Global pandemic, social isolation, and marital strife often go together.
Due to Covid-19, there is an increased risk of negative impact on mental health; however, with some perseverance, perspective, and discipline, couples can make the most of the forced shutdown brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
In this blog, I wish to address individuals who are living through quarantines with a heightened awareness that they no longer wish to be with their partners or worse are suffering physical, mental, or physical abuse due to the impact of increased stress on their family.
Despite the detrimental effects of isolation on couples, dealing with grief, managing mental stability, loneliness in marriage, and restoring emotional health is not impossible.
Effects of the coronavirus pandemic
It is not surprising that there have been many negative mental health effects of the coronavirus on individuals, couples, and families. In a recent survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly half i.e. 45% of adults in the United States said that their mental health has been negatively impacted by the stress over the virus.
Being in forced isolation with a partner you have lost respect for or lost a meaningful connection with over many years of marital decay or even worse a partner who treats you abusively is a set-up for depression, heartache, and, in some cases, suicidal ideation and attempts.
The effects of the Corona Virus on people are starting to become more evident. According to recent news reports, there has been:
A spike in divorce petitions in China and in particular in Wuhan Province following the easing of the virus outbreak there. Such a trend could soon play out in our country.
A heightened incidence of domestic violence since the start of the health crisis in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, where I reside. It would not be surprising to see this trend mirrored nationally in the months to come.
A spike in the incidence of nightmares as measured by a dream researcher. This, of course, is not surprising as dreams mirror our daily lives and often serve to remind us of anxieties we have been too busy to acknowledge in our waking hours.
But what of the psychological impact of the virus, on individuals who feel hopeless about their marriage and yet are in quarantine with their spouse?
My mother used to tell me that the loneliest people in the world are those who are in unhappy marriages.
She should know; in her first marriage, she was unhappily paired with an asexual architect, and in her second marriage, to my father, she was happily married to an amorous composer with whom she had four children.
Understanding the unresolved grief
For starters, it is wise, although perhaps counter-intuitive, to feel your feelings.
Many of us walk around with unresolved grief, living such busy lives that we suppress these feelings indefinitely or drown them in alcohol or other drugs.
While unresolved grief often has to do with losses such as a loved parent who has died, a close colleague who has moved away, an illness that limits our mobility,another type of grief is tied to the loss of the dream of being happily married.
Managing the unresolved grief
Feeling bogged down by unresolved sentiments? Looking for ways to manage grief?
The good news is that working through grief can take us to a place of acceptance and even joy when we emerge on the other side, beating the effects of coronavirus on marriage, health, and life.
Keeping a feeling journal,taking time to identify where in the body you are holding your grief, and feeling those sensations.
Talking with a trusted friend, being alone, and paying attention to your nightly dreams are all mechanisms that can help us experience and work through our grief.
Watch this video having tangible exercises you can do RIGHT NOW to help your anxiety via writing in a journal.
Once you feel that you are identifying and working through your grief, the next step is to figure out what you wish to do with your unhappy relationship.
Have you attempted to talk with your partner?
Have you been vocal enough to get their attention?
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.