This article is taken from The Couples Institute Newsletter, with Drs Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson. The Couples Institute provides incredible training for couples therapists. Skilled Couples therapists are much in demand during the pressure of living with a pandemic.
Couples around the world are impacted by this challenging time. The Couples Institute recently conducted surveys on how couples were coping. Here are just a few examples of how people are reacting to sheltering at home together:
So what is cabin fever?
There’s no official definition, but we define cabin fever as the tension and anxiety that results from being trapped in confined quarters daily with your soulmate. This soul-mate has unexpectedly turned work-chore-parenting-schooling-health-mate.
Because there are many more interdependencies and fewer distractions than usual, there is a higher need for good routines and fewer opportunities for social connections with others.
The internet is full of jokes about overeating and excess drinking. Some partners report feelings of dread, loss, grief, or anxiety. This leads to an overall decrease in the ability to cope with stress.
What does this look like?
Many couples report that they feel restless, lethargic, and therefore have low motivation to do projects. Others are sad, depressed, or crabby. It’s not unusual to cry unexpectedly or erupt because of a small upset.
For many couples, this is a traumatic time. When a couple spends time together without agreements, boundaries, or routines, there is a greater the possibility for conflict. Furthermore, the smaller the space the greater the conflict.
When fear and anxiety are left unprocessed, this will contribute to fights, explosions, or shutdown and withdrawal – and a decline in mental health.
For a long time, many psychologists embraced a victim narrative about trauma, believing that severe stress causes long-lasting and perhaps irreparable damage to one’s psyche and health.
But when researchers and clinicians looked at those who coped well in crisis, they found that it’s possible to grow from it by cultivating an attitude of tragic optimism. So, its not so much what happens to us or around us, but our attitude to it. For example, cultivate gratitude at all times.
4. Cabin fever couples can think as a team, work as a team.
This time provides an opportunity for couples to find meaning, whether it’s new ways to collaborate, building their connection, or becoming a stronger team.
If you’d like to grow from adversity, consider finding a deeper meaning in this time. Go to relationshipdoctor.com.au to discover a wealth of guidance to grow, repair and sustain your relationship in times of stress.
Recently, Dr. Peter Pearson did a demonstration with a couple and helped them consider themselves as a team for the first time. They hadn’t thought of teamwork as a form of meaning. But by the time Pete was done working with them, they felt connected, collaborative, and were able to find the silver lining in the situation.