1. If one partner refuses to follow safety protocols (mask wearing, social distancing, etc.) how can the other person address this problem?
Knowledge is always power; therefore, educate your loved one by quoting renowned medical doctors such as Dr. Anthony Fauci. Cite the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and the WHO (World Health Organization) who both empathize the importance of mask wearing, social distancing, hand washing and clean sterile surfaces. If your partner refuses to listen to the experts’ then move into “I” statements and share your personal fears related to Covid 19. Sometimes when we emphasize our deep concerns or worries, we can get empathy in return. Our loved one may hear us when we explain the “why” I am afraid. Are you afraid that your immune system is not strong enough to fight off Covid if you contract it? Or are you concerned that you may infect someone that you love like a grandparent or elderly neighbor? Or are you worried about your partner possibly contracting it and perhaps the need for hospitalization? Being vulnerable with a loved one can be an opportunity for deeper connection and personal growth.
The timing of when we share is also a factor when trying to get a partner to acquiesce. Ideally, we are calm when we approach a topic that has potential to be conflictual. Therefore, find a time when you are both calm, well rested (not late at night right before bed) and nourished, think hangry (one does not want to engage in a deep conversation when they are famished). It is also helpful when one is present, not engaged with their smartphone or some other multi- tasking behavior. Go for a stroll, leave your phones at home and begin with “I need to share something with you…these are the scientific facts about Covid and this is why I feel anxious and worried….”
2. How can parents who disagree about the safety of their children returning to school, work to overcome this issue?
As said above, knowledge is power. Share scientific facts such as young healthy children can be asymptomatic and positive for Covid, therefore may carry and inadvertently spread the virus. As parents, you have to weigh the pros, cons and risks involved with whether your child returns to school. Perhaps get pen to paper and each of you write down why or why not your child should or should not return to school. Then compare what you both summarized; this can create an open dialogue and lead to a calm and productive conversation. Ultimately you both respect each other and want to understand the other’s perspective. Remember that as parents we all really want the same thing: our kids to be healthy both physically, emotionally and mentally. Remember your goals is the same, to protect your child during this pandemic however you can, without holding them hostage in their own home.
3. How should partners who disagree on how to handle their finances during the pandemic work through this issue?
Go back to basics: how did you handle financial disagreements before Covid19? Did one of you lose your job due to the pandemic? If yes, then your budget needs to be re-evaluated. Chances are you both want to be financially comfortable and not strained. If your current finances are now going to inhibit your financial goals, then you both need to stick to the numbers and discuss how to be fiscally sound. Some couples like to have three accounts, one for each partner and then one mutual account for basics such as mortgage, groceries, education, extra-curricular kid activities, phone service, healthcare insurance, car/home-owners insurance and family travel. Right now, many families are scaling back on luxury items as our economy is uncertain due to the pandemic, changes in the White House and potentially new tax laws. Moreover, it is a good time to discuss finances as it is a new year. Perhaps the new year brings new goals that may include financial investments and new business ideas.
4. How important is it for partners with kids to find ways to spend time alone together? It is critical that partners not find time but MAKE time for adult time alone. Although trite, it is true: partners who play together stay together. Frankly, we make time for what is important to us. Some of us save time to watch a two-hour sporting event or play 18 holes of golf or workout for an hour. We know what someone values based on where they spend their time, it is simple way to observe one’s priorities. If your marriage or partnership is a priority, then make time and hold it sacred. Save that time, calendarize it; if you both have it on your calendars then you are more likely to honor it.
5. If partners are feeling stress from constantly being together (for example, not having the proper space to work or have self-care time) how can they cope?
Many partners and families are living in small spaces, especially those in tight urban centers like NYC. In that case, you need to make the most of the outdoors. If you live in a cold climate, get out the correct gear, bundle up and go outside. Nature is your friend; find a beautiful park and do what you love, walk, run, cycle, jump rope, do lunges. If high impact exercise is not soothing for you, find a spot by a river, lake or ocean and sit in quiet and meditate. Ideally do both, one day be active and exercise, the next get quiet and find the happy place without your phone and just be.
If you want more time alone indoors, then tag team with your partner. You get the apartment for two hours while your partner is out entertaining the kids and vis-versa. Perhaps you need a long quiet bubble bath with a good book. Share what you need to refuel, most likely your partner wants you to feel at peace and will honor that. Self-care is how we regenerate so we can then give to others. As I always say, put your oxygen mask on before you try and help the person next to you.