Making marriage work can be challenging under normal conditions, but throw in a pandemic leading to a lockdown, along with economic uncertainty and possible health issues, and the marital relationship can seem downright impossible!
The arrival of COVID-19 has turned our world upside down in more ways than one. As we were educated on the health issues that would arise and the precautions that needed to be taken, we tried to prepare for them as best as possible. We were much less prepared for the resulting economic collapse that has left many families, businesses, and governments scrambling to try to make ends meet and keep the country moving forward.
How a Pandemic Affects Relationships
One of the more insidious and unexpected elements of the pandemic fallout has been its deleterious effect on relationships. Couples and families have suddenly found themselves quarantined together 24/7. Additional responsibilities, such as homeschooling or new household roles, have been thrust upon people simultaneously dealing with the learning curve of working from home. Individuals are learning more than they ever expected or wanted to know about both themselves and their spouses. Living in close quarters can bring out the worst in anyone.
This national crisis is particularly stressful because of its multi-faceted attack on our normal lifestyle. Many people are plagued with worry about their own health or that of a loved one. If a relative or friend gets sick or is hospitalized, we are unable to visit. If the worst happens and that loved one dies, we are unable to attend a wake or funeral. New areas of the economy continue to be impacted by the coronavirus every week, with unemployment rates going up, small businesses going under, and investment losses drastically altering retirement plans. Job loss and financial difficulties are a huge source of stress in any marital relationship.
With so much uncertainty existing and the pace of economic recovery still up in the air, everyone is on edge. It can be tempting to take out our frustrations and fears on those closest to us, saying things we do not mean. We are unable to escape to the gym as an outlet, or go for a walk with a friend to vent. Those who have children have the sudden added responsibility of overseeing their schoolwork and keeping them constantly entertained. This scenario can create a recipe for disaster for marriages that are not solid.
Doctors describe “trigger events” that can set a body down the path of disease or sickness. A person may be predisposed to a certain condition but not exhibit any symptoms until a trigger (such as pregnancy, unexpected stress, or an injury) occurs, at which point s/he goes downhill quickly. The same can be true of relationships. A marriage may not have been healthy for a while, but the two parties may not have been aware of the decline or have not wanted to address their issues. The arrival of this virus has served as a “trigger” for many spouses, bringing their former denial or avoidance to the surface and forcing them to realize that they have some big problems. As a fault line appears in the relationship, couples are forced to make a decision to either put some hard work into the marriage to save it, or else to end it.
How Marital Mediation Can Help
When couples realize that their relationship is in trouble but are not yet at the point of wanting a divorce, they can be helped tremendously by Marital Mediation. This is not the same thing as therapy or counseling. I am not a trained therapist; I am a Mediator. The difference is that instead of digging into each spouse’s past, looking at their parents’ marriages, or analyzing why they do what they do, we instead concentrate on the present issues at hand. I ask questions to learn about what situations cause conflict or make one or both parties uncomfortable or unhappy. Spousal dissatisfaction is not necessarily obvious but could still be there. After identifying the root issues, we discuss ways to adjust both behaviors and reactions to make the marriage work. My goal is to help the couple learn how to express their true feelings constructively so they can resolve issues in a way that preserves the family unit.
Marital Mediation may also be helpful for couples who do not feel that a divorce is the right path, or who do not want to put their children or extended families through the pain of a divorce.
During Marital Mediation, I meet with both parties together to address their situation. The number of sessions will vary according to both the issues at hand and how quickly we can resolve them.
Common Marital Issues
While each couple is unique and comes with their own set of baggage, there are certain scenarios that I see regularly. Couples often have different approaches to child-rearing, and the challenges of meshing those different approaches sometimes cause people to think they are too different to be married. That is not always the case. Another common scenario is having differing attitudes toward money, such as contradictory spending, saving, and earning habits. While spouses may not be able to change their attitudes in these areas, we may be able to work together to find strategies for accommodating those differences.
We may not all be on the front lines in the current fight against COVID-19, but we are all certainly being affected by this war against an invisible enemy. If you feel like your marriage is under fire and needs some resuscitation, contact me to schedule Marital Mediation sessions.