Don't Let The Coronavirus Infect Your Relationships

This is an updated version of Peak Prosperity's guidance on resilient relationships, made even more relevant now due to the inter-personal stresses of the coronavirus lockdown.

Lockdown Stress = Relationship Stress

Under the best of conditions, relationships have their ups and downs.

But confine people indoors for weeks/months during a deadly pandemic with no clear release date in sight? You’re going to see plenty of issues erupt.

Anyone who’s already been under home lockdown for more than a few days ‘gets’ this.

Living on top of each other without a break makes it easy for the smaller usually-manageable differences between you and your partner to start chafing uncomfortably.

And your kids – argh! Could they try to be a little less irritating? Maybe a little more respectful? Or at least find something better to do than zombie-out all day on their devices?

Add to this mix the heightened anxieties of dealing with the worst pandemic in 100 years (fear of getting sick/dying/job loss, etc), and serious inter-personal conflict is sure to follow.

We want you to help avoid and reduce as much as this conflict as possible, so that your relationships can be a source of support and solace – instead of toxic rancor-- during this trying moment in history.

The Danger Is In The Damage Done

We're already seeing early examples of people hitting their breaking point.

Divorces in China spiked once the mandatory home quarantine was lifted. Incidences of domestic violence there also multiplied during the lockdown period. (Source: Bloomberg)

Suicide hotlines across the world are reporting surges in calls related to coronavirus-created issues. A German finance minister just killed himself over concern his efforts to protect his countrymen would prove inadequate.

When emotions run this high, it’s easy to become unhelpfully triggered.

As an example, many readers report struggling to find common ground with housemates and family members who don’t take the covid-19 threat seriously enough. That’s a difference with potential life-or-death consequences.

But even smaller disagreements, over mundane things like how to handle chores or the kids, have now become overly-magnified by the pandemic’s looming existential threat.

These differences in outlook can be incredibly frustrating. Both for you as well as for the other person, who’s just trying to get through another challenging day. And it often results in dysfunction that festers, further sabotaging the relationship.

At odds, both parties retreat. Communication suffers, and oftentimes folks respond critically when conversation is attempted.

That dynamic leads to bitterness, confusion and anger, which then spills into other areas of the relationship. Suddenly other small forms of rejection can feel like part of a coordinated affront.

The danger is this can morph into a larger “You don’t understand me!” or “You don’t care about me!” mindset that, once taken root, colors future interactions with suspicion and cynicism. A vicious cycle of negativity and hurt then builds that can alienate friendships and end marriages.

We’ve heard of dozens – probably hundreds – of relationships that have fallen casualty in this way from our readers over the past decade. And this was long before the additional stresses added by covid-19.

Those who have read our book Prosper! understand the critical importance of Social Capital – being in supporting, trusted relationships with those around us. Social Capital nourishes us emotionally as well as makes us, and our communities, more resilient.

But it requires repeated interaction over long periods of time, and building bonds that can withstand stress. And times are highly likely to get more stressful from here.

Can we prevent this scary, challenging time under lockdown from straining further the isolation/frustration many of us already have with key people in our lives? Is there a way to navigate our close relationships in a way that can prevent creating irreparable rifts when disagreements arise?

The answer is “yes”, and it’s grounded in decades of scientific research.

It's All About How We Approach Relationship Problems

John Gottman and his wife Julie have been studying relationship stability for over 40 years. Gottman's research, including the famous "Love Lab" he created at the University of Washington, led to the development of the now-standard industry practice of sequential analysis in couples therapy.

Specifically, he discovered that there are patterns of behavior (i.e., sequences of interactions) that discriminate happy couples from unhappy ones.

If you read Malcolm Gladwell’s best-seller, Blink, Gottman is the therapist featured at the start of the book, who can predict with 91% accuracy whether a married couple will divorce within 5 minutes of meeting them. That’s because Gottman has put in well over his “10,000 hours” developing mastery in this field, personally conducting 12 longitudinal studies with over 3,000 couples (the longest were followed for 20 years!)

Gottman is a very big deal in the world of couples therapy. I know this first-hand because I’m married to a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist trained in the Gottman Method.

There’s a deep toolkit of Gottman practices for persevering through conflict. My wife reaches into it every time we have a protracted disagreement…

And as weirdly clinical as it may sound, deconstructing an argument while still in the heat of it and applying the defusing and repairing techniques developed by the Gottmans is extremely effective. It can really reverse a “me against you” confrontation into a “we’ll get through this together” collaboration.

The success of this is rooted in an important realization: It isn’t about being right. It’s about finding resolution you can live with.

Everyone is different and sees through their own lens. In many cases, you’re never going to see eye to eye on every issue.

