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  • Writer's pictureWorth Counseling Group

How to Keep your Relationship Healthy During a Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has wrought unprecedented levels of distress on an international level. Such global upset can trickle down and translate to a personal level as well, particularly when it comes to relationships.

With the coronavirus pandemic changing the way we live and creating unprecedented challenges in our day-to-day lives, it’s natural that our relationships may have come under the spotlight.

Even the most robust couples may be going through a rough patch right now – for various reasons. A considerable number of people are facing unemployment and financial instability as a result of COVID-19, while others are having to work from home alongside their partners. Meanwhile, our usual opportunities for socializing, date nights, romantic breaks away, and hobbies enjoyed outside of the house are out of the question at the moment.

Humans have the ability to love and nurture, but we also have some self-destructive behaviors. The added stress and strain the coronavirus pandemic is bringing into many people’s lives may be amplifying any existing cracks in any relationship or causing new ones to appear.

While there is no magic recipe for making relationships work – and certainly not while navigating a global pandemic – it is important that we maintain healthy relationships for our own wellbeing. Humans are made for connection. We long to connect in meaningful ways to one another.

A positive relationship can be shared between any two people who love, support, encourage and help each other. People in healthy relationships tend to:

Listen to each other.Communicate openly and without judgment. Trust and respect each other.Consistently make time for each other. Remember details about each other’s lives. Engage in healthy activities together

In addition, there are various studies on the positive effects a healthy romantic relationship can have on your health. Here are some benefits of healthy relationships:

Less Stress. Being in a committed relationship is linked to less production of cortisol, a stress hormone. This suggests that married or paired people are less responsive to psychological stress, and that the social and emotional support that comes with having a partner can be a great buffer against stress. There’s even evidence to suggest that couples who cohabitate are happier than those that don’t.

How To Keep Your Relationship HEALTHY During A Pandemic

Better Healing. Whether it’s having someone there to remind you to take your medicine, or having a partner to help take your mind off of stress, research suggests married people who have undergone heart surgery are three times more likely to survive the first three months after surgery than single patients. Married patients also reported feeling more confident about their ability to handle post-surgery pain and were less worried about the surgery in general. A little emotional support can go a long way toward helping a person recover from a procedure or illness.

Healthier Behaviors. Healthy relationships set the perfect tone for an overall healthy lifestyle. If your spouse, friends or other loved ones encourage eating a healthy diet, exercising, not smoking, etc., you’re likely to engage in the same values. It’s a lot easier to take on healthy behaviors when you surround yourself with people who are doing the same.

Greater Sense of Purpose. It’s natural for humans to want to feel needed, and that they’re part of something bigger. Many people strive to feel like they’re doing something meaningful for someone else, and improving the world in some way. Being in a loving relationship, no matter what kind, can give a person a sense of well-being and purpose.

Longer Life. Research suggests that having healthy social relationships makes a bigger impact on avoiding early death than taking blood pressure medication or being exposed to air pollution.

How To Keep Your Relationship HEALTHY During A Pandemic

Whether you’re in a long-term relationship, are just getting adjusted to each other, or you're somewhere in-between, here are some expert tips on keeping it healthy during the turbulence of the coronavirus pandemic:

Understand the rhythm of your relationship. No two relationships function the same. Are you the sort of couple that bottles things up only for emotions to explode all at once? Or perhaps there is an overflow of emotion, contributing to a volatile relationship? Knowing your relationship style can help you moderate how you communicate with each other.

Try to stay on the same team when life gets hectic and stressful. Couples learn to monitor each other’s stress levels and try to sooth and support each other during tough times. Realizing when the other is going through a hard time and cutting them some slack is fundamental to showing you are there for them, through good times and bad. It’s completely understandable given the current situation if you are both feeling anxious. Be kind to each other – and yourself -– and remember this is temporary.

Take the time to listen to your partner’s point of view. Avoid being dismissive or over-reactionary. If you have said or done something wrong, apologize early on and mean it. Try to focus on the idea that you are both not perfect but trying to act with good intentions – and that due to COVID-19 you’re navigating an extremely challenging chapter in your lives that neither of you can control. When times are as tough as they are now, do your best to try and avoid conflict altogether – be forgiving of your partner and yourself.

How To Keep Your Relationship HEALTHY During A Pandemic

Give each other room to breathe. We all need some timeout from each other, and although this is easier said than done right now if you live with your partner, give each other the time and space to do things separately and independently on a daily basis.

Take care of your mental health. Stress and anxiety are normal reactions to the unknown, and with COVID-19, the future is feeling obscure right now. Taking care of your mental health is essential in keeping your relationship healthy.

Seek relationship counseling when needed. Many people believe that you should only seek relationship counseling when separation or divorce are looming. But that is often too little, too late. Relationship therapy should begin as soon as the problems get in the way of your daily life.

Here are some signs that you might benefit from a consultation:

You have trouble expressing your feelings to one anotherYou have one or more unsolvable disagreementThere is withdrawal, criticism, or contempt in your interactions A stressful event has shaken your daily life

You have trouble making decisions togetherYou experienced infidelity, addiction, or potential abuse You want a stronger relationship

How To Keep Your Relationship HEALTHY During A Pandemic

Problems with relationships are not limited to romantic ones, even though that’s the most popular reason people consult for relationship therapy.

Keep in mind that the average couple waits six years before seeking therapy. This is a lot of time to let problems fester; at this point, troubled relationships are difficult to save. It is therefore important to acknowledge problems early and seek therapy as soon as possible.

Remember that there are no wrong reasons to seek relationship counseling. Some couples start therapy as soon as they are married, even without obvious problems, to prevent serious problems from developing. Counselors can help you become a better communicator, develop strong relationship skills, and improve your family’s happiness.

Disagreements are a healthy part of family life. However, ongoing conflict and tension can cause stress and damage our relationships. In order to come through this, you have to communicate, listen and care for each other, building on what brought you together and what you want to see in the future and there may be times where counseling is needed to help you both in expressing these to each other.

By: Shelly Killingsworth, LPC


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