No matter how much you love someone, too much time together can be a recipe for disaster. As the Coronavirus pandemic drags on, we may find the love and fondness we once had for our significant others turns to frustration and resentment. My husband and I were in the middle of a stay-cation when the pandemic struck, so our isolation began before the social distancing and stay home orders were put in place. We are also accustomed to quite a bit of time apart as my husband’s job involves a great deal of travel. While we love our quality time, too much of it throws off our dynamic and this showed with our first major argument in a long time. The argument was petty, as most arguments are. I was in a bad mood, or maybe he was, who knows, but before we recognized what was happening, he and I were raising voices and retreating to separate floors of the house to ruminate on why the other was wrong. Fortunately, we are old hands at resolving arguments and within the hour we were talking it out while cooking dinner together. The experience made me think that other couples are going through the same thing because everyone’s normal routine has been impacted. I wanted to share a few strategies for managing arguments and coping with periods of isolation with a loved one.
How do you deal with conflict during a pandemic?
First, have a game plan for handling conflict.
We all know that relationships aren’t always rainbows and puppy dogs—arguments happen. Establish rules for fighting fair ahead of time and discuss them regularly so that you and your partner remember the rules during an actual argument. For example, if you quickly get frustrated, a good rule could be that you take a short time-out when you feel yourself getting angry. Your partner may respond with a rule that you communicate the fact that you are taking a time-out, instead of simply walking away from the conversation with no explanation. The first rule allowing you to take a time-out is about meeting a need you have to calm down and the second rule, that you communicate about your time-out, avoids your partner feeling dismissed or disrespected by you stepping away.
Second, understand what it is that you are really upset about.
Ask yourself why you are upset and write down what comes to mind. Creating awareness about your thoughts will change the way you approach conflict in your relationship. Once written out, you can look at your thoughts objectively and understand why you are feeling the way you feel. Frequently, when I think I am mad at my husband, I am actually stressed out or worried about something that has nothing to do with him. Once I figure that out, I can vent to my husband, rather than taking it out on him. The truth is, we control how we respond to our partners and taking a minute to write down thoughts is often all it takes to calm down and avoid an argument.
Finally, remember to take the “me” time necessary to keep yourself sane.
Since we are limited in where we can go right now, it’s a perfect time to get creative! Tackle the to do list you have been putting off, take an online class, catch up on some reading or write that book you have been thinking about for years. The point is to step away from your partner and spend time doing something just for you. Time spent apart makes the time together even better.
When it comes to relationships, occasional arguments will happen and they can even be healthy if done right. It all comes down to fighting fair, communication, self-awareness and self-care.