In fact, research shows that 69% of conflict in a relationship is unresolvable and perpetual. It’s not going to get “fixed” – ever.

Gottman discovered that it’s not the disagreements themselves that predict whether partnerships remain healthy, what matters is how the partners deal with those disagreements.

Relationship longevity depends on whether the parties prioritize finding positive ways to understand and accept these differences, or instead focus on trying to force the other to accept their side.

Gottman’s research is very clear that the former approach is far superior. But it’s not always easy to take for most of us, especially when arguments get heated.

What Dooms Relationships: The 4 Horsemen

Over his decades of research, Gottman found that some couples were exceptionally good at managing conflict, and some were spectacularly bad at it. But studying these "Masters and Disasters Of Relationship" closely, best practices and worst practices for nurturing valued long-term relationships became clear.

Couples who fail to stay together, especially the “Disasters”, all exhibit at least one of the following toxic behaviors, termed “The 4 Horsemen” by Gottman:

  • Criticism
  • Defensiveness
  • Stonewalling
  • Contempt
Criticism is finding fault in your partner's character. Rather than having a rational basis, you frame the cause of a disagreement as due to a deficiency in the other person (e.g., "You're so stubborn." "You never try to understand me." "You just don't get it.") Understandably, this comes across as an attack, and emotionally riles up the person on the receiving end.

Defensiveness is expressed as an attempt to protest against a perceived injustice. The most common expressions of defensiveness are adopting a victim mentality and counter-attacking. The former exasperates, the latter escalates.

Stonewalling occurs when one listener mentally withdraws from interaction. It’s basically an abandonment of any attempt to repair the situation. Common signs are no/monosyllabic responses, not appearing to be listening, avoiding eye contact, and arm crossing. Stonewalling sends a strong signal to the other party that you don’t care enough (about their feelings, about being in relationship with them) to fight through the discomfort of the moment.

Contempt is feeling or expressing resentment towards your partner. This is the worst offense: its presence is the best predictor of divorce/break-up. Once contempt is present in a relationship, the parties see each other’s qualities and motives in a negative light by default. When you feel contempt, you feel the other person is ‘below’ you, oftentimes undeserving of you. It’s a very difficult mindset to reverse once it’s ingrained.

To see clips of each of these 'worst practices' in action (taken from actual couples therapy sessions), watch this short video:

How To Strengthen Your Relationships To Last

When watching the above video, each of us probably sees behavior that looks familiar. We're all guilty at some time or another of these transgressions in our interactions with close family and friends.

But that’s not a death sentence for these relationships.

Gottman’s findings show that even the Masters Of Relationship fight. Hey, we’re all human.

But what they do exceptionally well is focusing on repair during and after a disagreement. This attempt at attenuation of injury, of demonstrating care for your partner’s well-being even while arguing with them, is the “key to relationship success” according to Gottman.

By studying the successful strategies of these “Masters”, the Gottman Institute has developed a time-proven framework and series of practices for defeating the 4 Horsemen – avoiding hurtful behavior when possible, repairing the damage when not, and using conflict when it arises to strengthen relationship bonds vs weakening them.

Applying these techniques to the areas of conflict in your marriage, your friendships and your workplace – especially when done under the guidance of a licensed therapist – can be transformative in returning strained relationships back into flourishing ones.

In Part 2: How To Manage Conflict & Build Relationships That Last we detail out the specific conflict resolution progression prescribed by the Gottman Method in a way that you can immediately start applying in your life.

This report is one of the most valuable resources we have to offer folks living together in lockdown. It’s worth every penny of the subscription. And you’ve sure got the time and incentive to read it.

And lucky you; you’re getting these gems without having to sit through the long couples weekend workshops I’ve had to. My wife drags me to one every few years to meet her continuing education requirements. (That, plus we often genuinely can use the relationship tune-up.)

Click here to read Part 2 of this report (free executive summary, enrollment required for full access).

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Running low on money, disruption of all the usual routines, resentment that the other isn’t doing enough, that the other’s differing viewpoint isn’t “right” and that they just don’t “get it.”
Lots of us are struggling more with the lockdown, fear of death, too much time together in a small apartment, low cash flow…

for morel mushrooms. Quarantined to our farm is a blessing. Mushroom hunting,gardening,working lambs for Easter sale,calve chores and enough time. However, my son and daughter in law are here as his grad school closed and they live in midtown Memphis, she is having a rough go of things.

I had forgotten completely about the morels. Have to get out into the great outdoors and start looking.

lamb buyers pay in cash, how best to disinfect?

the buyers or the lambs, but how to best disinfect cash. Not launder cash but disinfect it.

threw it in the dryer with a load of clothes.

