It comes as no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted marital and romantic relationships. While some couples are finding a renewed sense of closeness and companionship, others are facing tremendous challenges.

As a therapist for FEI Behavioral Health, I know firsthand that many individuals and couples are seeking marital or couples counseling due to the added stresses and tension brought on by COVID-19. Along with the pandemic’s health concerns and losses, the need to quarantine has created many addition challenges for couples, including the following:

  • Social isolation and loss of support systems
  • Lack of privacy and previously used outlets for stress
  • Financial hardships
  • Stress over medical concerns
  • Changes in household and parenting duties
  • Disruptions in childcare and children’s schooling
  • Changes in employment and professional responsibilities
  • Spending more time together, often in confined spaces

The pandemic has also exacerbated underlying problems, making it difficult for couples to refrain from being critical or defensive. Legal Templates, a company that provides legal documents, noticed a 34 percent jump in the number of people seeking divorce documents during the first three months after the pandemic’s arrival than during the same period last year.

To help reduce the conflict and tension within your relationship, some couples have found the following suggestions helpful.

  • Focus on the big picture.
  • Maintain open communication and dialogue.
  • Try to “keep things light” and look for humor.
  • Schedule time to focus on one another and reconnect.
  • Make mindful decisions that positively impact your partner and relationship.
  • Acknowledge your shared stressors and tension.
  • Apologize when needed without letting problems build up or fester.
  • Have daily “check-ins” where you discuss your needs.
  • Remember the importance of alone time.
  • Maintain daily routines to foster predictability and structure.
  • Focus on “the little things,” including simple gestures of kindness.

This is a stressful time for all of us, and it’s important to realize that everyone needs compassion and patience, including ourselves and those closest to us. If you’re struggling with relationship difficulties, couples counseling can be a much-needed resource and can often be accessed with an employee assistance program, or EAP.

If you have an FEI EAP, you can receive marital or couples counseling free of charge. Therapists can support both parties in an unbiased and neutral way and help you formulate steps to move forward. Confidential sessions can be facilitated in person or virtually to accommodate current safety protocols.

Keep in mind that if you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, it’s important to seek immediate help. The  National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1.800.799.SAFE (7233), is accessible 24/7 and reminds us that “everyone deserves healthy relationships.”