You and your partner know the same facts. You watch the same news. You know the risks during Covid, and you are in each other’s Covid bubbles. But you aren’t on the same page about what constitutes a risk. So you end up navigating this pandemic thing differently. Conflict ensues. Now what?
Many folks are trying to convince their partner to either “lighten up” or to “hunker down” when it comes to Covid precautions. When partners do this, they become gridlocked. This means the conversation goes nowhere, and partners get stuck trying to convince the other to change their perspectives and behaviors.
This never works.
We could replace “Covid precautions” with alcohol use, your bedtime routine, how you unload the dishwasher, your exercise regimen…..etc. We could replace “Covid precautions” with anything you’d like to change about your partner. Have you tried to change them before? Did it work?
Folks are taking some understandable yet unhelpful liberties when they interpret their partner’s actions. When someone “just runs to the store” to grab a quick tomato for tonight’s salad, the more cautious partner often feels like this was an unnecessary, unsafe, and risky choice. Often, they internalize their partner’s decision and believe their partner isn’t taking the pandemic safely/doesn’t prioritize the health and safety of their family. “Don’t you even care about me? Do you even consider me in your choices? Do you even think this pandemic is real?!! I can’t be with someone who is so selfish.”
Meanwhile, the tomato grabber is thinking….”WHAT? I was in the store for 2 minutes. I wore a mask. I surveyed the space. Don’t you trust my judgment? Do you think I would do something that would harm our family? Do you think I’m some heartless, selfish asshole?”
That escalated quickly.
Try this instead:
1. You can’t make your partner change. Accept this. Accepting doesn’t mean liking it or agreeing with it. But rather, accept the reality that “this is what I’m working with here.”
2. Keep having hard talks instead of shying away or ignoring them. Describe your feelings in these conversations. Try to talk more about your emotional experience than your partner’s behavioral choices. (“I’m really anxious when you come back from the store” is very different than “Do you even care about me?!” Alternately, “I’m sad and confused when you’re mad I picked up dinner” is more productive than “You don’t want me to have a life.”)
3. Ultimately, the decisions your partner makes affect you, Covid related or not. You may feel like you’re cut off from the world, or that your health is being put at risk. If you and you partner are unable to understand and meet each other’s needs, you may have to make hard decisions that reflect your own needs (ie: quarantining away from your partner, or reevaluating how you deal with incompatibility as a couple. It’s not a bad idea to seek professional backup on that one).
Pulling for you two. I know you can drop below the tomato talk and get to what’s really going on between you both.
Lindsey Brock | The Breakup Coach
I'm Lindsey! I care about you and want to help you to have healthy, secure relationships. Sometimes, that means we've gotta leave the ones we're in. I can help you do that, too. Have something you'd like me to write about? Drop me a line and let me know!