by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghApril 10, 2020 family and marriage counseling, quarantine, relationship conflict, social distancing0 comments
How to reduce conflict and enhance your relationship during Quarantine COVID-19.
While many sources state that there are potential dangers to sharing home, life, and work space with your partner, and children, and dog, and anyone else that finds their way into your domestic life, we want to discuss that there are many ways to turn those potential pitfalls into opportunities for relationship moments. While it is true that mental health stressors are steeply on the increase, as well as dangerous statistics like sharp increases in mental health crises calls and domestic violence being reported. Alternately the experiences of some couples who are living, loving and working together can be positive, at least in the short term. Couples are grateful to spend more time together, to have shortened their work day by cutting off the commute, and are given the chance to understand the nuances of each others work and life in deeper and more meaningful ways. This article will highlight two ways that social distancing and working from home can add greater stress to your relationship. We will discuss each and the steps to manage them.
If your relationship was struggling before COVID, it will likely become much worse with the added stress of working from home and too much closeness for comfort. While there are a variety of conflicts that couples experience, an overwhelming number of them fall under the category of ‘conflict communication.’ Meaning that the two are not listening and responding to each others needs, thoughts, and attempts at connection in a way that supports the fabric of their love. Sometimes we are most bothered not by having too much time together but in noticing that the time together is punctuated by painful distance, quiet, and missed opportunities. If this sounds familiar to you, become intentional to not simply live in the same home but to put down your phones and turn off the TV, tune into your partner with the goal of understanding them. Ask them questions like what are they working on, what is important to them right now, what they are struggling with right now, dig in and ask follow up questions to each of their responses. Use our intimate conversation guide for couples if you are looking for more pointers on going deeper into dialogue.
Try to keep some degree of normal in your day. Get dressed and ready for your work day even if nobody outside of your home will see you. Be sure that you have created your own makeshift work space if you dont have a home office. With your routine and space in tact, try to take breaks and pauses just as you would in your work office. That is time that you might be able to connect with your partner. You can try to arrange walks in the neighborhood together, prepare lunch, dinner or breakfast together to form a further routine.
The second way that couples might experience greater stress during the pandemic is if there is an imbalance in the way that they share spaces and household tasks. In this scenario, feelings of hurt, disappointment, and frustration will emerge from misunderstandings. An example might be that while both partners are working the same number of hours but one partner is primarily responsible for managing household and child care tasks. A way to overcome the challenges of this scenario lie within the realization that expectation will change during the pandemic, there will likely be more household responsibility and there will need to be more time and support in managing this. There will also likely be a shift in the work life of any partner who is in the workforce. Work policies and expectations might become more lax, and at bare minimum working from home will shorten the work day commute, each partner should tune into the other and discuss what is needed and how they can both help the household adapt to the changes.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghFebruary 14, 2019 conflict resolution, making up after fights, pittsburgh counseling and wellness, relationship resolutions0 comments
When couples say that they have conflict or problems with communication they really mean that they have a trigger topic that is non solvable or that they have different ways of managing conflict. This causes their disagreements to have a fire or ice quality. I will describe each of these styles and inherently none of them is worse that the other, but depending on what your partner’s style of conflict is, they can lead to further issues.
A fire conflict style describes a person who may boil over quickly. Like fire they are quick to heat. When something triggers a person with a fire style in conflict their irritation will rise. They will likely seek to discuss the issues, sometimes in a way that causes greater conflict if they use criticism or demandingness instead of softer and mindful approaches. Often a person who is fire in conflict can cool down as quickly as they become enraged and then be glad to act like nothing ever happened. While it is definitely not recommended that a couple have big disagreements and not process them, the person with this style of conflict can be fine with their ups and downs. If two people with a fire style end up in a pair, they will likely have many heated quarrels that have passion and intensity. Words can be said that end up hurting, perhaps even threatening to end the relationship leading to a make-up break up syndrome. Let us also distinguish this from physical or emotional abuse. While those types often have a fire quality, they exhibit a much more serious pathology which should cause the victim to seek safety and law enforcement. Let’s explore more about what can happen if a fire and ice person are in a pair.
Persons in the cool state and of the ice style of communication may take quite a long time to boil. They tend to try to avoid conflict at all costs, sometimes minimizing disagreements and quarrels. When this style is a little bit more on the spectrum of cool avoidant they may purposefully not share details that they fear could lead to conflict. Often and ironically this can lead to conflict. They remain relatively externally cool during disagreements, but this doesn’t mean that they are not having emotional reactions on the inside. I have seen many people in this state be hooked up to an oximeter and their heart rates are cascading over the thresholds of 120. In any event, from the outside, the person appears calm and maybe even rigid in the way that they are not communicating. The fear with this conflict style is of course that important conversations don’t happen. Without talking about important issues they may miss chances for their partner to understand their needs and what is important to them. When this style of conflict communication exists alongside a fire type there may be misunderstandings where the fire person feels that the ice person is avoiding their feelings and doesn’t care.
Both the fire and ice communication styles will benefit from a conflict management plan. A plan for conflict implies that disagreements are not inherently a problem but aims at tackling issues in the relationship that can cause small issues to become much bigger. It also brings awareness about how emotions play into their disagreements and what to do so that there is a smaller likelihood that trigger topics spiral out of control.
In love and wellness,
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