Middle-aged couple laying side by side.
Middle-aged couple laying side by side.

How to maintain a healthy relationship during the coronavirus

This article is adapted from a piece previously published on Beyond Blue’s website.  

Beyond Blue’s Lead Clinical Advisor, Dr Grant Blashki, shares his tips on how to maintain a healthy relationship during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the coronavirus pandemic changing the way we live and creating unprecedented challenges in our day-to-day lives, it’s natural that our relationships may have come under the spotlight.

Even the most robust couples may be going through a rough patch right now – for various reasons. A considerable number of people are facing unemployment and financial instability as a result of COVID-19, while others are having to work from home alongside their partners. Meanwhile, our usual opportunities for socialising, date nights, romantic breaks away, and hobbies enjoyed outside of the house are out of the question at the moment.

While there is no magic recipe for making relationships work – and certainly not while navigating a global pandemic – family therapist Sophie Holmes summarises the importance of healthy relationships for our wellbeing:

“The urge for relationships, closeness and intimacy is built into the chemistry of our brains and bodies. And it’s true to say that healthy long-term relationships can provide us with meaning and a sense of hope and support during times of loss and difficulties.”

Humans have the ability to love and nurture, but we also have some destructive tendencies too. The added stress and strain the coronavirus pandemic is bringing into many people’s lives may be amplifying any existing cracks in any relationship or causing new ones to appear.

How to maintain a healthy, happy relationship

Understand the rhythm of your relationship. No two relationships are the same. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to finding your 'groove'. Are you the sort of couple that bottles things up only for emotions to explode all at once? Or perhaps there is an overflow of emotion, contributing to a volatile relationship? Knowing your relationship style can help you moderate how you communicate with each other.

Try to stay on the same team when life gets hectic and stressful. Couples learn to monitor each other’s stress levels and try to sooth and support each other in bumpy times. Realising when the other is going through a hard time and cutting them some slack is fundamental to showing you are there for them, through good times and bad. It’s completely understandable given the current situation if you are both feeling anxious and tetchy. Be kind to each other – and yourself -– and remember this time will pass.

Take the time to listen to your partner’s point of view. Avoid being dismissive or over-reactionary. If you have said or done something wrong, apologise early on and mean it. Try to focus on the idea that you are both not perfect but trying to act with good intentions – and that due to COVID-19 you’re navigating an extremely challenging chapter in your lives that neither of you can control. When times are as tough as they are now, do your best to try and avoid conflict altogether – be forgiving of your partner and yourself.

Give each other room to breathe. We all need some timeout from each other, and although this is easier said than done right now if you live with your partner, give each other the time and space to do things separately and independently on a daily basis.

The  relationships section  of the Beyond Blue forums contains a lot of valuable advice and personal stories from other people who are dealing with relationship issues.  Relationships Australia  is another great resource.

Disagreements are a healthy part of family life. However, ongoing conflict and tension can cause stress and damage our relationships. Learn more about resolving family conflict on our Healthy Families website.

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