IMPORTANT NOTE: Many of our therapists offer remote therapy via phone or a telehealth platform. You can use our search tool to find counselors who offer online counseling or you can reach out to any therapist on our registry to ask if they offer remote therapy, as many have begun to offer remote therapy in response to the pandemic. Click Here to Search For Online Counselors
Posted on 12/16/2020

How to Avoid Relationship Claustrophobia

How to Avoid Relationship Claustrophobia

How to Make Sure Your Relationship Survives the Pandemic

2019 saw America break a trend with the lowest divorce rate in 50 years. 14.9 of every 1,000 marriages ended in divorce according to the Census Bureau. However, the COVID-19 pandemic brought on a litany of financial, cultural, social, and most relevantly, relationship issues. 

From New York lawyers receiving desperate cold calls from clients feeling imprisoned in their relationships or China who saw an uptick as early as March with divorce lawyers, such as Steve Li at Gentle & Trust Law Firm of Shanghai, experiencing a 25% increase in caseload, 2020 has seen an unprecedented spike in divorce rates.

Even if COVID-19 were to suddenly be eradicated tomorrow, the negative effects and threats to our relationships can outlast the pandemic itself. If the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic is anything to go by, survivors and those affected by it experienced heightened levels of stress and psychological disorders one year after the outbreak as well as a 21% rise in divorce in 2004 within Hong Kong’s general population. 

While there can be an upside to staying at home and spending more time with your loved ones, the data points out that too much of a good thing can be bad.


Physical and Emotional Distance

Everyone needs their space. Pre-COVID, couples spent roughly 30 minutes in the morning together and between 2 to 3 hours after work. This means that couples spend a minimum of 12.5 hours and a maximum of 17.5 hours together during the workweek. Lockdown increased time spent together to 24/7, which exacerbated and accelerated any preexisting problems. The best way to combat the lack of space is to be intentional about not only time spent apart, but time together.

Every couple should commit to and respect the emotional and physical space that is created. One way this can be accomplished is by creating separate spaces throughout the home. For instance, having designated work, exercise, or hobby areas might create sufficient privacy for a person. If space is an issue, scheduling time for self-improvement or self-care might help as well. If there’s uncertainty on what could be done during this period, the next point can hopefully answer.

 

Take Care of Yourself

Taking care of yourself can mean a myriad of things. For one, taking care of yourself does not solely mean to coop up alone in a room and ruminate on one’s self-improvement. 

Socializing

Self-care also extends to the dimension of socialization. Of course, practicing social-distancing and CDC guidelines is still a must, but it is possible to reconnect with friends, family, and loved ones by means of phone call or video calling services. 

Journaling

Another effective means of self-care is through journaling. Journaling affords time alone, organization of thought, and most importantly, introspection. Without introspection, emotional denial can occur. In essence, emotional denial is a sort of self-defense mechanism where problems are avoided and unacknowledged. As mentioned in our previous article, avoiding problems is a surefire way to kill any relationship. Journaling has proved to be a mood enhancer, improve memory, reduce depression symptoms, and overall increase sense of well-being

Meditation

Meditation can compound the benefits that come from journaling as well as reducing negative emotions, reduce anxiety, fostering more imagination and creativity. Not to mention it is easy to meditate almost anywhere.

In the end, self-care is not only beneficial for yourself but for your partner as well.  Being more whole and more self-aware can also bring comfort and stability to the relationship. 

Even if you and your partner were able to independently achieve the zenith of mental and physical health, it would amount to nothing if there existed no communication...

             

Communication

Just because we’re in a pandemic, doesn’t mean all the rules of love and war would suddenly be upturned. Communication is still a tenet of any good relationship, but what needs to be communicated first has changed. The pandemic has resulted in some couples to lead lives of constant anguish and turmoil. Being under nonstop oppression will inevitably cause varying frequencies of coping. The trouble is every person has wildly different coping mechanisms and in order for these differences to be accepted, it first must be communicated. 

Your Own Coping Strategies

It’s good to first identify your own coping strategies. 

  • Is it healthy or unhealthy? 
  • Do you tend to exercise, use relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, use social support, or express whatever issues you are having? 
  • Or do you socially withdraw, self-harm, overeat, or sleep too little or too much? 

If you find that you or your partner are consistently employing these techniques, especially the harmful ones, communicating these ongoing changes will be far more conducive to a healthy relationship than criticizing someone for engaging in harmful behaviors. 

It’s important to understand that these are coping strategies that have been habituated and reinforced over the course of a person’s life. This can either be a situation a person can struggle through alone or an opportunity to strengthen the relationship by overcoming the problem together. 

A study has shown that it is not necessarily the subject of communication that yields high satisfaction in a relationship, but the method of communication a couple uses in tandem. Couples who engage in either high levels of constructive communication (communication with the goal of gaining an understanding of a person’s concerns or resolving conflict) and low levels of destructive communication (communication with the goal to either persecute the other party or win an argument) experienced both greater sexual and relationship satisfaction.

 

Lockdown is Not a Death Sentence

As toxic and claustrophobic that quarantine can be it is replete with moments for individual and relational growth. All the aforementioned methods for surviving this tumultuous time can only work if it is done alongside your partner. 

Creating emotional and physical distance, taking care of yourself, and communication are futile approaches to strengthening and saving a relationship if you or your partner aren’t willing to do the same. If you’ve found yourself in the unfortunate circumstance of burdening all the effort, this could be a sign that an outside perspective should be appointed. 

Before resorting to a separation, breakup, or reaching out to a divorce lawyer, take advantage of the range of available therapists. Even in the midst of the pandemic, there are telehealth options that can help you through your marital problems.


Written by Laxon Sumawiganda - A staff writer for The National Registry of Marriage Friendly Therapists. Laxon is a father, husband, psychology student, writer, musician and much more. You can read more of Laxon's thoughts by following our social media account, there are account links at the bottom of this page. We have experienced mental health professionals available in almost every state to help you address a wide range of issues that are affecting you and your loved ones. Click here to visit our homepage.

Contact This Member