Social Distancing and Relationships

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Covid-19, Social Distancing and Your Relationship

As has become a habit these days, I opened Facebook and saw this post from a friend:


“How long is this social distancing supposed to last? My husband keeps trying to get into the house.”


I know it’s meant to be funny, because how else can you stay sane amidst the COVID-19 pandemic? You just have to inject some humor into the otherwise dire situation. Life as we knew it abruptly had to change to cope with the demands of the time. People are being asked to stay at home, an essential requirement to slow the transmission of this deadly disease.

No doubt it is a stressful time with many concerns occupying people’s minds - Do we have enough stock of essential items? How do we ensure that the kids continue learning even with schools closed for the period? Do we even have jobs to hold on to after all this? Foremost of all concerns of course is how to deal if you or someone in your family gets sick?


To add to the vast number of other concerns, a lot of us have not spent time at home with our spouse as much as we’re doing during this crisis. While the above joke may be hilarious, cabin fever can drive you to want to lock your spouse out just to spend some time away from each other. 


Things can get even more stressful if you and your spouse are not on the same page on how you should be practicing social distancing. COVID-19 putting a strain on your relationship is a very real possibility. 


What can cause a divide in a marriage during the COVID-19 pandemic?


Difference in coping styles

No doubt, the stress level is high. This is a double-edged sword. On one hand, fighting against a “common threat” can create a stronger bond between couples. However, COVID-19 putting a strain in your relationship and leading to an eventual break-up is something you have to watch out for. 


There may already be existing vulnerabilities in the marriage prior to the crisis or the strain may come from different coping styles.


For instance, you may respond to the uncertainty of the situation by constantly checking the news or your social media for updates and talking about it most of the time. If your spouse would rather take on the “the less I know, the better” approach, this can cause a lot of tension. 

In this kind of situation, you may feel unsupported. If it keeps happening, it can cause a sense of disconnection that can eventually lead to a crack in the relationship.

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The strain may come from a seemingly simple matter - grocery shopping. One spouse may want to fill the cart to the brim. And the other may think that 50 rolls of toilet paper may be a bit too much. One may think it’s just being prepared while the other spouse may think that spending $2,000.00 on groceries is a waste of valuable resources that could have been put towards savings in preparation for a potential recession once the pandemic has died down. 


Especially when there is a concern over job security post COVID-19, this could potentially put a strain on a couple’s relationship.


Difference in how to practice social distancing

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Too much time together

Because of the stay at home order, couples who complain of having too little time together, pre-COVID-19, due to work and other commitments may find themselves climbing up the walls with too much togetherness. Everything is magnified, especially irritating habits. While it’s true that the promise is “till death do us part”, time away from each other is also essential.


Take for example the case of a stay at home wife. When before, her main concern for the day is taking care of her kids, having her husband home for the duration of the COVID-19 lockdown may mean more work for her. 


Instead of having to pick up only after the kids, she also has to add her husband to the mix. This can be a burden and a source of irritation, especially when the husband is not used to pitching in with the housework or taking care of the kids.

Before the stay at home order was strictly enforced, people were still socializing to a certain degree. And this caused a lot of tension between couples. 


Take for example these scenarios - a father wanting to be the “fun” parent still allowing the children to play with their friends while his wife bitterly opposes it.


Or a husband still wanting to attend a friend’s wedding with 200 attendees because he was the best man. Understandably, the wife will be adamant about such a potentially dangerous situation. 


While the stay at home order has limited activities to those that are essential - going to the grocery or pharmacy, or doctor visits, some people still choose to be “more lenient” with how they practice social distancing. When one spouse is concerned about COVID-19 transmission and the other is inclined to be less so, this can potentially cause a major rift in the relationship.

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Or if both spouses are working from home for the duration of the lockdown, they have no choice but to “bring the stress of work home.” Prior to the lockdown, it was possible to have a clear-cut boundary between work and home. However, when the lines are blurred, tension between the spouses can escalate. 


There may even be an argument of who takes care of the house chores and taking care of the kids. Because both are equally busy working from home, one spouse may feel burdened if the other does not feel the need to help. 


Panic Up, Libido Down

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Though there is an ongoing joke (mostly in social media) of having a “baby boom” after the pandemic, the reality is that many couples are actually not having sex. Literally, this is COVID-19 putting a strain on your relationship.


One reason why couples are abstaining is due to stress and anxiety. People are just too worried to be in the mood. Some people are keeping a distance from their partners at the moment for fear of contamination or infection. 


Whatever the reason, a psychologist specializing in couples therapy maintains that healthy sexuality in a relationship is important to foster closeness. Absence of intimacy can lead to feelings of rejection and, consequently, disconnection between spouses.

Still, other couples are using the excuse of social distancing as their way of avoiding deep seated problems in the relationship. The negative emotions already exist. COVID-19 and social distancing may be the catalyst that may push some couples to a permanent separation.

All is Not Lost … You Can Do Something

On a positive note, COVID-19 and social distancing can make couples realize the value of their relationship. When work and other concerns made it difficult to spend more time together pre-COVID-19, it is important to seize this opportunity to strengthen ties. 


And when things are getting too claustrophobic, here are things you can do:


Carve some alone time for yourself and honor your spouse’s need for it, too. The important thing is to communicate this well to avoid misunderstandings.


Establish routines so you stay grounded and focused. Plan activities with your spouse and family to bring some semblance of normalcy to an otherwise disrupted life. Schedule specific hours for work and for family time. Plan meals, have time to exercise or do some DIY projects that everyone enjoys. Taking time to establish routine brings a semblance of normalcy to your life. 


Take it one day at a time. In times of uncertainty, planning too far ahead can add unnecessary stress. 


Take time out to make short term plans with your spouse for immediate concerns such as managing your work-from-home situation, home-schooling the kids for the duration of the crisis, making grocery and pharmacy runs and similar matters.  This helps manage stress while fostering teamwork with your spouse. 


Be extra understanding of each other’s shortcomings and fears. Being in close quarters, habits and quirks can become magnified. Expect mood swings, times of panic and fear. In all these, remember to be understanding and kind. 


Yelling or getting angry will only make things worse. It is important to remember that you must rely on each other to get through this crisis.


If Social Distancing and Your Relationship Does Go South, I Can Help


The COVID-19 pandemic is undoubtedly a high-stress time and can lead to rising tensions within relationships. While we always hope for the best, if you’re already at the breaking point prior to the pandemic, this might just be the nudge that pushes your relationship to the edge.


If you are contemplating divorce after this crisis, it is important to carefully plan to secure your financial future. As a certified divorce financial analyst, I, Kimberly Surber am an expert in divorce financial planning and I am here to help you plan your finances, so you not only survive divorce but more importantly thrive in the future.


If you need guidance with your divorce planning, contact me today at (907) 347-3860 for a free consultation.


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This information is not intended to be a substitute for seeking legal advice from an attorney. For legal or tax advice please seek the services of a qualified attorney and/or qualified tax professional.

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