The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a global “stay at home” campaign.

Increasing concerns regarding the nature of “relationships” have surfaced over the past month, with many individuals and healthcare professionals perturbed about the welfare of couples who have been isolating together. 

New research commissioned by the leading relationship charity, Relate, has highlighted the impact lockdown measures are having on romantic relationships, with over a quarter of respondents (23%) stipulating that the current circumstances are placing immense pressure on their relationship. The severity of the situation is exacerbated by the report that more than one in eight of those respondents have already begun questioning the integrity of their relationship.

As a couple’s and family therapist, I know that even without the virus, spending time crowded together with your spouse and/or children is quite a challenge. This is only magnified by the lockdown, where our basic human necessity of freedom has been removed, rendering feelings of anxiety.. 

Understandably, many couples are finding it difficult to adjust to the safety practices and new norms. Fortunately, I am confident that this time in quarantine can be spent strengthening relationships – and ultimately growing as a couple – as long as people take the time to be mindful of their own needs and those of their partner.

If you are feeling as though your relationship needs some work, there are a few steps you can take during and after this lockdown period.

1. Try to work out what’s really bothering you

Spending an extended amount of time together during a quarantine period may expose some fundamental flaws in your relationship, which under normal circumstances may have either been overlooked or ignored. Previously, any discrepancies could be discarded by distractions, for example escaping conflict by not being home, going to the gym or working late etc. However, if this escapism is no longer a viable option, naturally this time together has revealed some significant problems which both parties may be struggling to deal with.  

In both instances, communication is pivotal to overcome these problems. It is only by talking about it that you can start to unravel what it is about the relationship and what is about the external situation that is causing you frustration. Without transparency and communication between spouses, there tends to be a build-up of anger and frustration. Communication thus helps to release these underlying emotions you may be concealing. 

2. Be specific about what you want and need from each other

If you have got as far as recognizing that there is a problem within your relationship, the next step is identifying what has caused this problem and what makes your significant other behave in a certain way, a notion I refer to as ‘family of origins’. If there is ever a hostile dynamic between a couple, it is integral to understand your fundamental differences in behavior – which may be traced back to yours or their childhood routes.  

There are a variety of patterns that you and your partner may adhere to in your everyday life. Maybe a dysfunctional pattern is as simple as one partner donating a large sum of money to charity, while the other rejects this and only wants to make a small donation – despite their affluence. Consequently, confusion and anger may dominate, as partners fail to meet an agreement and see from each other’s perspective.

The benefit of therapy in this instance is being together and listening to each other – a luxury that many of us do not possess due to distractions from our everyday life. Thus, while cohabiting couples may be experiencing problems due to the lack of distraction, lockdown may, in fact, be the perfect time to explore the reparations in your relationships.

Utilizing the systems approach, my therapy explores the influence and impact of each “family of origin” and the individual’s psychodynamics to discover where change can happen. For example, your partner may have experienced financial turmoil as a child, which has resulted in him/her being frugal with their money in later life. I believe it is vital to acknowledge these origins in order to understand each other’s dysfunctional behavior interfering with your relationship.

3. Keep your expectations realistic

If you’re stuck at home 24/7 and realize you don’t communicate a lot, you need to keep your expectations realistic. There really is no value in jumping into everything all at once. Start off small and overtime you can build up your communication gradually instead of going in head first. Something as simple as asking if your significant other wants a cup of coffee or taking the time to cook a meal together can be a fruitful bonding technique. This will benefit you both tremendously without overwhelming each other and counterproductively causing more friction in your relationship.

Virtual Counseling Sessions

Seeking Virtual Counseling Sessions… 

At Patti German Counseling Practice, we have been hosting virtual counseling sessions for couples to discuss the deeper issues in their relationship. During our one hour session, individuals are encouraged to discover the route cause that interferes with their deeper communication. Our sessions provide an open space in which both parties’ opinions can be voiced and compassionately listened to, as we begin enhancing communication, deepening intimacy, and dealing with life cycle issues that have rendered a conflict-orientated relationship to ensue. 

Based on empirical evidence, we suspect that quarantine may cause an influx of couples to either divorce or separate, deeming this the most appropriate solution, having struggled to spend one-on-one time together. Our sessions are therefore seen as a preventative method to explore your dynamics and repair the block in communication that you may be experiencing, where you can discover if separation or reparation is the best solution. 

Applying the family-of-origin methods allows couples to recognize that issues may be caused by their own personal problems. Our therapy can enlighten you and help with your present and future relationships… 

If you would like to discuss this further, call my practice via phone on (212) 582-6056, mobile on (917) 923-1038 or via email at

Patti German Counseling