Tips for Navigating Marital Stress During the COVID-19 Crisis

As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are finding themselves working from home while caring for and schooling young children, which creates enormous stress. In situations where a marital relationship was already suffering before the parties were forced to be in near constant contact, the boiling point may be reached. Courts are mostly closed, except for true emergencies, instilling further feelings of hopelessness and stagnation. If you find yourself in a precarious home situation during these difficult times, below are some tips to navigate.

1. Be gentle on yourself.
Recognize that trying to work from home, care for children, school children, cook, clean, make dinner, etc., all while navigating the uncertainty, is hard! Don’t beat yourself up. The perfect is the enemy of the good. Your children will not be scarred forever if not all school assignments are completed perfectly, or if screens are used to allow you to get a few hours of work done. Just do the best you can, and don’t be fooled by the pictures of perfection portrayed on social media.

2. Protect your mental health.
If at all possible, try to engage in some form of self-care each day. Take a walk or engage in some other form of exercise several days per week to clear your head. If exercise is not your thing, spend at least a half an hour each day doing an activity you enjoy.

3. Create space.
If things between you and your spouse are on shaky ground, try to come to an understanding about personal space for each of you. If it is possible, have one spouse move into a downstairs space while the other spouse remains in an upstairs space. This can allow room for each spouse to breathe and reduce conflict.

4. Minimize conflict in front of the children.
Easier said than done of course, but it is important to shield the children from as much conflict as much as possible. Children who witness, or worse, are put in the middle of, conflict between their parents experience higher incidents of stress, anxiety, and depression.

5. You aren’t stuck.
While Courts are closed, most attorneys are working remotely and can continue to help you navigate you through, or even fast track, your divorce matter. Mediators and conciliators are still working, and many are assisting with cases via phone or video conference. Some judges in some states are even willing to hear uncontested matters via video conference or allow agreements administratively. The closing of the Courts does not have to stagnate progress.

6. If things become unsafe, you should take action.
The Courts are open for emergent matters, including restraining orders and requests to have a spouse vacated from the home. If circumstances get to a point such that you are in fear of imminent physical, bodily harm or the situation is threatening the health, safety or welfare of you, or your children, you should call the police and/or seek out the assistance of an attorney who can work with you to file the necessary emergency paperwork in Court.

These are trying times for all, but life will return to normal, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

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