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  • Isabelle Morley, PsyD

Conflict During COVID: Surviving the Pandemic with your Partner

Conflict with your partner doesn't have to end in tears. Use these tools to fight more effectively.

Many couples are finding that they are fighting more than usual. The stressors caused by COVID-19 such as quarantining, lack of consistent childcare, limited time with family and friends, new roles or routines, and financial worries, are a lot to shoulder for even the strongest of couples. If you find yourself arguing more with your partner, take a look at the tips below to reduce the frequency of fights and handle conflict more effectively.

Fighting more with your partner? The love of your life can become the loathe of your life if you focus on the negative and make every issue an argument. Take a moment to remember the reasons why you love your other half.

If your goal is to reduce how often you're fighting or how bad the fights are, take a look at the tips below. If you're still having trouble getting back on track with your partner, consider couples therapy. Many couples find that even a short period of therapy can help them make drastic improvements in their communication and conflict resolution.

Take a Tip from Elsa- Let It Go

Not every mistake or issue is worth the battle. However, you might have forgotten this after months of being cooped up together without much time apart. Whereas you might have overlooked small things like your partner leaving dishes in the sink or letting the recycling pile up, these minor issues might feel intolerable after 9 months of quarantining.

When your partner does something that irritates you- pause, take a deep breath, and remember this one simple fact: your partner is a person who is not perfect (just like you!) and they are not doing these things to intentionally frustrate you. Then think about how you would feel if your partner pointed out everything you did (or didn't do) that they find irritating and want you to change. Don't let every small annoyance become a talking point.

Ask Nicely

There are some behaviors you might need your partner to be aware of and change. Leaving a wet towel on the bathroom floor? Not a huge problem. Repeatedly forgetting to tell you when they have meetings and leaving you to take care of the kids, when you have your own work to get done? Now that's an issue that needs to be discussed.

When you need to make a request or share a complaint, be gentle and kind. This doesn't mean you can't also be direct, in fact, you should state your feelings or needs clearly so that there isn't a misunderstanding. But you'd be surprised how effective it is to start a conversation with love and warmth instead of assigning blame right out of the gate.

Instead of:

"I'm not your maid, you live here too! Why don't you ever do the dishes?"


"I know you do so much for us around the house, especially taking care of all the yard work so our garden looks great, but I'm starting to feel stressed by all the dishes in the sink every day and was wondering if you can make a bigger effort to keep the sink clear?"

Don't Attack

Even when you're angry at your partner, there's no need to attack. You may be justified in feeling angry, perhaps they did something that was really hurtful or inappropriate, but if you attack them with your feelings they will become defensive and won't listen. Research from the Gottman Institute has found that there are some common mistakes people make when trying to communicate while being angry, so do your best to avoid the ones listed below.

Try not to say what they "always" or "never" do ("You never empty the dishwasher!")

Don't criticize them as a person ("You're lazy!")

Resist the urge to generalize one mistake to their overall character ("You left your socks on the floor again, you're such a slob!").

Timing is Everything

Set yourself up for success by picking the right time to share a complaint. If it's something small then say it in the moment ("Hey love, can you put the package in the living room instead of at the foot of the stairs? I'm worried I might trip on it."), but if it's a bigger topic then make the effort to find the right time. Wait until you're alone and you have time, like when you sit down for dinner or while out for a walk.

Here are a few tips for when not to bring up a tough conversation. Don't do it when you're both hungry, exhausted, or walking out the door to get somewhere. Don't have the conversation right before bedtime when the kids are tired and fussy. Don't bring things up when one of you is really stressed or upset about something else. And most importantly, don't have a tough conversation if you're not sober. People are using more substances now due to COVID, but having a tough talk with your partner will probably go badly if one or both of you is intoxicated.

Still Fighting? Seek Help.

If you feel like you've tried everything and you're still fighting more than usual, it might be time to seek help. Many couples are struggling due to the sudden changes and new stresses from COVID-19; this is an incredibly challenging time for couples to navigate, so don't hesitate to find support if you need it.



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