With many working remotely at home, couples are forced to be in confined spaces together for long periods of time. Many are also already dealing with anxieties about the pandemic and the uncertainty this time brings. In addition, one or both partners may be struggling with a job loss. Financial worries are “a very big stressor,” said Dorf. “It can cause a lot of problems in relationships.”
One of the challenges of maintaining a long-term relationship, Dorf said, is keeping a balance between competing needs of security, support and reliability on one hand, and adventure, mystery and surprise on the other. In this time of being together 24/7, it’s difficult to achieve spontaneity when you see each other all day, every day. Couples should attempt to “create and keep some kind of space” whenever possible, said Dorf.
Conflicts between partners do happen, and during this time, it’s probably unavoidable. Dorf recommended that we take this opportunity to learn to be better communicators. There are bound to be complaints, but how you both raise a complaint and receive them are key. When you criticize someone personally, it triggers defensiveness, Dorf said. “If you focus on someone’s behavior, that’s something you can talk about and someone can hear,” she said.
Conversely, said Dorf, if your partner raises a complaint to you, try not to be resistant, but also don’t quickly jump in to fix it. Instead, just listen. Try to really understand," she said, "what is my partner really trying to say to me?”
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. If you are in need of emotional support, you can contact New Jersey Mental Health Cares at www.njmentalhealthcares.org to speak to someone right away or receive a referral to a mental health professional.
To learn more about Meryl Dorf and her practice, visit her website at www.meryldorfphd.com.