Pandemic Relationships

Now that many people are stuck at home together, a few relationship tips might be helpful.

Remember the three basic categories of care: self-care, couple-care and family-care. Try to find time to attend to each category.

As individuals, we all need varying degrees of social and alone time. Honor each other’s different needs and try not to take it personally if your partner wants to take a solitary walk around the block or sit behind a closed door for a while. Later you can walk or sit together.

If nerves become frayed while trying to balance family and work responsibilities, remember that the key to success is to attack the problem, not each other. Keep your lines of communication open by being kind and respectful to each other. Empathy and gratitude go a long way in healing or, best of all, preventing hurtful words.

Try to have your days somewhat scheduled so that everyone understands what the expectations are for work and/or school. Structure helps to mitigate assumptions and keep everyone informed. The schedule can include “quiet time” where all electronics are turned off. Read books or play board games. Use the new state of affairs to reclaim family dinner time, something the electronic age has largely robbed us of. Get everyone involved in domestic chores such as preparing and cleaning up after dinner or doing laundry.

A crisis tends to either bring people closer together, or push them apart. Use your new-found physical proximity as an opportunity to discover the art of family closeness and conversation. Don’t retreat into the virtual world of electronics where the personal touch of life tends to evaporate. Take advantage of the time by actually living and loving as a family.


“If Americans can be divorced for “incompatibility of temper” I cannot conceive why they are not all divorced. I have known many happy marriages, but never a compatible one. The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when incompatibility becomes unquestionable. For a man and a woman, as such, are incompatible.” – G.K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong With The World

Couples that come to me for help often are struggling with their differences. Many are under the illusion that a happy relationship demands compatibility. “We’re just too different,” they will assert. They become stuck in a cycle of disappointment because they believe they must be more alike in order to love each other and appreciate each other. They ask themselves, “Why can’t my spouse think like I do?” They miss opportunities to learn from each other and grow. They hold their differences in contempt rather than embracing and respecting them.

Often, what partners are really seeking is empathy. They are mistaking a desire for empathy as a desire for “sameness.” In reality, it was their differences that likely attracted them to each other in the first place. Now, due to lack of empathy and contempt, those attractions have become annoyances. They allow their disappointments to wound their friendship. Hence, they can’t “fight through” as a team and survive their incompatibilities.