The husband of 60 years old works in the food industry and insist on going out everyday to work under the argument that you must keep your business afloat. The frightened wife desperately wants him to stay home. Read what you should do if you or someone you love gets coronavirus

For another separated couple, the fight is due to whether the children can visit friends. One parent allows it under the attempt to be the “fun parent”, while the other is strongly opposed. And for yet another couple, it’s just about buying groceries. She fills the cart because she says they should be prepared and he accuses her of hoarding unnecessarily.

Scenes like these unfold in suburban homes, condos, and small rural communities in the United States, as couples try to survive in what has abruptly become the “new normal” during the coronavirus outbreak. Therapists, attorneys, and couples themselves describe how the most subtle differences or coping strategy can be painfully exacerbated under the incredible stress and anxiety of the outbreak.

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It’s a time when every household decision can be incredibly high-risk, says Catherine Lewis, a therapist and academic at the Ackerman Institute for the Family in New York, from the seemingly small – going grocery shopping – to the stressful calculation of which family members should isolate themselves together.

“This pandemic has made us all think about our relationships, because you really can’t do something without affecting another,” said Lewis, who runs remote therapy sessions. “It is a very powerful example of how interconnected we all are.”

Coupled with that, Lewis points out, is the utter helplessness of having no idea how long the situation will last.

He has seen how some couples find “that they have an enormous capacity of resistance, of simply finding a way to move during the day”. On the negative side, it is clear that people are not usually at their best when they are deeply stressed.

Normal patterns intensify, ”he says. “There is increased discomfort, people jump.”

Alcohol often becomes a defense mechanism. Or worse.

“I am concerned about couples where there is intense aggression,” he says. In cases where there was already domestic abuse, lawyers fear a dangerous escalation.

Jennifer Kouzi, a lawyer and divorce mediator, says it clearly: “We see much more misconduct.”

She receives calls from clients who were already unhappy in their marriages or in the separation process, and now feel increasingly desperate. They also feel incompetent, because along with forced confinement, the legal process is for the most part stalling.

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In many cases, there may be no ramifications for misbehavior. One parent, for example, has refused to release the child to the other as is in accordance with the argument of the virus crisis, although the other takes all precautions. Police have refused to enforce the custody order and recommended that the father go to trial, but it is unclear whether the judges will consider this case as an emergency.

In another case that Kouzi knows of separated parents, a father allows his children to see friends, “to be the fun father, so that the children want to stay there all the time and not with the father who really sticks to the recommendations and rules”.

But not everything is bad.

“Some parents have risen to the occasion and communicate better than normal, rearrange agendas, increase access to FaceTime and do what makes sense” for their children, he says.

Some couples only suffer, if anything, minor problems. Stephanie Pfeiffer, a business systems analyst in Boston, was upset with her husband when they went shopping last week, and every time she put something in the cart, he questioned why.

“We were fighting over groceries,” said Pfeiffer.

He accuses me of panicking and piling up, but the reality is that we need more food. ” After all, the couple now work together at home.

Lewis, the family therapist, said she is still in the early days. She hopes that the couples she serves will find a way to deal with anxiety and uncertainty in a useful way.

His best advice for couples: “Let’s try to keep them from having a bad day at the same time,” he said. “If today is your bad day, mine will be tomorrow. Let’s not explode at the same time. “

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