There’s no denying that this is a stressful time for most couples. The coronavirus pandemic is causing drastic changes in relatively every aspect of your day-to-day life, which is hard to navigate on an individual level, let alone as part of a partnership. What’s more: You’re likely spending a whole lot more time with your significant other—like all the time, considering the shelter-in-place regulations that require you not to leave your home for anything outside of a trip to the grocery store or a walk for some fresh air.
While this constant together time and social distancing can bring your relationship closer, it can also be understandably tough on your romance. “Too much togetherness, without the usual breaks for going out to eat, getting together with friends, taking exercise class, and otherwise breaking your routine can lead to frustration, boredom and stress,” says Tina B. Tessina, PhD, psychotherapist and author of How to Be Happy Partners: Working It Out Together. “When you are isolated together, each partner’s stress can worsen the other partner’s mood, and the tension can bounce back and forth, accelerating as it goes.”
Needless to say, fighting more often than usual is almost expected—even for the strongest, most “in love” couples. And letting your qualms out verbally may actually be one of the best things you can do to keep your relationship healthy.
Here are some of the most common couple fights you and your partner might be having right now—and how best to resolve each one.
Fight: How best to prepare for the virus
Many couples are fighting over different responses to the coronavirus quarantine. “Often one partner wants to plan and stock up with supplies and hunker down and be safe, while the other partner minimizes the danger and wants to only shop day by day as heeded and doesn’t feel the threat of going outside for a walk,,” says Paulette Sherman, Psy.D., psychologist, director of My Dating & Relationship School. “This can cause resentment because the scared partner feels that the minimizer doesn’t care about their needs and feelings and that their cavalier attitude will put them at physical risk.” The best thing to do in these circumstances is to try to understand how your partner copes and why and to have a discussion to find a middle ground, according to Dr. Sherman.
Fight: Who gets to go shopping
When leaving the home is risky, partners may be fighting about whose turn it is to grocery shop, or run essential errands, according to Ili Rivera Walter, Ph.D. of CityCouples Online Therapy. One partner might feel that they’ll be more careful than the other under these circumstances and may crave control over the situation. The best way to remedy this conflict is to divide errands by preference, or to simply alternate who leaves the home. Also, Dr. Walter stresses the importance of acknowledging this anxiety as well as the genuine concern for each other’s health.
Fight: The need for personal space
Considering you’re together 24/7, one or both of you is probably dying for some alone time. This can be tricky when you live together, especially if you’re in a smaller home or apartment, but you still have options! You can go for a walk outside or try to carve out a space for yourself in the home that your partner can consider a “do not disturb zone.” “It may be the porch, the bedroom, living room couch or even time for a bubble bath, but working as a team with good will and clear communication can help with this,” adds Dr. Sherman.
Fight: Varying ways of dealing with fear
Partners have different defensive styles when afraid, explains Dr. Sherman. “Some may get more needy and may want comfort and support whereas others may need space and freedom,” she says. “These styles clash ,which can cause couple fights and make each other feel unloved.” In these situations, she urges couples to remember that people often act unconsciously during times of trauma. “We can learn to do things that make us feel loved like self care and getting our needs met in creative ways ourselves when our partner is too triggered to respond,” she adds.
Fight: Household responsibilities
If you’re both used to being out of the house, there are likely many chores that you don’t have to worry about as often, such as grocery shopping, doing laundry or cleaning the home. But now that you spend almost every waking second at home, a lot more builds up. Additionally, couples who rely on cleaning services now have to pick up the responsibility of cleaning. These situations will bring up issues related to division of labor; that is, who is responsible for what?” says Dr. Walter. “The best way to handle this conflict is to communicate about each role, as well as each other’s expectations for what will get done each day.”