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Managing Relationship Challenges in the Age of COVID-19


Linda: In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are being presented with a big opportunity to take a crash course in conflict management. Here are some examples of strong differences that people are dealing with that I have spoken with just in the last week. Their original conversations may have been flooded with emotion, but they stayed with their process to find common ground.

Examples of differences:

 Supermarket: Claudia wants to continue to go into the supermarket to buy food. Her husband Marty wants to have food delivered. She continues to go to the market, wears a mask and gloves and washes everything down with disinfectant when she brings the packages into the house. They continue to dialogue with respect.

Roommates: Two weeks ago, Douglas flew back from Vietnam to his apartment to be reunited with his two roommates. The roommates feared he had gotten infected during his trip or on the plane and asked him to stay in his room for two weeks. He sequestered himself as requested, but after a week he was stir crazy and lonely, and the roommates agreed he could come out. They’re all fine now. They are constantly reassessing with new information.

Going for a walk: Lydia is more apt to follow the rules and says “We’ve been instructed to stay home, so that’s what I’m going to do. And I’d like you to stay in too.” Chad says,” I have to go out walking to keep my exercise program going.” They compromise when he agrees to go walking early in the morning when there are fewer people out and agrees to wear rubber gloves and a mask.

Going to work: Patsy works in a supermarket where she is not allowed to wear rubber gloves or a face mask. Jason says, “Don’t go to work, it’s too risky.” She says, “People need their groceries and we need the money.” He is so distressed that Patsy finally quits the job.

Riding the bus: Jeremy is a tax accountant, still going to his job, taking the bus to work. Lydia says, “The tax filing dates has been extended to July. You don’t have to go to work. He says, “I’m going to continue to go, but I’ll stop taking the bus and drive to work.”

In all these cases, at first, there was a high level of tension in their dialogue, but they keep the conversation going as things changed. Because of their spirit of good will, they were able to negotiate an agreement that both could tolerate. These days, the normal differing points of view are more emotionally laden because of the added component of getting ill or even dying. Feelings are running higher because of the stress. The key is to stay as calm and resist the temptation to blame as much as possible. When you take on the challenge to up-level your negotiation skills, you:

  • Learn to speak from our experience rather than opinions
  • Expose our vulnerability and fears to each other
  • Listen to each other with deep respect
  • Take time outs to calm down
  • Search for common ground

The conservative Vote Wins: We may not be a politically conservative voter, but this is a different challenge with a lot at stake. In these challenging times, the conservative one in the pair (about not going out, not having anyone come in, not shopping at the grocery store by having groceries delivered, not riding the bus, quitting that job that won’t let you wear a mask and gloves, walking early in the morning) could make the difference between getting sick or not. The conservative is the safe side to lean towards, so should be allowed more influence.

Opportunity for Meaningful Conversations: Vulnerable, heart-felt conversations like “I don’t want to get sick. I don’t want you to get sick. I don’t want to die. I don’t want you to die. These are the things I still want to experience in my life. I want us to work together cooperatively to stay safe for as many weeks or months as it takes. We can come through this stronger than before. If we take the crash course, we can come through the pandemic crisis Stronger at the Broken Places.”

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Managing Relationship Challenges in the Age of COVID-19


Bloomwork

Linda Bloom LCSW and Charlie Bloom MSW are considered experts in the field of relationships. They have been married since 1972. They have both been trained as seminar leaders, therapists and relationship counselors and have been working with individuals, couples, and groups since 1975. They have been featured presenters at numerous conferences, universities, and institutions of learning throughout the country and overseas as well. They have appeared on over two hundred radio and TV programs. Linda and Charlie are co-authors of the widely acclaimed books: 101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married: Simple Lessons to Make Love Last (over 100,000 copies sold) Secrets of Great Marriages: Real Truth from Real Couples about Lasting Love, and Happily Ever After...and 39 Other Myths about Love: Breaking Through to the Relationship of Your Dreams. The Blooms are excited to announce the release of their fourth book, That Which Doesn't Kill Us: How One Couple Became Stronger at the Broken Places. They live in Santa Cruz, California, near their two children and three grandchildren. To view our upcoming events and to sign up for our free newsletter, visit our website at: www.Bloomwork.com


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APA Reference
Bloom, L. (2020). Managing Relationship Challenges in the Age of COVID-19. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 2020, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/relationship-skills/2020/04/managing-relationships-challenges-in-the-age-of-covid-19/

 

Last updated: 16 Apr 2020
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network (blogs.psychcentral.com) prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.