But from what I’ve learned here, this is what I’d do. Sorry if any of this is overly obvious but I’m presenting this as if to someone who knew nothing about what we’ve discussed here. I’d first do a test run. I’d pre-heat my oven to 170 deg. F. Once pre-heated, I’d put a single one dollar bill in and let it sit for 40 minutes. So I’m doing a little overkill in terms of temperature and time necessary to kill the virus. I’d check it after 40 minutes and make sure I haven’t burned it up, lol. Once determined that it is safe, then I’d put the actual amount of money in the oven to sterilize it. Getting back to the payment, I’d have them drop the money into a plastic baggie and then seal it with a twist tie. I wouldn’t open it again until putting the money in the oven and then would dispose of the baggie.
Another possibility is to spread the money out on a metal baking tray in a garage area and try spraying it with hydrogen peroxide or a bleach solution (doing your test run of course with a single one dollar bill to see how it held up to the chemicals) and let it sit for an hour or so.
By the way, do you sell your lambs live or butchered and what is their approximate weight when you sell them? The reason I’m asking is that we’ve bought lambs in the past. Butchering them ourselves saves money but is quite a job. And they weighed close to 100 lbs. When does lamb become mutton, lol? I asked that question on a Tasmanian sheep ranch and the rancher gave a somewhat sheepish grin and was a bit evasive with the answer. Do you have sheep dogs to guard and/or herd? It was amazing to watch that rancher work his herding dogs. The local sheep farms around here need them for protection from coyotes and especially wolves, possibly even cougars or bears. They use Great Pyrenees or Anatolian shepherds or mixes. The one farmer said he lost 50 lambs one year to predators before he got the dogs but he has very few losses to predators now.

Thank you, G*d, I live alone and I like my own cooking. ??

are generally live and 80 lbs. my personal favorite is a 120 lb hogget which is the stage between lamb and sheep. The definitions are Lamb till one year hogget till 2 then a sheep thereafter. For table quality or my relative definition is lamb till sexual maturity then a sheep. Our flock varies from 50-75 ewes. By Monday we will have sold 35 lambs born in December on pasture and weighing 50-80 lbs. on grass and mamas milk. No feed. The remaining lambs will go outa here by August. LGD’s are a must. We use Pyrs and Anatolian crosses. They will shred any perceived threat but tolerate our Border collie who is far more interested in his job than anything and I mean anything. A good BC is better than three boys and a four wheeler. Predators? Bald eagles get 10-20 lambs a year. This year only a very few as I am learning to move the flock more often which seems to confuse the eagles. Moving 50 very concerned mamas with 100 newbies who are still uncoordinated is a challenge Ken the BC would cause an explosion in the wool factory at this time in the flock. Once the lambs are a few weeks old all is well.
I hope I answered your questions. We love our bucolic existence.
morels like tulip poplars and southeast facing slopes. Well this is true in zone 7 Virginia. We’ve had about 35 to eat in the last three days. They are a seasonal delight!

I’d just set the cash aside somewhere and not touch it for a week or two.
Disinfecting lambs and customers will take a different approach!
In Canada they started making cash out of plastic a few years ago, which everyone hates. But recently I was able to dunk a wad of it into a bleach solution to disinfect it. So I guess I’ll learn to love the plastic convenience.

I can fully understand why you love your bucolic existence. I always enjoy reading what you have to write about your lifestyle. You have something very special there.
I forget about the predators from above. The bald eagles are a tough one to deal with. No blasting them from the sky. So you must be by a river or lake? On the plus side, they do seem to intimidate fairly easily and they don’t hunt at night to my knowledge.
My wife and I were walking on the beach the other day and a fog had rolled in, restricting visibility to less than a couple hundred yards. I happened to look up and saw a bald eagle coming out of the fog flying toward us. I yelled to my wife to look up and the eagle either heard my voice or saw my sudden hand pointing gesture and immediately veered and headed away from us. We both laughed seeing this majestic bird so easily frightened off.
Along this beach this is a tall white pine paired with a red pine that have some bare branches at the top where an eagle often likes to perch and look out over the lake. Unfortunately, the storms and erosion from a high lake level undermined these beautiful old trees this winter and they have fallen down on the beach and are half buried in sand now. Anyway whenever I would walk any of our past dogs there (all in the 70-100 lbs. range), if there was an eagle perched there, it’d always be eyeing the dog. I would usually ignore it since I didn’t want to disturb it. But once in a while I would stop and just stare at it. I’d notice that fairly quickly, it’d turn its head a little bit and begin to look increasingly unsettled the longer I stared at it. If I got right under the tree and stared for longer than a minute or so, it’d almost invariably decide to fly off. Maybe you could try drone fly-overs or get a surplus weather balloon with some mylar streamers attached and tether it over your flock with some kit string. Just brain storming here a bit.

