In many ways, quarantine has asked us to be better to and more patient with each other. We’ve learned to make the best of video conversations, found ways to spice up our sex lives, and have mastered the art of the virtual birthday bash. But with tensions running high right now, arguments are bound to crop up. In fact, according to one clinical psychologist, fighting during quarantine is common—specifically in five categories.
Fighting with your partner, roommates, or friends sucks during normal times, but Carla Marie Manly, PhD, author of Joy From Fear, says quarantine conditions can exacerbate disagreements related to respect, connection, emotional intelligence, finances, and personal space. “Under ideal circumstances, disagreements don’t evolve into actual fights. Yet, given the additional stress and anxiety created during the coronavirus pandemic, many people are finding themselves in the midst of an argument with those closest to them,” she says. “Even those with healthy emotional intelligence and great coping skills may find themselves more easily triggered or irritated.”
“Even those with healthy emotional intelligence and great coping skills may find themselves more easily triggered or irritated.” —Carla Marie Manly, PhD
Furthermore, feeling a lack of control—in this case about the economy, health, politics, and more—can make us more prone to arguing, says Dominique Samuels, PsyD, resident psychologist for relationship-health app Emi Couple. “When someone cannot control what’s making them most anxious, it’s common to lash out and blame someone—and your partner, friend, or roommate may be that person.”
The good news is that quarantine won’t last forever, so fighting during quarantine won’t either. To make it out with your relationships in tact, follow Dr. Manly’s scripts below to get ahead of five of the most common tiffs that will more than likely crop up during this time.
Stop fighting during quarantine about the 5 most common disagreements—here’s how:
1. Arguments about disrespect (“Why won’t you do The dishes?”)
A perceived lack of respect in your quarantine relationships may really irk you at the moment. For example, let’s say your roommate has been stressed at work and is no longer cleaning up common spaces—like the kitchen and living room—as a result.
Dr. Manly’s script: “I’d like to talk about keeping the house tidy. Is this a good time? I feel a bit stressed, as I’ve noticed that the kitchen and bathroom are getting a little messy. I’d like to work with you on a cleaning agreement that would help the apartment stay tidy during this stressful time.”
2. arguments that stem from feeling a lack of connection (“Why don’t you miss me?”)
Given the widely accepted myth that everyone has a ton of free time right now, you may feel hurt if you don’t hear from your friends or family for a couple of days. (“What are they doing that’s more important than talking to me?!”) Keep in mind that you have no idea what’s actually eating up their free time, and go ahead and reach out.
Dr. Manly’s script: “I miss seeing you in person and feel really disconnected. Could we schedule a weekly time to talk via FaceTime for a half hour or so? What would work for you?”
3. arguments about emotional intelligence levels (“Why don’t you ask about my day anymore?”)
“Emotional intelligence, or lack thereof, is a huge issue in relationships right now. As many people are cut off from their normal sources of support and connection and distractions, they are spending more time with partners or roommates,” says Dr. Manly. As a result, you may find yourself slipping into new patterns that cut out the heart-to-heart conversations between you and your housemates and long-distance friends. And when you feel like your emotional health is being disregarded, or like nobody cares, you may lash out.
Dr. Manly’s script: “I feel hurt and alone when you’re not emotionally available to me. It would feel really great if we could just talk to each other at the end of the day rather than diving straight into Netflix after we finish work. I would love to talk with you about what’s going on with me. And I want to hear about what’s going on with you.”
4. arguments about money (“Should we buying this?”)
The stats will tell you that more than 16 percent of the United States labor force has now been furloughed, laid off, or taken pay cuts. Conveying this news to a partner can be devastating, and subsequent financial choices can spark disagreements when both parties need each other’s support the most.
Dr. Manly’s script: “I am scared that I’m not going to have enough money to make ends meet this month. I wanted you to know that I’m stressed about it. I know you can’t fix it, but know I am doing everything I can to limit my expenses. I’d like to talk about ways we can continue to make this work.”
5. arguments concerning a shortage of personal space (“Can I be alone?”)
“Given shelter-in-place orders, many people do not have the freedom of movement and space they are accustomed to. As a result, many people are fighting due to the natural frustration that arises when emotional and physical personal space are insufficient,” says Dr. Manly. You can create workarounds for this issue by creating a shared calendar or assigning seats and designated phone booths within your living space, but first, you’ll have to raise the issue.
Dr. Manly’s script: “I know we are both feeling cramped and cooped up right now. I feel stressed and frustrated about this. Please don’t take offense when I put my earphones on. I’m not trying to tune you out. I’m just trying to recalibrate and tune into myself.”
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