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How a Counselling Therapist Can Help Couples Manage Relationship Stress During COVID-19

Even if clients are in the healthiest of relationships, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic can still bring its share of challenges. Many couples are simply not accustomed to spending this much time together (Boissiere, 2020). Financial strain and other stressors can also put added pressure on couples. This can be even more anxiety-inducing for couples who were already experiencing issues prior to quarantine, particularly as they are constantly in close proximity (Boissiere, 2020). According to some experts, “Data out of Hubei province in China suggests there has been a large increase in divorce filings after the quarantine… and there’s been some anecdotal evidence out of Europe that some divorce filings there are also increasing.” (Yoshida-Butryn, 2020)

While constantly being in close quarters with one’s partner during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus can put added stress on the relationship, there are ways for couples to navigate the situation. Keep reading to learn more about how to help clients manage stress in a relationship during this pandemic.

Remind Clients That Negative Emotions Will Only Hurt the Relationship

As COVID-19 continues to cause uncertainty and fear among many people around the world, it is unsurprising that this can impact one’s mood. However, to snap at one’s partner will do more harm than good. Thus, it’s important to remind clients to try taking deep breaths and resisting any impulse to be overly critical or hostile toward their partner (Boissiere, 2020). Neither member of the relationship should take blame for the situation, as the pandemic is beyond their control. As such, it’s important for couples to express their negative feelings in healthier ways, so that frustrations and fears are voiced as a shared problem to be overcome together (Raypole, 2020).

Couples should resist any impulses to lash out at their partner

Furthermore, you can encourage clients to try asking themselves questions about why they’re feeling these kinds of emotions, and bring them up with their partner to discuss respectfully, calmly, and openly upon identifying the root cause (Raypole, 2020). It’s also important to remind couples to make a point of practicing acts of kindness towards one another, such as saying “I love you” or other gestures that express how much they care for each other (Campbell, 2020).

A Counselling Therapist Can Also Emphasize the Importance of Alone Time

While finding space for oneself can be challenging during COVID-19, it remains incredibly important for couples to find a balance in their relationship, and make room for alone time as well as time together (Boissiere, 2020). A counselling therapist can help couples achieve this by suggesting methods through which they can cultivate that balance despite confinement. For example, you could encourage them to spend time in another area of the house, or opposite corners of an apartment, depending on their living situation (Boissiere, 2020). 

Alternatively, couples can practice certain activities—such as meditation or exercise—to not only give them some alone time, but also to alleviate negative emotions. They can also practice other activities to do by themselves, such as going for walks, listening to music, or reading (Raypole, 2020). Clients will need to be as kind to themselves as possible under these circumstances, so be sure to remind them of the importance of their well-being on a mental and physical level (Campbell, 2020).

Emphasize How Important it Is to Not Be Too Invested in the Future

During a crisis such as COVID-19, it’s perfectly normal to feel anxiety, especially with so much uncertainty exacerbating fears of what could happen in the future (Boissiere, 2020). However, clients must also remember that they are far from alone in their feelings, and that keeping such anxieties bottled up inside can add further unease (Raypole, 2020). Ruminating on how stress-inducing the pandemic is will worsen feelings of anxiety and cabin fever, so clients will be best served finding ways to make the crisis bearable—for example, avoiding discussing COVID-19 whenever possible—and to enjoy each other’s company in the face of unfavourable circumstances (Kasper, 2020).

Remind clients to focus on the here and now rather than future uncertainties

Therefore, it’s important for those with a therapist career to remind clients that taking things one day at a time may be the best course of action. That being said, it’s also worth reminding them that formulating a plan for the short term could be hugely beneficial, especially with regards to tasks like going to the grocery store, or homeschooling their children (Boissiere, 2020). In the meantime, tell clients to make each other’s safety their utmost priority, to check in with each other often about their feelings, and to work together to navigate the pandemic as best they can (Campbell, 2020).

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Works Cited

Boissiere, E. (2020, March 20). COVID-19 Lock Down: How To Manage Your Relationships In Tight Quarters. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikaboissiere/2020/03/19/covid-19-lock-down-how-to-manage-your-relationships-in-tight-quarters/

Campbell, K. (2020, April 24). 5 Tips for Couples During COVID-19. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/more-chemistry/202004/5-tips-couples-during-covid-19

Kasper, L. B. (2020, March 25). 6 Relationship Tips From a Therapist to Help Deal With COVID-19 Stress. Retrieved from https://thebolditalic.com/6-relationship-tips-from-a-therapist-to-help-deal-with-covid-19-stress-4a68c0250740

Raypole, C. (2020, April 17). You’re Going to Get on Each Other’s Nerves — Here’s How to Work Through It. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/coronavirus-pandemic-stress-anxiety-relationship

Yoshida-Butryn, C. (2020, April 16). Will self-isolating lead to more divorces? A family lawyer weighs in. CTV News. Retrieved from: https://bc.ctvnews.ca/will-self-isolating-lead-to-more-divorces-a-family-lawyer-weighs-in-1.4899373

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