/ Relationships/ Surviving Relationship Fatigue
Recognize signs of stress and learn how to maintain a healthy relationship even through a global pandemic.
Living with a partner in a pandemic certainly has its advantages—you have someone to socialize with, someone to help with daily chores, and the potential for physical intimacy that many have missed out on for the last year and counting. But living with a loved one without the ability to take space or to relieve stress the ways we normally would has taken a toll on romantic relationships.
Relationship fatigue is on the rise, in part because this particular crisis has partners frozen in space together 24 hours a day, with no room for personal processing. And while some partnerships have thrived away from outside influences, divorce rates have increased globally as couples have been locked in one-on-one.
“There’s a lot of fatigue in general out there right now,” says Registered Psychotherapist Diane Gibson. “I don’t know if anyone is an expert on relationships in a pandemic, but I think what’s important is we communicate our needs and acknowledge that everyone is experiencing it differently.”
Loving your partner and wanting to show up for each other in difficult, unprecedented times takes work.In this article learn about some of the signs of stress you may be experiencing at home and some of the things you can focus on to bring some ease and joy back to your partnership.
Much as we each experience the pandemic differently, so too do we exhibit stress on an individual level. Here are some of the main signs of stress you might recognize as causing friction at home.
When we’re burnt out or depressed, emotional regulation is not always available to us, which leads to outbursts of emotions that we often know are unwarranted. And what better target than the partner who left their dishes in the sink yet again? “Fatigue is a big sign of stress,” says Gibson. “Some people are snappier, some people are more withdrawn.” The issue now is the lack of follow-up on those emotional moments. “What I’m seeing is increased fighting, but it’s the lack of repair, the lack of saying ‘what just went on there?’”
“Communication, of course, is a great sign of a healthy relationship,” says Gibson. “Not only what you’re saying, how often you speak, but how you are talking to each other is vitally important.” Under stress, miscommunication runs rampant, causing spikes in tension. When emotions are heightened, awareness around tone and body language also goes out the window, which can start any conversation off on the wrong foot.
Some people need space when stressed, others need connection more than ever—sometimes that need for connection presents as an overdependence on your partner, who likely has only so much to give themselves. “There’s got to be a level of personal agency during these times, meaning we cannot expect our partner to be there for us 100% of the time,” says Gibson. “It’s an impossible ask and if that’s your expectation you will be disappointed.”
Being a good partner in times of stress takes work and self-awareness. Here are some areas you can both focus on in order to show up for yourself and each other.
Finally, no matter where your relationship stands, a little support can be helpful for anyone. Virtual therapy is more accessible than ever, and can provide you with the tools you need to be happy and healthy at home. “Make an investment into your relationships,” says Gibson.
“It’s so normal to have problems. You don’t have to do this alone.”
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