Los Angeles Psychologist Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D. On “Pandemic Quarrels Couples Are Having” (01/20/2022)

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The pandemic has caused many types of issues and distress for people which, in turn, have contributed to an increase in quarrels between couples who live together.

Being At Home For Longer Periods Of Time Together Can Cause Stress For Couples

This is because people are at home together without much of a break from each other at times or from their residences for longer periods of time.  “Cabin fever,” stress, anxiety, depression, sadness, feeling isolated with each other, etc. can build up within and between the partners.  Not having the usual “escapes” as frequently such as going out to do separate things, being at work, engaging in outdoor activities, taking care of errands, visiting other people (i.e., family and friends), etc. can make it difficult for one or both of the significant others to have a healthy amount of “breathing room” and space emotionally and physically from each other.

Disconnection Or Lack Of Emotional Support

One of the most common pandemic quarrels among couples is that one of the partners feels disconnected from or emotionally unsupported by the other.  People deal with distressing situations differently and may have opposing coping mechanisms.  For example, one partner may be feeling many emotions that they need to talk about and get comforted by the other person.  However, his or her partner may tend to avoid upsetting situations by ignoring or minimizing them to oneself and to the significant other, which can cause or contribute to a rift between the couple which may have been there before the pandemic.

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Strive To Meet In The Middle

To get through this, the couple would need to have an open, honest conversation about how they can “meet in the middle” to be there enough for each other so that neither partner feels neglected or disconnected from the other.  This might mean that they talk about what they each are experiencing regarding the pandemic for a set period of time that both people can tolerate so that it is not overwhelming to the partner who tends to not deal with feelings so easily nor feel unsupportive to the other who needs comfort.  In addition, for that partner who needs emotional support, it is healthy to reach out and get that from family and friends as well be it virtually, by phone, etc. so that the other partner who typically avoids distress is not the only one depended on for this help.

Taking Stress And Upset Out On Each Other

Another of the most common pandemic quarrels among couples is how to not take out stress and upset on each other.  Since the couple is stuck with each other in their home over longer periods of time than usual, even little things can trigger irritation, criticism, and resentment and it is too easy to lash out at each other since they are together so much.  When this happens, it can create a negative environment and may add to the bad feelings one or both of the partners already is going through due to the pandemic.  What this could mean about the couple is that when they are going through a difficult time, they may lash out at each other rather than work as a team who finds ways to best make it through hard times together.

Be Allies Rather Than Adversaries

The best way to deal with this is for the couple to have a transparent talk in which they recognize the need to be allies not adversaries.  During this talk, they can come up with better ways to directly communicate with each other any stress or upset they are going through rather than through unhealthy actions such as blaming, criticizing, assuming, etc.  Furthermore, there also can be a code word the couple comes up with to immediately use when a negative action is happening so that it is nipped in the bud and the couple instead can communicate with each other in one of the healthier ways they have already agreed upon.  Also, it is very important that the partners get some time apart from each other so that they don’t feel stifled by the other.  For example, they can be in separate parts of their home, exercise outside, etc.

Yvonne Thomas Ph.D.  is a psychologist who offers couples therapy in Los Angeles. Schedule a free consultation through the contact form on the website or by calling (310) 359-9450