The changes in our lives caused by Coronavirus are stressful. That stress will have an impact on our relationships as well. What do you do if you find your relationship buckling under the pressure of COVID-19? And what do you do if it’s time to break up?
Think about it; be certain of your decision
We never make good decisions when we’re stressed or managing a crisis. So, if possible, avoid making big decisions in the middle of the pandemic. Take the time to really explore and think about if your relationship has reached its end.
The tension in your relationship may be a result of the conditions brought about by COVID-19, rather than relationship issues. Reflect on what is causing you to consider a break-up.
Being in the company of your partner 24/7 and learning you can’t handle the way they talk on the phone with work colleagues is a direct result of the pandemic. Being in isolation with your partner and finding that you don’t feel supported or secure is a relationship issue.
Discovering that your relationship has issues isn’t necessarily cause for a break-up either. It may be possible to work through your problems and strengthen your relationship.
If you find you and your partner cannot resolve your issues, explore what other options are available to you. Couples therapy may provide the assistance you need, and most couples therapists now offer online services to accommodate the restrictions of Coronavirus.
If you feel any uncertainty about breaking up, now is not the time to be deciding to end your relationship. Be sure and choose free of stressful circumstances before you break up your relationship.
How to break up with dignity
Break-ups are challenging, regardless of the circumstances. The tension can be exacerbated if you’re cohabitating in a time of quarantine. These practices can lessen the strain during a break-up.
Be clear and honest about your feelings: Tell your partner how you feel and what you need. Your needs are real, and your emotions are valid, clear communication is the easiest way to understand the situation. Sharing your needs and feelings doesn’t mean telling your partner what they did wrong or tearing them down. It’s about expressing what you feel and need. “I” statements” are a great tool to communicate your needs.
Make a clean break: Be upfront about what you want, don’t beat about the bush, and don’t use a “soft break” to avoid the situation. Have a difficult conversation and be clear and intentional about what you want and need. This communication ensures everyone is on the same page and clearly understands the situation.
Physically separate: If possible, have one of you move in with another family member or different accommodation. Physical separation helps reduce tension and opportunities for conflict. Maintaining distance is also an essential aide in accepting the demise of the relationship and helps with the grieving process.
Don’t send mixed messages: Since you’ve chosen to end the relationship, your actions are most beneficial if they reflect that decision. Choosing to break-up and then showing romantic interest or encouragement will hurt and confuse the other person. Be respectful of the other person’s emotions.
Take responsibility for the decision: Be responsible for what it means to terminate a relationship, and the steps involved. Ending a relationship with no communication or explanation is painful. Be present and talk through the needs, changes, and expectations with the other person. These steps are especially vital if your break-up will impact others, such as children.
The challenges of a COVID break-up
A critical difference between a break-up in quarantine and a break-up under normal circumstances is the likelihood of not being able to physically separate and get the space needed to properly grieve, accept, and adjust to the loss of the relationship.
It’s an essential step in a break-up to mourn its loss. This step can be challenging when we’re not able to go out and participate in regular activities to distract from the distress.
In addition to not having adequate separation or space to grieve, being nearby under tense emotional circumstances can make it challenging to function peacefully as roommates. Striking this balance and finding a healthy and respectful way to communicate and interact is vital to navigating a successful break-up in quarantine.
Here are some tips to ease tension and maintain civility during a break-up in isolation:
Don’t rehash relationship grievances: This is a time to put your grievances aside and focus on finding an adult way to co-exist. Restating old issues is likely to cause more harm. An effective way to co-exist harmoniously is to find a common goal to orient yourselves around and work toward it.
Look for opportunities for one of you to move out: This doesn’t mean jumping on the first available opportunity to get one of you out of the house. Both of you need to be in safe and secure lodging. Look for supportive people that you can stay with for the duration of the quarantine. Family members and sometimes friends can offer alternative accommodation after a relationship breakdown.
Postpone discussions while in quarantine: Avoid getting caught up in your drama – you can’t get away and get space if things blow up while you’re in quarantine. Wait to have sensitive and provoking discussions until you’re both in a position to get distance if emotions run too high. However, do discuss how to function while continuing to cohabitate, a concise discussion about the break-up, and establishing boundaries.
Finally, if you have children together, remember to put them first. Break-ups are painful and emotionally draining, but prioritising your kids over relationship grievances is essential for your children’s welfare. It also provides a common goal of maintaining unity within the family unit rather than focusing your energies on discord and hurt feelings.
Break-ups are hard regardless of the circumstances, but being quarantined together during one can be extra challenging. Avoid making big decisions under such stressful conditions, and only act with certainty. Be upfront, concise, and fair. Work together to reduce as much tension as possible and physically separate if you can. Put your children ahead of your grievances and focus on family first.
Do you need relationship help?
Since 2003, Clinton Power has helped thousands of couples and individuals as a counsellor and psychotherapist in private practice in Sydney and online in Australia. Clinton regularly comments in the media on issues of relationships and has appeared on Channel 7, The Sydney Morning Herald, and ABC Radio. Clinton’s eBook, 31 Days to Build a Better Relationship is available through his website or Amazon. Click here to take Clinton’s relationship checkup quiz to find out how well you know your partner.