Relationships change, evolve, and sometimes they dissipate. But the direction in which your relationship is going says a lot about its strength.
Relationships are not easy. They have their ups and downs, and they change continuously. Difficult times, in fact, present a kind of litmus test for relationships because how it fairs under stressful conditions reveals how strong it was, to begin with. With the global pandemic looming large over our heads and people living in isolated conditions for self-preservation, the amount of stress we are under cannot be stated enough.
A look at how your relationship dynamic is changing during this time will reveal a lot about how strong your relationship actually is and where it is headed.
Dr. John Gottman, a leading relationship expert revealed that stressful conditions can have an immense psychological impact on people at an individual level that can then translate to their relationship. He used the term 'flooding' to explain how high anxiety situations can make functioning normally almost impossible in anxiety creating situations. Living in isolation is a similar situation where the stress levels are high and may cause anxiety-like symptoms.
It is understandable in this situation that individuals react sharply as they are on the edge and nervy. Even simple and trivial matters may become an issue before you know it. And even the most benign things can spark an argument. If you are observing something similar in your relationship during this time, then it may be due to the 'flooding' effect rather than dissociation. Your relationship is not weak, the circumstances are testing. It's alright to argue but even more essential to come back to each other at the end of the day.
A study in 2014 showed that couples under stress may have drastic changes in the way they approach each other and how they deal with the relationship. Disconnecting with each other is a way of coping that numerous couples adopt in strenuous times. This may stem from different factors but sometimes, couples choose to dissociate in order to keep things on an even keel. It sometimes seems more practical to take a step back and not engage rather than having a full-blown argument due to individual stress levels.
This is a coping mechanism that is triggered individually but it does not mean that your relationship is bad. It could be that by doing so in the short-term you protect the relationship from falling apart completely. It may actually turn out that by adopting this mechanism you are keeping your relationship intact and even working towards it, albeit unknowingly.
According to an article from the Harvard Business Review, couples can each other cope with stress by developing greater empathy for each other. What this means is that under stressful conditions, couples start looking at things from each other's points of view and try to understand each other's individual lives. They open up to each other and talk with each other more often to try and understand what it is to be the other person in the relationship.
If during this isolation period, you have started spending more time with each other and are talking more then it is an extremely healthy sign for your relationship. It shows that you are both equally invested in the relationship and are considerate towards each other's feelings. Your relationship may have been incredible or it may have been bad, but the fact that you are speaking more shows that you are willing to work on it. And if that's the case then your relationship stands to gain in the future and go from strength to strength.