Couple and family after the quarantine

The quarantine imposed by the coronavirus epidemic forced us to stay at home, together with our family members or just our partner, upsetting what was our routine.

If, before the quarantine, we waited for the weekend to be able to be together and engage in common activities, and this constituted a moment of joy and relaxation, the obligation to be all together, and without being able to go out and do activities outside has, in some cases, brought to light the critical issues both in family relationships in general, and in the relationship of couples in particular. It is clear that these issues were more easily highlighted in those relationships that already “creaked” before the coronavirus and that the place where you were forced to pass quarantine had its relevance: it is one thing for three people to stay in a large house with a garden, and another for three to stay in a small apartment without even a balcony; the space and the possibility of having a private place in which to relax and devote time only to themselves are decidedly different.

Let’s talk firstly about the relationship of couples.

The lockdown has been, for couples, a testbench that has strengthened those who were united and put a strain on those who had already experienced problems, by often increasing pre-existing tensions. At the moment of a partial return to normality couples who have experienced tensions will be able to make real progress, both as individuals and as a unit. For some, this forced coexistence will have been the moment when the tensions, which perhaps they tried to ignore, were highlighted. It was no longer possible to pretend nothing was wrong and post-lockdown will be the right time to redefine the relationship, maybe even looking for psychological help, so as to find a new, real balance and restart their own journey as a couple. For others, however, it will be the time to come to terms with the critical issues and the end of the relationship, finding the courage to face a new life on their own.

In some ways, the argument is different when we speak not only of just a couple, but a family, therefore the presence of children. Many, but especially women, since there is still a family model that tends to delegate childcare to women, have suddenly found themselves with their children, and we are talking mainly about fairly small children, at home, round the clock, without the support of grandparents and school.

What was a moment of joy at the weekend may have turned into a moment of stress, exacerbated by a sense of guilt: feeling like a bad mother when you want a period, even a small one, of peace in which to devote yourself only to yourself. What we must always remember is that forced and continuous coexistence is experienced cognitively in a different way by each member of the family who will manage it according to their own individuality.

It is important to admit, also and above all with oneself, that you are individuals and not to be fossilized in a predefined role by accepting your own mistakes and your own small egoisms, making them become a moment of growth. Recovering a private space and establishing precise boundaries is a normal need that cannot be silenced or underestimated, otherwise it will result in tensions that will reverberate in the future of the relationship. Equally important is to develop empathy, but also the ability to negotiate in a positive way without blaming and counter blaming and, in the event of conflict, cooperate for the resolution by keeping in mind that conflict must not become a competition, in which there are winners on the one hand and losers on the other, but a time of growth in which we cooperate to become better.

Our family, post coronavirus, will probably not be, in its internal dynamics, identical to that of pre coronavirus, but it could be better: it is up to us to personally commit ourselves and, if necessary, ask for help.

Dr.Patrizia Pietropaolo


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