Has being cooped up due to COVID-19 caused conflict in your relationship? If so, you’re not alone. Many couples are feeling an emotional strain on their relationship due to the stress of the coronavirus pandemic.
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Bickering, miscommunication, minor annoyances and the burden of being together 24/7 can lead to blowouts, lingering negativity and relationship stress.
Psychologist Scott Bea, PsyD, shares the best ways to resolve an argument.
Manage the fighting
For many couples, COVID-19 measures have resulted in spending a lot more time together. Being in the same house day in and day out can sometimes lead to arguments.
Dr. Bea encourages couples to take some time to cool off before coming back with a recovery plan after a disagreement. Try to go into another room or step outside on the patio for a quick break and fresh air.
“If we could notice that when we’re in the heat of an emotion, in a conflict, that’s maybe not the best time to absolutely resolve it, because we may say things that we regret or are hurtful,” he says. “If we could develop a plan on how we recover quickly after that, endorse similar values and interest in protecting one another by finding shared solutions – that would be ideal.”
What we do after an argument can have a lasting impact on the health of our relationships. In fact, there’s research that shows when people take action by apologizing or seeking outside help, their relationship fared better in the long run.
Dr. Bea warns that other behaviors, such as avoidance, can have the opposite effect.
“Things like criticism, defensiveness, contempt, stone-walling or a refusal to engage in problem-solving – if you notice those are growing in your relationship, you’ll want to take some steps if you value that relationship, and if you value being happy instead of being right,” he says. “Sometimes we have to humble ourselves and say there’s some things I can learn and some things I can modify.”
Conflict resolution takes practice and it’s not easy, but if we can dedicate ourselves to working on our skills or enlisting the help of a counselor, it can help.
You have to be willing to solve the argument
Dr. Bea says once couples start getting hostile or detached, it creates real problems and people have a hard time finding their way back.
“We’re reflexively human and we have to find ways to acknowledge that we might run off the rails a little bit, but we’re really interested in recovering,” says Dr. Bea. “We could practice ways of doing that or get some professional help if it’s really starting to become an interference in how you maintain intimacy in a relationship.”
It can be hard to know exactly what to do after a dispute, simply because problem-solving isn’t something that we typically rehearse.
Dr. Bea says those who are active in resolving conflict seem to recover quicker emotionally than those who use a passive approaches instead.
So sure, take some time to cool off after an argument, but don’t let your feelings fester and bubble over for the next several days. Work towards resolution with your partner, together. Your relationship will be better because of it.