If there’s one thing we learned from the pandemic, it’s that extra stress can strain a relationship to the breaking point, even when it seemed okay before. Erin knew her relationship with Dave wasn’t perfect, but she didn’t realize how fragile it really was until they lived through a pandemic together. That’s when they were stuck home for much of the time with their two young school-age children.
Dave, who brought in more income than Erin, thought his work took priority and sequestered himself with his computer, leaving Erin to try and work remotely while supervising the kids. As the months passed, this situation became increasingly tense. Erin kept asking for more help from Dave, who would pitch in from time to time, but he felt besieged and nagged. She felt overworked and underappreciated.
Neither was any good at dealing with conflict, so they drifted more and more apart emotionally, although not physically. They became emotionally unavailable to each other just to avoid any unpleasant exchanges. Neither wanted to rock the boat, so they became emotionally distant just to keep from fighting.
Their forced togetherness also seemed to expose fault lines that had always been in their relationship. She continued to leave dirty dishes in the sink. He continued to leave the toilet seat up. Both these annoying habits were easier to overlook before the pandemic. Now, though, with both of them and the kids in the house much more, their bad habits became more intolerable.
In the Time B.C. (Before Covid)
Time was that when Dave was stressed at work, Erin could support him better, and vice versa, because usually they weren’t both under extreme stress at the same time. Even when they were both stressed, they knew it was for a finite period, which allowed them to hope for better times ahead. They could show some generosity to each other and cut their partner some slack. Maybe even inject some humor to diffuse the situation.
But the pandemic was seemingly endless. Even after it was virtually over, it left Erin, Dave, and their kids emotionally exhausted and struggling to reach an equilibrium they enjoyed before the pandemic. On top of this, Dave had to cope with the loss of taste for a while, an aftereffect of Covid. It seemed impossible to gain enough traction to get their relationship back on an even keel. They made a half-hearted attempt to communicate better, but they just couldn’t seem to connect. They continued to drift apart.
Grieving Their Old Life
The fact is, in the aftermath of the pandemic, Erin and Dave suffered another loss—their relationship. Even though they hadn’t been close in years, the idea that the life they had imagined was coming to a close was devastating to both of them. On top of the difficult years they spent being ill and trying to avoid being ill, and the stress they endured constantly parenting and helping their kids cope with remote schooling, now they were faced with another grief: The loss of their marriage.
The thought of separation and divorce—huge stressors once again—was coupled with the prospect of starting over and reentry into a new, post-covid world. Both Erin and Dave needed to grieve the loss of their old life and let go of any anger or resentment. It’s important to do this in a healthy way so they can support their kids, also grieving, and eventually move on to a new life.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact