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Is COVID-19 Bringing You Closer Together Or Tearing You Apart?

Whether you have been spending time together exclusively for months on end or can’t see each other because of quarantine, this situation is unprecedented and uncertain. You may have found yourself feeling angry, sad, relieved, stressed, frustrated, happy – a rollercoaster of emotions and reactions during COVID-19 for you and your relationship. At the end of the day, an important issue is whether or not COVID-19 is bringing you closer together or tearing you apart.

You’ve probably heard about how people got stuck in other countries and couldn’t get back to their loved ones or how someone was visiting for the weekend, came down with COVID, and couldn’t leave their partner’s house.

Whether you can’t be together for the holidays and can only Zoom with each other or haven’t seen anyone else in person since March, the amount of stress that COVID-19 is creating can bring you closer together or damage your relationship based on your mindset and attitude.

How COVID-19 Can Be A Disaster For Your Relationship

When any event occurs, how we view it and how we accept it are up to us. Our brains have a negativity bias, meaning “Your brain is simply built with a greater sensitivity to unpleasant news.” In terms of relationships, this translates to remembering more negative events in your relationship history when you are unhappy. 

Dr. Tatkin, founder of PACT, reports that when you hesitate or pause, your partner’s brain fills in the gap with negative thoughts. Under stress (the pandemic can be considered stress), you are more likely to view your partner’s actions, statements and behavior as negative. 

Researchers Elizabeth Robinson and Gail Price “found that couples in unhappy marriages tend to underestimate the number of positive interactions in their marriage by 50%.” . 

How COVID-19 Can Create Connection When You Feel Disconnected

If you are finding that during COVID-19 your relationship has been struggling, you may want to explore how to create the love and connection you once had or rekindle the passion in your relationship.

The Magic Ratio: 5:1 

Gottman found that couples who had 1 negative interaction to 5 positive interactions had stable and healthy relationships, but when relationship interactions dipped down to 1:1 (positive: negative), those couples were often headed for divorce. 

Happy couples take challenging circumstances and view them as situations that they can manage and handle together. You can use the tips below to help you work on discovering ways to more effectively cope with this pandemic. 

9 Tips to Bring you Closer Together:

  1. Remain Curious-When your partner and you are discussing issues, try to remain curious and open to hearing each other. When you are actively listening to your partner, you, in turn, will feel more heard and understood. If you can listen to understand, instead of listening to respond, your conversation will feel closer. 
  2. Emotional and Physical Closeness-Look for opportunities to understand your partner’s emotional needs and wants and reach out for a hug or back rub. In conflict, if you can reach out to your partner and touch his hand and say, “I love you and I want to work out this situation,” you will be able to stay more connected. 
  3. Small Acts-Imagine that you have an emotional bank account out of which you make withdrawals and into which you put deposits . Think of small acts of kindness like deposits into your emotional bank account. 
  4. Conscious Relationship, not Cruise Control-When you take steps to actively and intentionally think positively about your partner, these actions will influence how you interact with each other. When a relationship is on cruise control, you may make assumptions about how your partner acts, feels and behaves and automation increases your likelihood for misunderstandings and miscommunications.  But if you dial your relationship up to the conscious level, asking each other questions such as, “How do you feel?” or vocalizing concerns like “I’m wondering if you are feeling upset right now,” then you can nurture your connection.
  5. Look For Agreement-When you are fighting, you may focus on the negative and notice only your differences. Instead, look for your similarities and what you agree on; focusing on those aspects in your discussion will lead you to feel closer together.
  6. Apology-Using empathy when you apologize will improve your conversation because your partner will feel understood and heard. Also, when you say “I’m sorry” and apologize for your part of the misunderstanding or argument, this will repair the hurt. 
  7. 2 Perspectives-If you and your partner understand that you both have your own perspective on any situation, then you can leave behind the need to be right and prove your point.
  8. Laughter-Humor, having fun and being light is important in any relationship. It is especially during this pandemic, when the tension might be high and frustrations are occurring.
  9. Creativity-You can ask yourselves, “How can we make the most of this time during COVID-19?” For example, if you are together in quarantine, you can learn a new activity together, or you can plan an activity you’ve put off for months, such as painting a room or organizing a closet. If you are apart and cannot see each other, then try planning a dinner date night on Zoom (I know it’s not the same as being together), sending each other small gifts (who doesn’t like receiving an Amazon box at their door?), or writing love letters to each other. Be creative and discover new ways of connecting and spending your time together or apart. 

COVID-19 has brought many couples together and torn many couples apart. Depending on your perspective and mindset, you can decide which direction your relationship moves. Also, when you learn the nine tips to bring you closer together, you are more present and create a more conscious relationship. 


Lisa Rabinowitz

Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC is a certified Gottman therapist working with couples in the US and internationally. Lisa has worked for many years with couples who have both diagnosed and undiagnosed ADHD. Her certifications and experience uniquely qualify her to support couples with relationship challenges that often feel insurmountable. Please reach out for a free 20-minute consultation with Lisa today.

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