Relationships: Managing Conflicts With Your Partner During The Pandemic

Relationships take a lot of time and effort from the people invested in it. Along with reciprocating the feelings, what healthy relationships also need is adequate space and time to be yourself. Due to the current circumstances of a lockdown there is an unusual situation at home. If an individual is living with their partner, they are being forced to spend time with their significant other. Everybody perceives and reacts to difficult times in their unique ways. For certain couples this could be perceived as the much needed bonding time, whereas for the other people, these are trying times which are testing the limits of their relationships.

The need of the hour is to adapt to the new living schedule, work timings, communication styles, etc. Although it seems like the perfect time to discuss certain disagreements and reach a mutual conclusion. At the same time it’s also unavoidable for issues to resurface which have been suppressed for a long time. Other than the inevitable confrontations, which can be uncomfortable for a few people, this can also be construed as a bonding time for a few partners.

Due to being limited to the confines of the house, the partners in cohabiting relationships tend to depend on the other person for social, emotional as well as physical support. Certain incidents which have taken place in the past might seem more amplified in the current situation. Not having the right coping mechanisms or ways of dealing with stress could be spiralling downwards. Financial woes might also cause a rift between couples who haven’t had any bitter exchanges before this pandemic. Since it’s a new situation there is not enough knowledge of how to deal with these stresses. In these times it seems easier to resort to toxic patterns of being in relationships rather than using helpful coping mechanisms.

Here are a few pointers that could aid partners in relationships who are having a difficult time dealing with the lockdown:

1. Digging up the past: Constantly bringing up unresolved issues from the past is never a good idea. Especially during this time, it’s not the wisest decision either. Stress can ideally trigger the memories of the past, or the different coping mechanisms we have used in the past for similar situations. Talking or arguing when overwhelmed with emotions should be avoided.

2. Plan it out: Since extra help for house chores, cooking and cleaning are not available anymore, it will be of great help if the responsibilities can be shared equally by the partners. If both partners are working from home, preparing the schedule might be more difficult but it’s imperative that each person is contributing equally and is able to spend some time with themselves as well. In case only one person is working from home, the responsibilities still need to be shared but a bigger chunk of work can be voluntarily taken up by the individual who has a relatively empty schedule. Making the schedule collectively and keeping it either on the refrigerator or somewhere visible can also help with accountability.

3. Maintaining the intimacy: Due to the stress of work from home and chores the intimacy between the couple sometimes fades into the background. Since your significant other is the only physical presence around you, keeping the intimacy alive can do wonders for the relationship. If you’ve been feeling distant from your partner, plan a special candle light dinner or a small coffee date between the hours of work or after. These small acts of kindness can diffuse certain tense situations and make the other person feel important.

4. Creating realistic boundaries and spaces: Not all couples can survive staying locked in the same house. For certain people it might become extremely distressing. In such cases to avoid unnecessary arguments and fights, create your personal space around the house. The personal space is specifically dedicated to your work and alone time. Since we are already practicing social distancing you could use it at home as well by sitting in different areas of the house and different rooms. Invisible boundaries can also be created such as if you’re doing yoga or journaling, you’re taking some time off and you’ll not be indulging in any conversation.

5. Don’t personalise everything they say: Some days are easier to get through, the others not so much. On a few heavy work days or certain household hassles one person could get more irritable than the other. In moments like these verbal exchanges can get a little rough. Keeping in mind that whatever the other person says is not directed at you but is coming from a place of insecurity within themselves.

6. Schedule time for arguments: Scheduling works very well with dealing with problems on a daily basis. If you are in the middle of a fight and it is getting out of hand take a time out. Indulge in an activity which calms you such as soft music, cooking or watering the plants and schedule the argument for a later time in the day. Similarly if feel that a fight or an argument is imminent, schedule the time of the argument probably after finishing the chores for the day or a time that is suitable for the both of you.

7. Active Listening: During the conflicts between couples especially without a mediator, sometimes the primary response can be a reaction (stemming from an underlying emotion) rather than a practical response after actively listening to the other person’s perspective. Having a rational conversation with mindfully listening and responding can reduce the intensity of the fight.

8. Maintain the social support: Even if you’re not living with your family and friends, maintaining and nurturing your relationships outside the one that you have with your partner can provide you a safety net. Communicating with other people and getting a third person’s perspective into situations can also help with diffusing the tension.

9. Taking out time for self: Quarantining with a significant other doesn’t have to be all about the other person. One must take out some hours of the day to spend with self. Use the hours in journaling, listening to music, painting, cooking something you like, meditating or just sitting by yourself. In times like these self care can be immensely beneficial.

10. Appreciate and express gratitude: During these trying times being in quarantine with a person you love or your partner is a boon for some and a bane for the others. Nonetheless being grateful for the things and people you have can help through the phase of lockdown.

This could be a very sensitive period for a few couples. Creating your own space in the house will help center yourself and keep you more productive throughout the day. Conflicts and arguments are bound to arise because of the situation at hand, the pressure of work from home as well as the added house chores. However if the daily hassles and arguments start to affect you as an individual or the harmony at the place you live, you can seek out support from your family members through phone calls/ video calls or even avail counselling services which have been made available online.

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Six years ago, we started Karma Center for Counselling & WellBeing with limited ideas, resources and a dream. A dream of making mental health resources available in a sex positive, queer affirmative and accessible way to people in Delhi, since then we have seen growth and the ability to cater to our populations in the margins. It has been heartwarming to see our efforts go global over the years. What started small and has gained so much momentum as an organisation since then. It is with immense pleasure that I announce the launch of our new website!

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