Love during COVID-19: How cooped up couples stay connected

After being married for 35 years, you'd think being at home in self isolation could get monotonous for Greg and Mary Duguay. But the high school sweethearts are truly making the most of their time together these days. 

"We've gone for walks, we'll have supper and then we'll play a board game or we'll play a card game or a dice game or we'll watch a movie," said Mary. "We're doing different things together but not just sitting in front of the TV and bored. We're always finding something to do."

After returning from a trip to Florida on March 13, the Duguay's began their 14 day self isolation as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19. 

Given the message from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week — "Go home and stay home" — the Duguay's likely aren't the only couples spending more together time right now. And they have some advice. 

"Sense of humour, sense of humour, sense of humour — It's all about funny, if you don't have a sense of humour when the sun comes up, you're not going to make," said Greg, as Mary laughed in the background of our phone conversation.

"You're bound to get on each other's nerves regardless of how much time you think you spend together, and if you're going to be in your own home prison for two weeks, you have to get along and everything can be funny."

Staying positive together

 According to clinical psychologist Chris Carreira, Greg might be on to something. But there's a bit more to it than cracking jokes together. He said particularly stressful times, like a global pandemic, are not good for couples in general. So now is not the time to bring up "difficult issues."

"Try not to hash out any kind of marital or family problems right now, because oftentimes what happens is when we have difficult discussions like this we often need to have a period of cooling down that comes afterwards," explained Carreira. 

"And when we can't exactly have that period of cooling down because you know we're in the same home or we're in very tight quarters — it doesn't give that ability for us to sort of go back and think and reflect about what we said and maybe sort of heal our hearts."

Submitted by Chris Carreira

Extra time together can be a definite advantage, said Carreira, especially if you're doing fun things together like the Duguays are. 

It's also a good time to take stock on the positive attributes in your relationship. 

"They can use this time to their advantage to actually strengthen their relationships by talking about things like what they like in the other person, what it is about the other person that makes them laugh, what it is that they admire in the other person," he said.

"Definitely avoiding the the arguments that have been going on for two or three or four or seven years and and just having more conversations about positive things like setting goals for yourselves."

I can see that just the general level of anxiety in the community in general is rising. - Chris Carreria, clinical psychologist

Greg believes that all this together time could be beneficial to new couples by being "a good litmus test" to see how compatible you are with one another. 

"At the end of the day make sure you're happy," he said. "Whatever difference you had, you resolve during the day because they can fester in this environment just like this virus — they can really fester and It becomes something greater than it needs to be."

"It's all about getting along and working together as a team to make it through this pandemic," added Mary. 

Anxiety for everyone

It's not only couples that can have a hard time in self isolation said Carreira who is still regularly seeing clients via phone or video chats. 

"I can see that just the general level of anxiety in the community in general is rising," he said. "People were getting very bored at home and they're feeling very frustrated."

Carreira is reminding people to stay active outdoors while physically distancing from other people. But there are other ways to use this time beneficially. 

"We can we can take the time to meditate, we can take the time to pray, we can take the time to work on personal self goals. A lot of my patients are journaling today," said Carreira. 

"This time where they're forced to stay home if they actually use it productively just find some kind of meaning or to find some kind of purpose in sort of rediscovering themselves in journaling about who they are and what they see their values and morals to be ... it's actually very productive and actually they they insulate very well against the potential for depression that could be just around the corner for a lot of people because of the isolation and not communicating with others."