Relationships can be challenging at best. Throw a pandemic of change in society, economic turmoil and a new confined lifestyle, and you will have a recipe for couples' fights.
Although the COVID-19 crisis could put some in a romantic pressure cooker, an expert says that partners can develop skills to deal with this situation without much interpersonal conflict.
Canadian Press asked Steve Joordens, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto Scarborough, for tips on how to maintain peace in shared isolation. Your responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.
CP: Why do you think this can be a challenging time for couples?
Joordens: When people are isolated and have a fever, they become sulky, irritated, frustrated. Now, we have this in a climate where we all feel hyper anxious, because we have a lot of uncertainty about what is happening.
CP: How could this lead to more conflicts?
Joordens: We have two ways of being – they are called the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.
The parasympathetic kicks in when we're relaxed, when we're just relaxing and relaxing.
If we ever feel a threat of any kind … then we enter this sympathetic nervous system.
(Our body) forces us to fight this threat and bring it down, or flee from it and stay safe. Then, once the action is completed, it must disappear.
The problem in the current state is that the threat (COVID-19) is not disappearing … and, therefore, we have this system of & # 39; fight or flight & # 39; kind of involved all the time, humming in the background.
A little spark of the wrong kind can push us to that limit, and suddenly, our emotions take over … so we're prepared to have some kind of fight.
CP: What can partners do to cool off or reduce the fight?
Joordens: There are many online resources for guided relaxation … If you (practice), it will start to become a skill that you can use in different contexts.
When you are there with your partner, they say something that irritates you, you start to feel this emotion increasing … this is a tool that you can have in your back pocket.
The first trick is to try to anticipate the loss of emotional control. That's when listening comes in.
Often, when we argue, we have something in mind that we want to say … and it can completely overshadow our ability to hear what the other person is saying.
If I can say: 'I heard what you said and, from your point of view, this is what the situation looks like. Now, let me give you my perspective. So we can talk about it and somehow find a middle ground.
CP: Are there measures that couples can take to avoid conflict?
Joordens: As long as a couple can anticipate points of friction, it would be very good to talk about them in advance. You can say, listen, we're going to have to be together for a long time, and then how are we going to come up with strategies to try not to piss off each other?
(That) can include separation. Some people just can't be with their partners all the time. So, building this structure … at home can help.
CP: Are there ways in which the situation in COVID-19 can bring couples together?
Joordens: (The problem) is that nobody knows how this is going to happen.
Certainly, whenever a group of people faces some common enemy and works together to defeat it, it tends to bring them closer together.
But the longer it lasts, the more difficult it will be to defeat the common enemy or feel like we have it. And if we don't feel what we have, all bets will be void. I'm not sure what happens if it looks like the common enemy has beaten us.