Divorce rates declined in 2020 compared to previous years, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Until the pandemic came along. And just like that, divorces spiked.
It’s no surprise that pandemic stress has taken a toll on many relationships. Issues such as social isolation, financial stress and health anxiety continue to impose unprecedented pressures on people. With a shift in living and working situations and a new focus on at-home responsibilities, the way people relate to each other has changed.
“People have been finding it challenging to manage the stress of their individual circumstances, as well as the stress within the relationship dynamic,” says Shanette Smith, LMFT, a senior specialist at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital and Sharp McDonald Center. “Many couples are finding it challenging to work through things that typically arise in their day-to-day living, as they are consumed with other issues associated with the chaos of living through a pandemic.”
Relationships take work — and now is the time
Considering the hardships, many couples now find themselves at a crossroads. While everyday pandemic pressures are still very real, lifting restrictions and COVID-19 vaccines bring back a sense of normalcy that gives people time to reflect on their relationships.
“With many couples feeling a desire to reconnect to their individual passions, it is equally important that they reengage the relationship,” Smith says. “Finding the balance between the relationship and the individual within the relationship is key to rebuilding a strong and balanced foundation.”
For those feeling the pinch of pandemic pressure, Smith offers these five tips to address and move forward:
- Practice mutual respect.
Everyone reacts to stress differently. As you remember to maintain a posture of self-respect, offer the same care and understanding for your partner.
Many relationships end due to irreconcilable differences, which are often attributed to a lack of communication. Invite open communication — and be both respectful and honest.
- Find common ground.
Never forget why you chose each other in the first place. When situations seem irreparable, find the compromise that is mutually beneficial.
- Choose your battles.
Sometimes agreeing to disagree can go a long way. While some issues need working out, others may not be worth the hardship.
- Actively listen.
The simple act of hearing your partner and supporting their feelings can soften the edges around conflict for everyone involved.
Seeing the silver lining
Every relationship has conflict — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s important to remember that while no one wants to fight, managing the fight is what matters.
“Relationships sometimes take effort,” Smith says. “While there are days that you wake up and all of the pieces of your relationship — and life — fall into their proper place, there will be days where we have to work to gently nudge the pieces back into their proper place.”
Respectfully managing conflict not only sets the path for relationship success in the future, Smith says, it also sets the overall tone for others in your life or household. Noting that children and family members can often be “caught in the crossfire of our short fuse,” she says showing a mutual love and kindness through conflict can have a ripple effect that goes beyond the confines of two people.
As we begin to see the light at the end of the pandemic, Smith advises everyone to be gentle with themselves — and their partners. Remember that we all have rough days, and everyone could use an extra bit of support, love and kindness.