COVID Conflicts Are Straining Relationships

THURSDAY, Sept. 17, 2020 (HealthDay News) — As the coronavirus pandemic wears on, it’s clear that not everyone’s on the same page when it comes to preventing the risk of infection.

Lots of people wear masks, try to maintain social distancing and avoid large gatherings. But plenty of others forgo a mask or wear it on their chin, go to busy bars and attend social gatherings, like weddings.

Both sides think they’re right. And that’s led to friction and frustration among friends and families.

How can you deal with these differences and keep your relationships intact?

“This is a super-charged topic. Your beliefs about science are now injected with politics,” said Dr. Richard Catanzaro, chief of psychiatry at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y.

“My fundamental approach to stuff like this is to be as direct as possible. Express the concerns that you have, and acknowledge that the other person might not agree, but explain it’s how you feel. For example, ask the person to wear a mask when you’re interacting with them. If they refuse, say, ‘Let’s talk virtually then,'” Catanzaro said.

He added that the tone of the conversation hinges on how important the relationship is to you.

“In a marriage or more permanent relationship, be more open with the person, and try to get them to see how their behavior is impacting you,” Catanzaro said.

For more casual friendships, he suggested taking on more of the “responsibility” of the request. “You can tell friends, ‘It’s a possibility I could be overreacting, but I would rather overreact because it’s not only my health at stake, but also the health of my parents and my kids and my co-workers,'” Catanzaro explained.

L.A. Barlow, a clinical psychologist at Detroit Medical Center, has been seeing a lot of people struggling with these coronavirus lifestyle mismatches.

“It has a lot to do with the uncertainty around the coronavirus. Usually, when people in a relationship have differences, it’s OK to negotiate to a common ground,” she said. But that’s not always possible with coronavirus issues. It would be tough to persuade someone who’s been careful about social distancing to attend a wedding with 100 people, for instance.

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