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Current Lifestyle Changes Are Straining Relationships

The Covid-19 pandemic caused widespread stress in the population. The American Psychological Association (APA) 2021 Stress In America survey shows that from April to May 2020, the level of stress among Americans was 5.4. This rose to 5.6 in January 2021. In the last two weeks before the January survey, 84 percent of Americans reported feelings of stress. Among them, 47 percent had anxiety, 44 percent were sad, and 39 percent were angry.

According to the Pew Research Center data from August 31 to September 7, 2020, 89 percent of Americans stated that the pandemic harmed their lives. Separately, 41 percent stated that it had a negative effect on their relationships, while 33 percent stated it had a positive effect. On their physical and mental health and those of others, 28 percent stated that it had a negative effect, while 14 percent stated it had a positive effect. On their job or the jobs of others, 23 percent stated that it had a negative effect, while 13 percent stated it had a positive effect. On their financial situation and the general economy, 22 percent stated that it had a negative effect, while 13 percent stated it had a positive effect.

Various lifestyle changes brought about by the pandemic all contribute to tension in households that are putting a great strain on many relationships. These include health-related fears, financial hardship, working from home, and childcare for those with children.

Global Effect of the Pandemic on Relationships conducted a global survey among 2,429 respondents on January 19, 2021. The distribution of respondents was 48.7 percent from the United States, 21.4 percent from the United Kingdom, 5.8 percent from India, 5.2 percent from Canada, and 4.6 percent from the Philippines. The age distribution was 35 to 44 years old at 37.5 percent, 25 to 34 years old at 23.7 percent, 45 to 54 years old at 14.9 percent, 18 to 24 years old at 10.6 percent, 55 to 64 years old at 9.1 percent, and 65 years old and above at 4.2 percent. Women comprised the majority or 54 percent, while men comprised 46 percent.

Eleven percent of respondents stated that the pandemic damaged their marriage. Among them, men comprised 15 percent, and women comprised seven percent. Almost one in five of all respondents or 19.98 percent representing 284 people stated that they were considering divorce.

Effects of Parental Conflict on Children

U.S. News published data from a study among some 560 children from nine to 18 years old with divorced parents. Findings show that children exposed to parental conflict had higher fears of abandonment even if the child is emotionally close to one or both parents. The fear also exists across age groups but is more widespread among younger children. Higher fear of abandonment makes a child more likely to have mental health problems after 11 months or later. This includes feelings of distress, anxiety, and general fear.

Arizona State University assistant research professor of psychology Karey O’Hara, who is the lead author of the study, advises parents not to engage in conflict in front of children. They must not fight or argue. Even when the other parent is not around, they must not say bad things about that parent, making the children feel pressured to take sides. They must not ask the children to convey a negative message to the other parent. The communication between parents must be amicable whenever the children are around.

It will help parents with problems to undergo professional couples therapy. They will learn how to communicate with each other without aggression. It will also give them a venue to discuss their problems away from the children. The best outcome will be to avoid divorce.

Effect of Relationship Conflicts on Health

Even if a couple has no children, it is highly beneficial to settle conflicts early to save the relationship. This also has a great impact on the emotional and mental well-being of each one. There is scientific evidence that it also impacts physical health.

According to a study discussed on Psychology Today on April 9, 2021, hostile exchanges between couples in the early middle years, such as getting mad or blaming each other, even if occasional, negatively affect their health seven years later. Researchers found that throughout four years of even occasional bickering, couples become more emotionally and psychologically distressed, leading to high levels of stress, unhealthy behavior and lifestyle practices, weight gain, and wearing down of the body’s regulatory systems. By the seventh year, couples had physical health problems and physical impairment, making it difficult to do everyday tasks such as getting dressed.

Pandemic Healing

As the country slowly protects itself from the pandemic through full vaccination, and as fully vaccinated people are now allowed more physical freedoms outside the home, the bottled-up stress in households will hopefully dissipate. Some schools have reopened in-person classes. The economy is opening up, and more jobs will be available, easing financial issues.

For many couples, the lifestyle changes during the pandemic are tests on how resilient the relationship is. The pandemic highlighted the weaknesses in many relationships, but it is up to the couple to decide whether those weaknesses can be repaired and made stronger or not.

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