Louisa Niehaus, psychotherapist and relationship expert, shares advice on how to manage your relationships during COVID-19. "This is an important time to pull together and draw on the unique strengths of your relationships. You will get through this. Together."
We love our loved ones, but sometimes they can drive us crazy. Even more so when you spend every waking moment together. That’s completely normal, Louisa Niehaus says, but it’s also essential that we treat each other with respect and kindness.
In her podcast, Louisa talks about a big elephant in a cramped room: How to manage your relationships during COVID-19 and during stressful times.
Listen to Louisa’s podcast here:
How staying at home can affect your relationships
Louisa explains how staying at home all day can affect your relationships. She kicks off the podcast by sketching out the following scenario:
“Does this sound familiar? Things seem impossible. My spouse is driving me crazy. Their anxiety levels are unbelievable. I feel like we’re in panic mode 24/7. Supermarket runs, social distancing, supply shortages, feeling out of control and fear of the future consume our every conversation these days. I am struggling to keep my sanity with all I have to deal with: children, schoolwork, work, household chores. I’m stuck in this house and I am miserable.”
“During these unprecedented times, we may have very little personal space,” Louisa explains. “We’re with our partners 24/7. Or some of us are living alone. It’s inevitable that cabin fever, conflict, differing opinions, an overexposure or underexposure to people will have an effect on us one way or another.”
Louisa says that for many people, being at home can open old wounds. “Before the lockdown we may have had traumatic or unresolved issues that we effectively contained and managed by engaging in day-to-day activities such as working, exercising or socialising,” she says.
“Staying busy every day kept us distracted and we could manage our immediate relationships by expending emotionally charged energy elsewhere. However, now this is not possible,” she adds. “We are confronted with not only our own issues but the dynamics of living with others while trying to cope with the uncertainty of this pandemic.”
How to manage conflict during COVID-19
Louisa says the combined stress of managing a household, trying to work from home, worrying about job security and our physical health is presenting us with a unique opportunity. “We are invited to take a crash course in conflict management.”
“The key is to stay calm and to resist the temptation to blame as much as possible,” she says. “When you take on this challenge to level up your negotiation skills, you need to learn to speak from experience rather than opinions. Expose your vulnerabilities and fears to each other. Listen to each other with deep respect and make sure that you’ve understood your partner.”
Louisa says if you’re having conflict with a partner or family member, take time out to calm down and search for common ground. “Remember that anxiety, fear and the close quarters of social distancing are bringing new challenges. Many of us are not used to spending so much time at home with our partners, even if there isn’t a virus in the mix. Love is 24/7, but usually our days together aren’t.”
10 ways to protect your relationship during COVID-19
Louisa shares 10 tips to help you navigate your relationships during this stressful period:
- Carve out time to be alone. Couples thrive when there’s a healthy balance between time spent together and time spent apart. When your partner asks for space, honour their request.
- Ground yourself using routines. Plan mealtimes, schedule exercise times and devote specific hours to work or hobbies.
- Develop simple plans together to tackle short-term activities like homeschooling your children, working from home, going to the shops or managing your medical needs. Take it one day at a time.
- If your partner is moody, lethargic, overly anxious or irritable, remember that in times of prolonged stress, mood swings are common. We’ve never faced COVID-19 before. Pay extra attention to their mood but don’t internalise it.
- Remember that no one is perfect.
- Practise kindness in the face of fear. Take a deep breath and step back from a situation.
- Practise gratitude. Remind yourself that your partner is doing their best, just as you are.
- Make a point to say please and thank you to each other, even for the smallest things.
- Bring in a bit of humour. Laugh and tell jokes when appropriate.
- Weather the storm together, and above all, try and be very kind to each other.
“You are not alone. The feelings you may be experiencing – fear, frustration, anger, anxiety, or something else – are all normal and okay,” Louisa concludes. “However, it’s crucial not to let your emotions dictate how you treat or react to your partner. This is an important time to pull together and draw on the unique strengths of your relationships. You will get through this. Together.”
ALL MEDICAL INFORMATION FOUND ON THIS WEBSITE INCLUDING CONTENT, GRAPHICS AND IMAGES, IS FOR EDUCATIONAL AND INFORMATIONAL OBJECTIVES ONLY. DISCOVERY HEALTH PUBLISHES THIS CONTENT TO HELP TO PROTECT AND EMPOWER ALL SOUTH AFRICANS BY PROMOTING A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF COVID-19.
The 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has caused an outbreak of fatal respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China. This is a completely new strain with no vaccines available. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus.
No country is immune to the spread of the Novel Coronavirus - officially named COVID-19 by the World Health Organization (WHO). The outbreak has reached pandemic proportions and been declared a global public health emergency.
As toddlers, we learnt to wash our hands. But, did we ever master the skill to the extent that is needed to wash pathogens off our hands, and save lives? Multiple studies show people don't wash their hands at the right times, in the right way or for the right amount of time. We contaminate the things and people we touch with the germs we carry on our hands.