COVID-19 and Resilience for Couples at Home

Young Couple Wearing Protective Medical Masks And Standing Back To Back With Scared Face Expression

Is there anything worth writing about other than the current virus crisis we are all experiencing in different ways and yet the same? Blogs are writing themselves on this topic. The tone is often dire and fearful. This is understandable given the possible outcomes of contracting COVID-19. Our philosophy at Resiliencetree.com, however, is that crisis is an opportunity for meaningful change. All we have though is ourselves and our particular ability to transform. At resiliencetree.com, we focus on improving mental health, especially when faced with adversity.

 Today begins a series of mental health blogs designed to share invaluable self-care strategies and tools designed to help with specific emotional health challenges. Since we are all stuck together for better or worse, I thought we should focus on resilience around sustaining our relationships first. Later blogs will focus more on anxiety and depression resilience.

COVID-19 Crisis

When we began the resilience project nearly three years ago, I did not foresee the COVID-19 dilemma (or opportunity) would present. Even the best of relationships may be tested. I’ve already read several virus centric articles referencing break-ups and just as many touting a baby boom. Depending on our space at home, we may not get the needed privacy we often require from each other for healthy relationships to flourish. Having children and adolescents exacerbates this concern.

Perspective is the key here and stress tends to put many of us in chaos mode. This does not lend itself to mindful experiences as chaos run amok tends to interfere with our ability to use our best thinking. Following the adage that “nobody calms down by being told to do so,” we are responsible for acquiring skills to learn to relax so that our focus and concentration shine through.

There are many ways to do this.The benefits are many as well. By remaining calm, our impulse control and ability to be compassionate can also be improved. This can set the tone for a more peaceful household as these things are contagious(do I have to say pun intended). One way to achieve a calmer state is to be aware (mindful) of the need to stay calm. Some deep breathing is helpful.

Couples Retreat At Home

I am hopeful couples can use this time (because you never had any before!) as their own personal couples retreat. We can remind each other why we fell in love in the first place and explore what has worked and not worked up until now. This will be difficult for many of us and may very well go in the other direction if we don’t pay attention. The pandemic we are experiencing will and has brought out the worst in many of us-yet also the best. If our relationships are strong and focused on improving it will not only help us survive our current situation but also make us resilient for future adversity as well (sorry but there will probably be some).

Strategies We Can Use Now

Perhaps a place to start is to cultivate a more mindful attitude. Just by catching yourself entering the rabbit hole of spiraling anxiety, can help us PAUSE (emphasis on really pausing!). We can redirect our energy to more helpful action such as asking our partners how we can better support them. We often tell couples they are not responsible for each other’s happiness.  The best thing they can do for each other is work on becoming a better person individually. But this includes being thoughtful of your partner’s needs. This naturally translates and manifests as better interactions and better repair after some conflict.

Couples With Children At Home Now

As couples with children, it may never be more important to establish or re-establish the relationship as being a priority.  Putting our children first is primary. However, children’s needs can overwhelm the bond between parents whose connection is not solid. This can be countered by our ability to be supportive of each other and set clear boundaries for kids. We tell parents all the time that setting limits for your kids is something done out of love. Your kids may not verbally appreciate it now, but I can assure you it is a vital parenting tool that will reap benefits down the road.

This may also be a good time to remember the times you have been resilient as a couple, individual or parent (perhaps even having survived a challenging childhood yourself). Though we may not have experienced anything quite like COVID-19, our own resilience stories need to be remembered and told, even if they are to ourselves. Remembering that you were successful in getting through adversity will serve as a reminder that you can get through this as well. If you are parents, how you model stress management will have an immeasurable impact on how your kids will learn to navigate it now and in the future. These lessons may be more important than anything they learn in school.

Be safe out there! Focus on your values and take action. For deeper dives into this stuff, check out our website further. We offer classes that can help with recovering from a breakup or how to sustain a healthy relationship. Please share with anyone you care about that might benefit from the content.

Resiliently yours and All the best, Jim

Jim McElrath, LCSW-R is a licensed mental health therapist in the state of New York

Don’t forget to checkout our online courses. They can be accessed on our website at https://www.resiliencetree.com