Family relationships can be loving, joyous and fun – but also messy, stressful and irritating. All of us have strengths, weaknesses and flaws in the ways that we relate and communicate. In normal circumstances, couples and families commonly find ways to work around these problems and patterns, and often that’s a combination of time spent together working through issues, and much-needed space and time apart.
None of us are perfect, but we often expect our relationships to live up to unrealistic and unattainable ideals. Placing several perfectly imperfect humans into pandemic lockdown conditions at home together? The disruption of routines, uncertainty about the future and lack of time apart from each other can create a perfect storm of conflict.
In usual circumstances, counsellors and psychologists work with couples and families to get an understanding of their personal challenges, address the underlying factors creating conflict, and resolve the issue by finding a positive, peaceful way forward. Yet these are not normal times.
During periods of self-isolation when families are spending endless days in close quarters, tensions often increase and help-seeking may be inhibited or feel overwhelming. If you notice this dynamic starting to build in your household, it is essential to act early and get support to reduce the risk of any conflict escalating. Take every opportunity to make this time at home together as comfortable as possible – and look after each other as best you can. Your mental health has never mattered more.
If you are in self-isolation or lockdown and relationship/family conflict is increasing, it might be helpful to remember that:
During conflict, these strategies may help:
If you can’t make progress by hearing each other’s perspective, acknowledging your own contribution to the situation, and forgiving the other person’s shortcomings, it may be helpful to intentionally park the conflict. This involves both parties acknowledging that the conflict exists, that each party has a different perspective and that at the moment you don’t have the resources to move forward.
Acknowledge that you are stuck, that you need assistance to move forward, and make a plan to address this conflict when things settle down (and actually do that). Even though you are agreeing to press pause on any discussions of that particular issue, it’s important to take the time to talk about what each person needs to do to respect each other whilst the conflict remains unresolved and the household is still in lockdown.
Other factors that may contribute to conflict, and ways to cope:
Lockdown is an opportunity to do something differently. Everyone is sequestered together at home and this tends to put a spotlight on what is, and isn’t, working within your relationship and family dynamics.
If you’ve tried some of the ideas above and things still haven’t improved, we can provide the extra support your household needs. We will help you figure out how to find and nurture that sweet spot where you’re able to live in harmony, together – no matter what happens. Our counsellors and psychologists are available 7 days a week for the whole time our community is impacted by COVID-19. When needed, we can provide same day services.
Marcus Andrews is the founder and director of Life Supports, which was established in 2002. He has extensive professional experience working as a counsellor and family therapist across a broad range of issues. The core component of his role at Life Supports involves the supervision of other counsellors, including secondary consultations. Marcus has worked in many sectors, including private, government, non-profit, health, forensic and community practice.