Easing Friction With Family When You’re Stuck in the House

Staying at home to protect yourself and loved ones from COVID-19 puts strains on relationships in ways many people have never experienced before. Balancing work with childcare and homeschooling is challenging. Cabin fever rises as lockdowns drag on and spring weather beckons. Finding time alone to yourself is practically impossible, and mental health and relationships may be suffering.

Nurturing your partnership can be difficult, but you can take steps to ease the friction and tension that arises when you’re stuck in the house for long periods of time.

Set healthy boundaries.

Create some space for yourselves if you’re both working from home. Working in separate rooms will allow you to close the door and concentrate.

Create a schedule.

Decide how to share your tasks and handle them as a team. Divide up responsibilities. Get together on Sunday to plan the week ahead, and then meet at the end of each day to go over tomorrow.

Take turns with childcare.

Few parents enjoy the luxury of lying in bed in the morning when children need breakfast and help getting dressed. Suggest that you take responsibility one morning and your partner the next. Then you can each look forward to a few moments of alone time.

Have fun together. 

Do something that’s pleasant for a date night that will bring you both joy. Watch your favorite movie. Try visiting a museum online, read a book to each other, play games or tell stories.

Set some time apart.

Balance togetherness with separateness.  You’ll need some time just for yourself. Get some exercise. Connect with friends and relatives without your partner by your side.

Communicate your concern.

Remember that your partner is probably experiencing the same range of emotions that you are. Show you care by asking how they are feeling and how you can be supportive.

Listen to your partner.

You can’t promise that everything is going to be OK when your loved one is stressed about Covid-19. Just hearing your partner and showing empathy will validate their feelings even if you can’t fix things.

Be kind to each other.

Show empathy to your partner and kids. We’re all struggling with emotions of anxiety, and we need those who love us to show patience. Notice the effort your partner is making in this trying situation and express your appreciation. When you make a practice of expressing gratitude, you’ll find more things to things to appreciate.

Observe how you talk to your partner.

What is your partner’s reaction when you talk to them? What emotional reaction do you have when your partner talks to you? Talk to each other about how you could improve your interactions. What changes would you both like to see? If you know how to interact, you are better prepared to deal with stress.

Risk talking about what’s not working.

Have a kind and caring discussion about how your relationship could improve. Even if you disagree with what your partner has to say, take time to listen. Think of ideas together and put them to work.

Keep seeing your couple’s therapist.

Use available resources. You can use Skype and Facetime to do teletherapy. Insurance may cover these services and some insurance companies are lowering their copays. Keep up appointments with your therapist.

Don’t hesitate if your relationship is abusive.

If you don’t feel safe, get help. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522.


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