You’ll note I didn’t specifically say to fly the drone to chase the eagle. That would be illegal. I just mentioned fly-overs. If any eagle happens to come along, oh well, it’s just a coincidence while I was videoing my flock. That being said, if the drone flier is not fully aware of the eagle, the eagle may successfully attack the drone to protect its territory, especially if its nest is nearby. I’d never fly a drone near an eagle’s nest.
However, you’ll occasionally see smaller birds driving off a large raptor including eagles. Maneuverability neutralizes the advantage of size and strength. An eagle isn’t a falcon or even a hawk. That rotary wing drone wasn’t attacked by an eagle. A fixed wing drone would lose against any of them as we saw. But a rotary wing drone can do something that an eagle can’t … rapid vertical ascent and sudden linear directional changes. A good drone pilot would use that to their advantage to get the heck out of its way. It’d be an interesting contest but if it was me piloting the drone, I’d put my money on the bird, lol.

Topics NOT discussed during this pandemic

  • Home is a dangerous place to be for a big percentage of the population (especially children)
  • Mental Health is NOT being addressed during this pandemic
Here is a start
One thing I have noted about this site, historically speaking, is that the comments and debates on what I would call the ‘soft’ subjects - things related to emotions, feelings, domestic aspects of life - are much less robust and often of significantly smaller volume than for the other more common subjects. Take this article by Adam as an example. The volume of engagement is reflected in the low number of comments. Compare this to the high number of comments for the majority of the other Covid-19 related articles, some which number in the 100s.
If people are not willing to engage on such a serious topic as domestic violence, mental health and emotional resilience then we are doing ourselves a disservice by not covering the spectrum of all the important things that affect our lives and communities. It takes a village, but only when that village does not turn a blind eye to some of the horrors that are going on within it.

At around 2:28, Wolff said “attaching a nationality to a virus is an invention of Donald Trump”. Really? What planet have these people been living on? I guess they never heard of Hong Kong flu, German measles, Guinea worm, Spanish flu, etc., etc. A whole host of diseases have been named after the place of actual or suspected origin way before Donald Trump came along.
This video came across more as a political hit piece than a valid psychological discussion. Do you realize Wolff is a Marxian economist and Fraad is his wife who is also a diehard Marxist, daughter to a hardcore Communist father, and one of the founder’s of the Women’s Liberation Movement, which is also a Marxist movement at its core. And both are from NYC, an area that is widely acknowledged as often NOT representing the sentiment of most of America and tends to have rather skewed viewpoints.
Plus, look at their eyes when they talk. Both suffer from “crazy eyes” and seem a bit kooky. I would suspect that neither one is the most healthy mentally.
Mental health is certainly a concern at times like this but this video did not do a good job of supporting that position.
Can you find something a bit better?

Don’t fall for it. Thank you AO.

This is a site that focuses on things that are more objective than subjective and more on facts and data than beliefs and opinions. Emotions and feelings, on the other hand, do not lend themselves well to quantification. Also, there are more men on this site than women and most men tend, for better or worse, to be less likely to focus as much on their feelings as women do. Contrary to politically correct belief, men and women are not the same. We are different and that is a good thing. Neither one is superior or inferior to the other. We are designed to be complementary to one another, not the same as one another and not antagonistic to one another.
AKGranny and you and others (both female and male) bringing up these issues is fine but don’t necessarily expect all the men to jump in to the same extent and with the same fervor. Don’t get me wrong. I am a big believer in the value and role of emotions. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have them. But like anything that can entail a great deal of power, they need to be appropriately channeled and expressed.
Something that I often observe is the tendency of some individuals to wallow in their emotions. They will talk about them and express them and repeat them and rehearse them again and again but without ever reaching any kind of resolution. I call it emotion porn. They indulge in it for the feelings it brings them in an attempt to fill some kind of void in their life but the extent to which they do that is not healthy for them or those around them.
I agree that households of dysfunctional families can be very dangerous for various family members, sometimes children, sometimes women, and sometimes even men. In my experience both as a former health care professional and also as a lay person interacting with certain families in charitable contexts, it can be absolutely heart breaking to see the horrendous social and psychologic conditions some people live under. The dysfunction can be absolutely appalling.
We can look at such terrible circumstances as social problems, and they are, but my personal feeling is that they are more fundamentally moral and spiritual problems. When the moral fabric and spiritual foundation of society is increasingly torn apart as has occurred with the pervasive spread of such Marxist thought as critical theory and the associated political correctness, the result is we get what we now see.