It gets tight for families and couples. An apartment is suddenly a place of work, school, kindergarten. Lots of time, but little space - and a lot of fear of how it will go on. The question is not whether there will be an argument, but when. Couple therapist Eric Hegmann reveals how we can deal with the situation.
The popular saying is: fear is a bad advisor. And he's right. Because people have only three direct reactions to fear in evolution: flight, counterattack and rigid. Arguments, weighing up, rethinking - all of this only happens afterward. Those parts of the brain that would be able to do that were developed much later. However, our ancestors still had to survive and this instinct behavior still controls us in dangerous situations. Why this evolutionary excursion? Because there is a particular danger, the relationship between inside and outside is threatened and the partners are afraid. And that creates stress that can discharge in relationship crises. And honestly, arguing now, that's the last thing you need.
The external threat: the virus
Coexistence is reduced. People, extremely social creatures, have to isolate themselves. Social contacts are now frightening because they could be fatal. And the horror scenarios that we experience through the media and the Internet cause even more panic: Are conditions like in Italy coming ? Will my 80-year-old parents take the ventilators away to give them to 60-year-olds because there are not enough places and devices? What happens if I get sick myself, what if my partner, my children need care?
The threat from within: closeness
Proximity is now what threatens couples and families. If you don't have it, it is hoped for. Almost all couples complain about couples therapy that they spend too little time together. Now they have too much of it. More specifically, it seems to us that it is too much because of course, we as individuals have different needs at different times. This causes our wishes to collide. One child needs help with homework, the other wants to play and the partner has to make calls - in peace, if possible and you should actually also do your own home office, but everyone else expects you to clean up, shop and cook at the same time.
Escape is impossible
One of our three spontaneous crisis management strategies is no longer part of the isolation at home: escape. Because everything has closed: the sports studio, the daycare, the office. That leaves only two: the counterattack and the rigid. Anyone who has ever looked at animals that are locked together in a small cage knows what is happening now: territorial warfare. Applied to the family or the couple, this means: My needs are more important now than yours! That cannot work at all.
Not every apartment has been planned for one or possibly two home office workplaces. Be creative when you make room to work. But consider that the sofa and a laptop on the lap are not suitable as home office space, nor is the dining table. Define a corner or two that you don't otherwise need so that you don't have to move around permanently. If you have to phone a lot, you should be able to close a door behind you.
Allows physical closeness
Instead of withdrawing when the going gets tough, hug yourself. Calm touches and hugs. Blood pressure drops, heartbeat slows, anxiety resolves, stress hormones are broken down. What you would do instinctively with children and what would work for them also works with the partner. A hug of more than two minutes (and a kiss as a bonus) - and the stress is gone.
Allows emotional closeness
This is so important, because only if you can talk about your fears can you take them seriously and, conversely, you will feel taken seriously. Don't be ashamed of it. A damn pandemic is happening outside your door and around the world, for which there is (still) no vaccination and no medication! Most people will eventually become infected. You, your partner, your children, your parents. You have every reason to be afraid. But don't panic if you feel that you are not alone and for each other!
See the positive
A good mood rarely turns negative. If you were separate, you would worry about each other. Give each other support, keep your rituals or create new ones: eat together, cook together, play something. Talk to each other about your fears, that will liberate and above all, it will save you from the real problem that threatens you: the fear of being left alone.