Practicing online therapy, including remote family therapy and couples therapy, since March, our practice has witnessed how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected relationships between both family members and romantic partners. Drawing on these experiences, Tribeca Therapy was quoted in two publications on whether quarantining together as a couple creates closeness or conflict and navigating how to discuss (or choose not to discuss) family members’ coronavirus conspiracy theories.
Most recently, our Founder and Clinical Director Matt Lundquist was featured in “Shouldn’t Disaster Bring Us Closer?” in New York Magazine’s The Cut. Wondering about the truthfulness of the disaster film trope in which a couple becomes closer than ever before during a crisis, writer Katie Heaney sought out Matt as a couples therapist for the real experiences of couples during the pandemic. Matt observes that couples are fairly evenly split: “Half of them are boning down like never before, and half of them don’t want to go near each other.”
Beyond the sheer pressure of feeling like they should become closer, Matt notes that each partner’s preexisting needs and desires don’t just go away in a crisis. Neither do conflicts. Matt explains that couples who were on solid ground pre-COVID are more likely to be faring better than couples that were struggling.
This doesn’t mean that all couples aren’t beginning to tire of being cooped up together. “Couples are spending way more time together than even the best of us should…Just because you’re breathing the same air and eating the same leftovers doesn’t mean you’re always going to be on the same page, because you’re different people,” Matt says.
Matt also spoke to Business Insider earlier this month in “How to Respond to Your Family’s Coronavirus Conspiracy Theories” on managing conflict in relationships with family members who are buying into coronavirus conspiracy theories. Citing the World Health Organization’s declaration of an “infodemic,” writer Shira Feder reached out to Matt for insight on how to decide if, when, and how to talk to family members spreading false theories, including asking for explicit consent when discussing or finding credible sources in order to debunk the theories.
If the conversation is worth having (and it may not be), Matt asserts that tone is important depending on the person to whom you’re speaking. “When talking to someone you love, the tone should be a kind of loving curiosity…If it’s somebody who is taking a more ‘I know the truth’ posture I think a more intellectual tone is the way to go,” Matt observes.
Matt emphasizes that it’s especially essential to consider who in the family is sharing the theory: “Think about is this somebody who has functioned in the family as a kind of bully or an antagonist, or is it someone just sharing something they saw online…I urge people to start by being suspicious and to say wait a minute, are we talking about an issue or is this person looking for a fight.” If it is someone just looking for a fight, it’s okay not to engage. “You can say, we’re better off not talking about politics and cut it off,” he says.