In the seemingly never-ending age of COVID-19, many couples are experiencing an all-new and ever-changing set of challenges. Beyond obvious health concerns, the happiness and emotional security of marriages is threatened by countless unknowns that were not a part of daily life prior to the pandemic.
For instance, Danielle, 45, works in a nursing home and worries about getting the virus and bringing it home since many of her patients and co-workers have it. This makes her day-to-day life with her two young children and husband, Kevin, 47, stressful. She sometimes get overwhelmed with their requests for her to cook dinner, go places, and to purchase items for their home.
Danielle reflects, “I know that Kevin and our kids can’t really relate to the stress I feel walking in the door at night, but lately I just want to take a nap or chill and making dinner or listening to their needs is too much.”
Kevin responds, “When Danielle can tell us she’s had a tough day and ask for a break that helps us understand why she seems so annoyed. I’m happy to get dinner started and give her space. She’s trying to be more aware of her emotions and ask for support rather than snapping at us.”
In her recent article for PsychCentral.com, “A-B-Cs for Creating Safety in Your Relationship, Especially in a Pandemic,” Dr. Joy A. Dryer unpacks the ways in which she’s helping clients create “safety” at home through therapy and mediation. While her methods combine a “Psychobiologic Approach to Couples Therapy (PACT) with an interest-based Divorce Mediation approach,” Dr. Dryer’s “A-B-Cs” offer struggling couples a simple roadmap to emotional security in these troubled times. The following ABC approach can help couples cope.
“A” is for awareness. Essentially, Dr. Dryer believes that successful counseling and mediation rely on achieving a more complete understanding of “how you feel and what makes you feel that way.” As in any therapy-based journey toward emotional stability, the first step is taking — and owning — a personal inventory. Particularly in the unique circumstances created by the coronavirus pandemic, analyzing one’s feelings is central to overcoming the underlying issues causing conflict.
“B” is for behavior. Here, Dr. Dryer’s outlines her belief that knowing your feelings will help you focus on how your actions affect your partner. As she puts it, “the ways two people treat one another — in words and actions — is their relationship.”
“C” is for consideration. Indeed, an emotional awareness and attention to behavior, will help couples in conflict be more considerate of one another. Turning the work of couples therapy and mediation outward, Dr. Dryer suggests that knowing ourselves — our fears, anxieties and aspirations — will help us learn how those emotions manifest, and how they impact our spouse.
In the example of Danielle and Kevin, once Kevin understood that Danielle’s anxieties about bringing the Coronavirus home and getting sick were making her irritable, he could be more supportive. In fact, they came up with a schedule where they’d get take-out one night during the week and he would cook the other nights so she could unwind and cook mostly on weekends.
Consideration is clearly a critical component of resolving strife and maintaining a happy home, even as the pandemic pushes each of us into emotionally uncomfortable territory. In short, Dr. Dryer writes that “we can learn to understand our impact on another, and anticipate it — in a word, to be considerate. We feel more safe when our words and behaviors are consistent and predictable, and we rely on others’ to be as well.”
Twitter, Facebook, and, movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s award winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website. Her new book The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around was published by Sounds True on February 18, 2020.
I’d love to hear from you and answer your questions about relationships, divorce, marriage, and remarriage. Please ask a question here. Thanks! Terry