We all learned in high school physics the difference between centripetal forces and centrifugal forces. It might be useful to consider these two forces when considering the impact of the Coronavirus on modern-day couples.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, a centrifugal force tends to urge a thing outward away from a center of rotation. In contrast, a centripetal force is directed inward toward the center of rotation.
It is my view that couples will respond to the crisis in one of two ways: either by coming together i.e., acting as a centripetal force or coming apart i.e., acting as a centrifugal force!
The new relationship challenges
In these tough times, you could be wondering, how to go about keeping love alive in a relationship?
Well, working through relationship problems amidst the newfound relationship challenges posed by these unsolicited circumstances, could seem to be quite a task.
But, I hope that the insights shared in this article can help couples meet the challenges of marriage posed by the Coronavirus, make relationships work, and have a stronger marriage as a result.
There are undoubtedly many difficulties associated with being married during this pandemic. Couples who have children at home may be wrestling with disgruntled kids, sleepless nights, and work schedules disrupted by a stay at home orders.
Other couples may be dealing with serious economic threats caused by layoffs and reduced paychecks. Still, other couples may be challenged by being quarantined with a mate from whom they have grown distant from or, even worse, actively dislike.
These are scary times, in many ways, unprecedented in the modern world. The horrors of COVID 19 are terrifying and real. However, there may be a silver lining in the crisis.
It is forcing all of us, everyone on this planet, to slow down. Yes, to come out of this crisis successfully and to stay married, embrace the change, although temporarily unpleasant!
A few self-evident truths
We know that all of us have different sets of relationship challenges, but more importantly, we need to focus on the solutions than the problems.
It is indeed difficult to stray away from the effects of the recently uncovered relationship challenges, but we all need to make a deliberate effort to make our relationships survive.
While the first order of business is for couples to stay safe and keep their loved ones safe, and while the second order of business is to stay afloat financially.
The third order of business is to figure out how to respond creatively to this drastic change in circumstance and lifestyle.
A few truths are self-evident:
Couples whose fundamental marital bond is stable will weather the crisis better than those whose previous lives together have been acrimonious or detached
Introverts will do better than extraverts with forced isolation and social distancing
Well-to-do families will cope better than those struggling paycheck to paycheck
Beyond these evident truths, however, it becomes more difficult to predict with any accuracy which couples will be resilient and which will not, while tackling relationship challenges.
Looking at the brighter side
John F. Kennedy erroneously claimed that the Chinese symbol for crisis meant two things: danger and opportunity. While it turns out that this is not the case (i.e., this is not what the symbol means), the concept still has great merit.
In our pre-virus busyness, most individuals did not make time to feel their feelings.
Many couples with whom I work are now taking walks together, bingeing on Netflix together, or enjoying home-cooked meals together.
Some are using their found time to clean parts of their house that have been ignored for years while others are deepening their connection with their children. The found time is a gift even if it comes at the high cost of profound anxiety and fear brought on by a virus with no current cure.
Handy tips to tackle the relationship challenges
There could be a few couples who might be finding it really tough to keep up with the problems and might be contemplating on how to keep their relationship going.
For the couples who find themselves arguing more during this pandemic, I would suggest they employ a few of these techniques to effectively deal with their relationship challenges:
Agree to disagree if you can’t find a workable compromise. There is no limit on agreeing to disagree if it helps de-escalate power struggles.
If your partner’s habits are driving you crazy, imagine they had the opposite trait. For example, if your mate’s slovenliness in getting on your last nerve, imagine that your spouse was a neat-freak who was on you constantly to pick up after yourself.
Be grateful that you are not alone during this period. The CoronaVirus is every single person’s nightmare.
For more tips on how to find happiness in your marriage, watch this video:
There will be a time in the future when our lives will return to normal. Perhaps that time will only come in a year or two when a cure and vaccine are found.
But in the meantime, we must exert control over the parts of this crisis we can control…washing our hands, practicing social distancing, and cherishing the beauty of our family while taking advantage of a unique opportunity to live in the present moment.
For committed couples, this time of societal pause is a once in a lifetime chance to rediscover what brought you and your partner together years ago when you said your vows.
It is a once in a lifetime chance to find new ways to connect more deeply. It is a once in a lifetime chance to breathe deeply and appreciate the beauty of the planet we inhabit.
It is worth the effort to use this catastrophic health crisis as a time to come together rather than to come apart.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Dr. Alexander is a licensed psychologist specializing in the treatment of couples. He has been a couples therapist for the past thirty five years. Dr. Alexander is also an internationally acclaimed educator and public speaker. He holds the distinction of being the first psychologist in North Carolina to become a Full Professor of Family Medicine at the UNC-School of Medicine. He has written several books and multiple professsional articles on the use of cinema as a teaching tool and originated the Google search engine word: cinemeducation.
He approaches couple therapy in a multi-faceted manner, drawing on narrative, family of origin, solution focused, Gottman and emotional focused couple therapy techniques. He has developed a unique approach to couple therapy called the Couple's Pyramid which is tool based and sequential, addressing (in order) the key couple issues he routinely encounters in his practice, namely commitment, consciousness, communication, conflict resolution and connection. He attempts to individualize couple therapy to meet the unique needs of each couple, whether it be having a safe place to talk, learning specific skills such as emotional granularity and introducing novelty into the relationship or bolstering positive regard. One of the most powerful aspects of his practice is the use of cinema to teach couples important aspects of coupling such as: resolving interpersonal wounds, working through infidelity, managing conflict or understanding the key role of emotional expression in intimacy and sexuality. He also makes creative use of metaphor, paradox and story in his practice to help clients understand key aspects of optimal relationship function.