Keeping a marriage alive in the age of coronavirus is going to need a lot of patience, hard work, and possibly therapy, according to marriage counsellor Clive Murphey.
When couples find themselves stuck indoors with each other for two weeks or more, Mr Murphey says that is the time when the deep-rooted cracks start to show in a relationship.
“If a relationship is not going well there’s going to be problems, there’s going to be arguments, and they’re going to be at each other’s throats,” Mr Murphey said.
“At work you can get away from things and have a whole new environment, whereas at home if something irks you then those feelings can escalate.”
With the added pressure of screaming children and no toilet paper, emotions run high and old wounds start to reopen.
In Mr Murphey’s experience many relationships start breaking down over small things such as household chores, and for those problems he recommends setting out a clear agreement well in advance.
“So long as we’ve worked it out, it will all be fine, but if we haven’t worked it out things will get messy,” he said.
Mr Murphey said another psychological danger during self-isolation is boredom, which leads to people going stir-crazy and doing things they will later regret.
“The experts are predicting there could be a lot of births in nine months time,” he said.
His remedy for boredom, both in and outside of self-isolation, is having concrete life goals and something tangible to strive towards.
A lot can be accomplished in two weeks, he said, and a period of uninterrupted concentration could turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
“There’s no reason to be bored. Boredom’s a choice,” Mr Murphey said.
“What do you want out of life? Let’s make life happen rather than wait for life to deliver something, because we won’t always be happy with what life delivers but if we go chasing it we’ll be in control of the outcome.”
His last piece of advice for couples stewing away at home is to turn the mind away from oneself and towards the other people who also find themselves in the same boat.
“If you’re at home for two weeks, think about how I can make this work for me and how I can make this work for the people around me,” Mr Murphey said.
“A lot of people have entered selfish mode. You only need to walk into any supermarket to see that. When you produce fear people become really selfish, and we’ve really got to get out of that mode.”
Those suffering acute, cold, flu-like symptoms who have recently returned from travelling or are a contact of a confirmed case are urged to be tested for the virus. To do this, call HealthDirect on 1800 0222 222 to be triaged and advised by a nurse over the phone. Alternatively, contact your GP to book an appointment and let them know in advance if you have symptoms – these might include fever, cough, runny nose or shortness of breath.