work stress, and dealing with having the kids home all the time can be a huge stressor.
Ideas for Improving Your Relationship in COVID-19
If you're struggling to maintain a healthy relationship during COVID-19, you're not alone. Here are some ideas for how you can improve your time with your partner:
- Act like a team. We recently wrote a blog entitled "Signs Your Marriage Might be Struggling." In that blog, we discussed how tension can occur in relationships when partners fail to face issues as a team. You should approach issues as something you're both ready to fight together, instead of making disputes a "you versus me" argument.
- Create dedicated relaxation time. You and your partner should consider carving out some time dedicated to pure relaxation for each party. If you have a child, that may mean the other parent takes them out for a walk while one parent is trying to relax. Maybe you go on a run. Maybe you sit down and meditate. Whatever you decide, try and devote at least 30 minutes a day to complete, uninterrupted relaxation time by yourself.
- Reevaluate your routine. The same schedule that worked for you pre-pandemic probably won't work as well while you're dealing with stay-at-home orders. Figure out ways you can rewire your schedule to make life less stressful. For example, if you had a lengthy commute but now WFH, maybe you and your partner can devote the time you normally spent commuting on making breakfast or working out together.
- Try to stay connected with friends and family members. Having happy hours over Zoom may feel awkward at first, but it's important not to abandon connections with other people in your life just because you can't see them in person anymore. Figuring out ways to stay connected with the people who matter can help you feel less stir-crazy and improve your quality of life.
- Figure out something fun to do together. You may not be able to go out to eat as easily, but that doesn't mean there aren't ways you can still have fun with your partner. For example, drive-in theatres have seen something of a resurgence in many cities. Consider picking up something to-go at your favorite restaurant and visiting a drive-in theatre with your partner or taking advantage of a hiking trail near you. The world isn't completely shut down—taking advantage of the opportunities you do have can help breathe new life into your relationship.
These times aren't easy for anyone. If you don't feel like your relationship is salvageable, you should consider alternatives to pursuing your divorce in court. At Alternative Divorce Solutions, we work with clients using methods of alternative dispute resolution, like mediation, to offer clients a more cost-effective, less stressful path toward dissolving their marriage.
To schedule a consultation with our team or learn more about how we can help you find the best path forward in your divorce, contact us online or via phone at (949) 558-2624.