I believe there have been changes that families and relationships have gone through in the past six months relating to the pandemic filled with losses and benefits. First and foremost, our own mortality, fragility, and fears of losing someone we love have been consuming our awareness as we bear witness to media reports and direct contact with close friends and family struggling throughout the pandemic. Whatever self-doubt, dormant fear, and unspoken conflict we have had within ourselves or with others are more challenging to ignore or continue to operate as is when we are instructed to stay at home and be still.
One changing dynamic I have learned and watched over the past six months has been the function of families, particularly parents, wearing many hats as caretakers to their children. The mother who had gone to a 9am to 5pm job each day was now forced overnight to juggle working at home, being a teacher, after school staff and recess aid all while attempting to navigating the additional roles of friend, wife and colleague. These ever-changing dynamics further exacerbated women’s felt pressure to “manage it all” while being confined to the close quarters of their homes. Men have been asked to depart from their traditional work settings and redefine their contribution as providers from home, or for many, have been taxed with confronting the loss of employment altogether.
Another dynamic that has changed during the pandemic has been with couples. Living in a small one bedroom apartment or having to share the only office in the house together comes with the rawness of a new routine with another human and all the emotions, mental strife, and yearnings to be alone at some point in the day to breathe. Couples, whether married or not are being asked to support one another in new ways, whether this be to carry the additional burden of financial support in the wake of job displacement or to provide emotional comfort when feelings of frustration, fear and uncertainty are felt so viscerally. Within these new unchartered waters, couples have a rare opportunity to take what they see that is good, bad, weird, or bizarre, and grow from these discoveries with or without the addition of a relationship therapist. For others, this may provide the information necessary to courageously take the action step toward ending a relationship that may no longer be working or serving both partners.
Even though the pandemic has forced change and great discomfort upon us, we can also allow this to inform how we want to use this information going forward in our relationships with our partners, families and friends. We are reminded that there are choices in how we choose to navigate and respond to these dynamics, and that there is help out there to support us through it.