We Can Work It Out

Isolation can create issues for couples, but it can also be a time for change and improvement
By EDDIE RIVERA, Weekendr Editor
Published on Apr 1, 2020

Needless to say, the effects of the Coronavirus isolation are wide-ranging, and work on so many levels.  For couples, married or otherwise, there are a myriad of unique issues to work through. 

Maybe you’d just started a new relationship and now you’re separated? Maybe your relationship was starting to go a little stale, and now you’re sheltering at home together for what is looking like at least another month? 

Relationship therapist Allen Wagner, co-author of Married Roommates: How to Go From a Relationship That Just Survives to a Marriage That Thrives, is hearing those concerns and more in his practice these days. 

Firstly, while a number of businesses are struggling, Wagner’s practice has been holding steady, he says. 

“As a couples counselor,” acknowledged  Wagner in an email interview, “therapy is often seen as a luxury unless things are truly dire. People today have to be very concerned regarding all of their outgoing expenses. A lot of people also would prefer face-to-face contacts physically.”

But Wagner noted that there has not been a marked drop off, either, because the quarantine “has really challenged a lot of couples and “highlighted a lot of their struggles which had previously been covered up with jobs or social outings and hobbies.” 

With couples having a dramatic increase in the amount of time they spend together, a lot of problems have become “magnified,” said Wagner.

But, taking a positive approach to the issue, Wagner explains that isolating together could be an opportunity for couples to finally work on problems and regain trust. 

“Having this time with one another can also improve the quality ( of relationships),” said Wagner,  “( but only) if people are not filling their days with distractions like social media, YouTube, and binge-watching television. 

“This can be a time to re-earn the trust that may have been lost with one another,” he continued. “Schedules are really the key to not creating a ‘Groundhog Day’-like experience.”

At the same time, Wagner noted, there are many people who feel this much time together is too much, and that it feels “claustrophobic.”

This is why the schedule becomes so important, Wagner said, because it can help people to break up their days in a more organized way. 

As Wagner explained, “There does need to be self-care and independent time carved out, as well as time for people to work on their careers. If this is not scheduled, then it can really put people at odds with one another.” 

Wagner has also seen a natural trend of what he calls “people looking for social connection.”

People have had an increasing amount of time from their structured and rigorous schedules, Wagner noted. Essentially, lots of free time on their hands.

“As a result,” he said, “they are able to reach out to more people. I am seeing a lot more group text conversations originating, as well as these larger Zoom chats. I think in times of crisis, having people who know you and are loyal can always be helpful. 

“It’s also great to have validation that other people feel the same,” he said.

Finally the key to working through the current crisis for couples, is perspective, says Wagner.

“People need to have a better sense of perspective,” he explained further. 

“While some problems are being magnified,” Wagner said, “it’s important to realize that the lens you’re looking at things through, is at a much higher level of anxiety and frustration due to the external environment, so small things can seem like big things. 

Added Wagner, “Having perspective that the ‘new normal’ does have a higher level of anxiety and frustration attached to it, can help people to look at the things that upset them, with hopefully a little more insight and perspective.” 

Allen Wagner is available at his  site, alosangelestherapist.com .

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