Wedding cake split
Wedding cake split

How to work from home (and not get divorced)

Everyone has been stunned by the impacts of COVID-19, which is testing all of us in the community.

From a shortage of essential supplies, threats to our livelihoods and brawling in our supermarkets we are facing something that is unprecedented to our living memories.

For families, there is another testing time to come, one that will require patience, understanding and will place a great strain on our relationships.

This will come in the increasingly likely event that schools will be closed and millions of Australian families housebound without work or the normal distractions of outside life, with no sporting activities, movies or visits to the homes of friends and relatives, as we attempt to wait out this virus.

What this means for families is potential cabin fever as we attempt to survive trapped in close quarters with our partners and children indefinitely.

We know that divorce escalates after the Christmas holidays, with January known as 'divorce' month, so what will be the state of our relationships after the coronavirus scare passes?

 

Add in the anxiety around the virus, genuine financial and health concerns that we are feeling, and you have the perfect recipe for significant issues between stressed people trying to live a normal life in the most abnormal of circumstances.

More than 300 Chinese couples came out of isolation and registered for divorce applications last week, according to news reports.

 

Meanwhile, divorce lawyer for the stars, Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia, who has represented Prince Charles and Madonna, said we must brace for a spike in splits due to people being suddenly forced into confinement together.

The step for couples in this situation is getting their connection with each other right, having each other's back, supporting each other and acknowledging the undoubted challenges that will lay ahead.

We are always stronger together than apart, and by being there and creating a plan through which you will support each other, is the first step to getting through this crisis.

Remember, our children are as stressed, frightened and anxious as we are. As parents we need to ease their concerns and anxieties, with the best way of doing so being a connected and united couple, who have planned together how the family will get through this crisis.

This means as a couple you must first get on the same page, understand each other's needs, the pressures you are facing and how together you will support each other through the tough times ahead.

Take every opportunity to ease stress, if one or both of you are working from home, then create a structure that enables both of you to do this with the least disruption possible.

 

 

There will be times when you will need your space, so create a sanctuary somewhere in the home, whether that be a chair, a spare room, a back patio, a space where someone can have time to themselves, read a book, meditate - do whatever they need to stay sane.

Check-in with each other regularly, make sure that there is no annoyance or resentment growing, deal with issues as they come up to avoid them building into something more significant.

Across the home create structure, get the kids out of bed by 9am, limit technology use, create academic windows and fun and creative activities through the day. Involve the whole family in them, have everyone select new and different activities and by doing so this will help you to get buy in from the kids.

If you are virus free then get the family outside, take the dog for a walk and get some fresh air, kick or throw the ball - mix it up as much as you can.

Have mealtimes together with no phones, and take the opportunity to do something that we all struggle to do in our usually busy lives by talking to each other, creating connections and looking to get to know each other again without the distraction of the world around us.

Make sure all in the family are involved in the chores, do not place this pressure on one person and use the next few months to provide much needed lessons for us all in personal responsibility with the rule being, if you mess it you clean it.

Two weeks at home can really put the strain on a relationship. Picture: iStock.
Two weeks at home can really put the strain on a relationship. Picture: iStock.

The key for parents here is that whatever the rules, they are supported by both partners, who are in turn supporting each other and that there is no good cop/bad cop routine, with everyone pulling together to be part of the solution.

This virus has been devastating to our way of life, the world around us may well change forever as a result of the impact to our community and economy.

For now, we need to deal with what is in front of us and keep in mind that with adversity there is always opportunity.

For our relationships there is an opportunity to address a fundamental failure I see repeatedly in my practice, the reason that leads to so many marriage failures, a breakdown in communication.

"He/She does not listen to me" is the number one complaint of all partners and if we do find ourselves restricted to our homes, the ray of light is that it provides a rare opportunity to connect with each other and our families.

To show the love, support and respect that every strong relationship has and family home needs, to hear and truly respond to the needs of the one's we love the most.

If we can get that right, then strengthening our relationships well be the one unexpected gift of COVID-19.

Melissa Ferrari is a psychotherapist and relationship counsellor.

Originally published as How to work from home (and not get divorced)



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