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How do we make decisions and live our lives right now when we are still in the middle of a pandemic AND my spouse’s comfort level regarding risk versus safety is different than mine?

When COVID-19 first made its appearance in the United States, we experienced lockdown as we quarantined. But now it has been in our lives and thoughts for months and many people are ready for a sense of normalcy.

As the phases of reopening begin, some people are eager and some are not so eager to resume activities they used to enjoy. Remember, you and your spouse make the rules and set the tone for your family. But what if you and your spouse don’t agree on the level of risk you are willing to take? What does “getting back to normal” look like for your family?

The New Normal

We don’t have a clear picture of the new normal. We rolled with the quarantine and lockdown; events, ceremonies and activities were lost, like graduations, proms, weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, family celebrations, vacations and more. Then there were things gained, like more family bonding time as we had more time for conversations, playing board games, taking walks, riding bikes, cooking more homecooked meals and much more.

At the beginning of COVID-19, we heard the saying “we are all in this together” a lot. Yes, we are all in this storm but we are in different boats. We all live in different circumstances and see life from our perspective. Many factors affect our perspective…

  • How were the relationships before COVID-19 with the people living in my house? Can I quarantine with them for a period of time?
  • Am I an introvert or an extrovert and need the energy from others?
  • Am I ok staying in and ordering groceries or do I need to get out and do something?
  • Did my job stay the same, with the same income or did my income decrease or did I lose my job?
  • Do I need childcare or is my child at the age where they can be self-sufficient so I can go to work?

These questions are just some of the different factors that can affect family decisions.

In Florida, the joke is… the most normal thing in 2020 has been hearing that a hurricane is coming. Wow, powerful, sad. This has been a wild year so far!

What do we do now?

Summer ended in Florida with the start of school. A beginning to a school year that we could never have imagined. Parents, teachers and kids were concerned all summer about, “What is school going to look like?” “What am I hoping for?” “What am I comfortable with?” Online, hybrid or face to face, there are pros and cons to each. In some counties in Florida the decision was made for us. In Broward County this was the case for public school and it is currently all virtual. But not all decisions are made for us, some we need to make. So that means we need to address the important topic of, what does life look like for our family during a pandemic? How can I navigate the conversation with my spouse in a productive way?

Six Tips for Handling the Disagreements you are having as a couple due to the stress of COVID-19

1. COMMUNICATE

Share your feelings and thoughts with your spouse in a time of calm. A time where there are no distractions and you can focus on each other and the topic. Take turns speaking. Do not speak over the other. Listen to hear, to truly hear your spouse’s concerns and opinions. Discuss the cost versus benefit for the activity. Is this high-risk or low-risk and what are your thoughts? Share the answers to these questions… What is your comfort level of safety versus risk? What is happening to my /your/children’s mental health? Talk about where you live, is it a hotspot? In South Florida, we are a hotspot and for many couples that will be considered when looking at options.

Some suggested topics to discuss that are unique to the pandemic are…

  • Feeling safe- How do we weigh safety versus risk for the decisions we need to make?
  • Socializing- Do we find likeminded families to start spending time with? We are starting to feel pressured to accept invitations from friends and family, what should we do?
  • Groceries and Restaurants- Does only one person in the family do the shopping? Do we want to order groceries? Do we feel it is necessary to clean our groceries? Should we order in, go to a restaurant and sit outside or are we ready to eat inside a restaurant?
  • Vacations- Are we ready to go on one? What type of accommodations/activities are we comfortable with? Do we visit relatives, go with friends?
  • Doctor appointments- What are we comfortable with (teeth cleaning, eye doctor, etc.)? How do we weigh what is priority and what might need to wait?
  • Sports and Activities- What sports or activities are we comfortable with?
  • School and/or day care- Are we ready for in person?

Share what your gut is saying. If you are hesitant or having a feeling or reaction, trust yourself and share that with your spouse.

2. UNDERSTAND

Showing understanding, giving your spouse the room to share what they feel and empathizing with your spouse’s worldview will connect the two of you, even though you differ. As you are listening and hearing their feelings, sit in their perspective so you can understand, be patient and kind, do not judge or criticize.

3. VALIDATE

Let your spouse know that you are hearing their concerns and respect that you might differ on your opinion but you are each entitled to have one and your opinions are of equal importance.

4. SEEK COMMON GROUND

Make a chart of the things you are each flexible on and inflexible. Look for the grey areas but be clear with your expectations and boundaries. Do you need to take things slow, what are you ready to try?

5. CREATE A TEMPORARY SOLUTION

Based on the conversation, can you come up with a temporary compromise? One that can change with a future conversation if one or both of you find what you decided is not working.

6. CHECK IN OFTEN

Set a time once or twice a week, to sit down just the two of you and check in. Keep in mind, practice makes perfect so learn and reevaluate for next time.

TALK TO A PROFESSIONAL

If you and your spouse are at odds with the level of risk and can’t come to a temporary compromise, seek support. Don’t let the pandemic stress cause a rift in your relationship. Contact me, I can help.

In an effort to help ensure safety, minimize risk and help with one safety versus risk decision, online therapy is available for Florida residents. Online therapy is a safe, convenient way to get the support you need. I am wishing you safety, good health and open lines of communication.

Your Relationship Expert,
Michelle