Setting structure and boundaries in your relationship during COVID-19

If you're cooped up in the house right now with your spouse, it may not be feeling like the honeymoon phase for you. 

We talk with a couples therapist Dr. Jan Dworkin about how couples can survive this unprecedented time together. You can hear from her in the video player below. 

Some couples may be experiencing a rekindling of their romance, perhaps, with all the added time to reconnect. But all the loss, fear and uncertainty coming in from the pandemic certainly takes a toll on mental health. 

"Many people, unfortunately, haven't been trained or taught how to talk about their real feelings. So everyone's just saying, 'I'm under so much stress,' but nobody knows how to say, 'I'm angry. I'm scared. I'm irritated. I'm overworked.' So if you can't frame your feelings to your partner and tell them what's really going on under the surface, things get really tense at home."

She says she's seeing a lot more political fights happening at home, with the different government responses to the pandemic drawing out the political differences. 

Another big stressor in the relationship could be about media and news consumption. 

"Some people manage stress and discomfort and uncertainty by trying to get as much information as they possibly can about what's going on, whereas other people really need to put up boundaries. They can't take in another bit of information."

She recommends couples work on their boundaries in this time. 

"Understand that when we're trying to live so many parts of our lives in one space, you need to be able to put boundaries between the different experiences you're having. You need to create structures and boundaries between work time, self-care time, parenting care, time to work on the relationship and process conflict, time to have sexual intimate or erotic time if you're part of a couple that enjoys that. But if all of the things start to bleed into each other, tensions arise.

"So if a conflict comes up when you're supposed to be working, and all of a sudden you and your partner are processing a conflict in the middle of your workday, it's not helpful at all. Make a boundary and say, 'We'll deal with this later. I promise we'll get to it,' and separate the different parts of your experience."