Social distancing is causing a lot of stress for many across the state and country. Keeping yourself separated from people, even loved ones with whom you do not live with has been difficult for non-custodial parents. Many parents are missing scheduled time with their children. While some are stretching the rules of social distancing at the risk of extending the quarantine time, others are using video software or they are spending a few hours together outdoors to have some time together.
Many of the issues we are seeing are as temporary as the quarantine. You cannot easily fix some problems. We mentioned that there are many people who are quarantined with abusive spouses or parents. Issues of abuse started long before the quarantine. You can see our blog post here. If you are in an abusive relationship, there is help available.
For many couples, the quarantine has exposed issues that might not have otherwise been a problem. During regular times, people have work, time with friends, or they have their hobbies, such as going to the gym. Most of these things are not available to people, so they are at home all day and all night.
Add the heightened stress of knowing people who have been sick or have died, and the worry of possibly getting sick yourself, and things at home can get very difficult.
Right now, courts are still closed except for emergencies. No new filings are allowed at this point. The expectation is that once the courts start to open, there is going to be a flood of new cases across the whole system. It is expected that the new divorce cases are going to exceed the number that we would see through the course of ordinary events. The quarantine is going to force many couples to end their marriage. The stress of the quarantine is too much for some to handle.
For many, it is not too late, and there are things you can do to alleviate the stress of being cooped up at home with no real end in sight.
Have Date Night At Home
Even though everyone is at home, everyone is busy with work or school. Household chores seem like they never end. By the end of the day, people are exhausted from a busy day. They are also frustrated because they can't do something as simple as going out to get a coffee and a bagel from the corner store.
Once a week, couples should devote at least a few hours to being alone with each other. Not alone in the way we have seen with the quarantine with every person in a different room. Be alone without the kids sharing a meal, a drink, or even a cup of tea and just enjoy each other's company. You can have a date night without the worry of a babysitter or who is going to take care of the dog.
Make it a regular thing. The best part is that since for most of us, at this point one day is just like the next, you don't have to wait until Friday or Saturday. Tuesday works just as well. Make it a regular thing. Don't talk about the kids, the bills, or the need to bring the dog to the vet.
Be available for each other and watch for signs of needing to connect
The ironic part of being stuck at home together is that while we are all together for unprecedented amounts of time, people are feeling more lonely than ever. They miss their friends, the office, the usual interactions of their day. People are stressed and afraid. Couples need to connect now more than ever. For many people, they are not likely to just come out and say they need support or a hug or even intimacy. Signs can be verbal or non-verbal. They can be as subtle as an expression, or a quick physical touch. A sign of needed support can be masked in your partner asking how you are feeling, or randomly starting a conversation. Sometimes a sign can be obvious and direct, such as saying that the news has them feeling very overwhelmed and scared.
In a time when we have more time together than ever before, make sure that some of that time is positive and high-quality.
Acknowledge each other's stress, depression, or anxiety
Before we get into this part, everyone feels depressed or anxious sometimes. However, depression and anxiety are mental health conditions that need to be diagnosed and treated by mental health professionals. Anyone who is suffering should seek medical attention.
When people are feeling high levels of stress, or you are suffering from depression or anxiety, it is difficult to focus on anything other than that stress, depression, or anxiety. Often people suffer from all three at the same time. These issues make it difficult even to get dressed or face the day. If one partner is prone to any of these issues, the other can take on additional responsibility and care for the spouse that is suffering. If both spouses are having the same problems, then things can be challenging.
When a person is depressed, they can't snap out of it just by putting a smile on their face. Anxiety doesn't subside by a simple force of will, which is not there anyway. With a constant flow of news and social media, information about the pandemic is a continuous source of stress.
For people who are suffering, they don't need tough love or be told to snap out of it. They need empathy. Many people who do not suffer from these conditions, they feel that empathy means they are enabling a behavior. Depression and anxiety are not behavior. They are mental illnesses, and by definition, they are irrational. When things get to be too much to handle, they might lash out. It is essential to know that while you might be the target of their yelling, they are not yelling AT you. They are venting pent up emotions. While it is difficult, stay calm and do not engage or respond with anger or more yelling.
A partner who is suffering should come to you rather than the children who will internalize everything and think they did something wrong when they didn't. Since they are directing their frustrations at you, they are most likely not mad at you. In actuality, it means that they trust you. It is important to return that trust with an empathetic ear and just let them get it out and do not respond to it. It might seem like the hardest thing in the world, but when they calm down, they will realize what you did for them, and they will appreciate it. Sometimes the best response is no response at all.
Go to bed at the same time
Going to bed at the same time is not an allusion for intimacy. The simple act of getting ready for bed and being in bed together is a special thing on its own. You could each be reading, watching TV, or writing in a journal. By being together, a conversation may arise, or you might cuddle while reading or watching TV. Being together shows support for each other and ends the day intimately and positively.
After a day of work and stress, ending the day on a positive note causes the next day to start right, and some of that built-up stress of being quarantined can begin to subside.
Many of the issues of the quarantine will subside when restrictions are lifted. For many, the problems are beyond being fixed by a date night and an empathetic ear. The marriage has run its course, and the quarantine was the pressure test that caused the final and irreversible break. If that is the case, then TDC Family Law is here to help you get through the difficult transition.