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When You and Your Partner React Differently to COVID-19 Concerns — Tips for Communicating

Current as of March 23, 2020


To address the threat of COVID-19, public health leaders are calling on all of us to modify our behaviors, change our daily routines and make sacrifices. The Department of Defense has also introduced travel restrictions to keep service members and their families safe.

These adjustments can cause stress, and everyone reacts to stressful situations differently. Your partner’s response could be very unlike your own. For example, one of you may think you should deep clean the house, and the other may think it’s not necessary. Or one of you wants to keep going to social gatherings, while the other thinks you should stay at home and lock the doors.

Here are tips for improving your communication skills as you work through COVID-19 concerns together.

Cope With Stress as a Couple

The COVID-19 pandemic can strain even the strongest relationship. Review our guide for ways to cope.

Tips for Talking About COVID-19 Concerns

  • Be an active listener. Give each other your full attention, free of interruptions. Turn off the television, and let phone calls go to voicemail.
  • Show that you're listening. Try repeating back what you heard through phrases such as, "So what you're saying is..." or "If I understand you correctly, you feel..."
  • Pay attention to your body language. If you're speaking in person or through video chat, uncross your arms, offer a smile and make eye contact with your partner.
  • Talk at a stress-free time. Avoid talking about the coronavirus or other sensitive issues when either of you is tired, hungry or pressed for time.
  • Keep your sense of humor. Using humor can break tension and help you connect through the stress and pressure caused by this situation.
  • Make "I" statements. Be specific about how you feel. Express your feelings with neutral comments such as "I feel...," "I'm concerned that...," or "I'm worried that..." instead of phrases that put people on the defensive, such as "You never...," "You always ...," or "You're so ..."
  • Talk about the issue, not who's right or wrong. Focus on finding specific solutions or answers instead of assigning blame.
  • Acknowledge the other person's point of view. Make an effort to show you're listening and you understand, even if you don't agree.
  • Take a break if needed. Take 15 minutes to be alone and calm down if your conversation becomes heated or you're on the verge of saying things you'll regret. Commit to revisiting the issue when your emotions are under control.

More Information and Support for Military Families

As we combat the coronavirus in the days ahead, the Department of Defense will continue to prioritize the safety of service members and their families. Military OneSource can connect you to a range of related information, services and support.

More Resources for Improving Relationships and Communication

Now and always, Military OneSource can connect you to resources for making your relationship healthy and strong.

  1. Watch free webinars to boost your communication skills. Choose from topics including:
  2. Get a free Building Healthy Relationships education-based consultation designed to strengthen your relationships. Counselors can tailor this series of personalized coaching sessions to help you set goals and strengthen your communication skills. Once customized, counselors can deliver the consultation to you by phone or video. Choose from six customized tracks that you can take from the comfort of your own home.
  3. Love Every Day is a fun and interactive digital tool that helps you develop and practice good relationship communication in only a few minutes each day. You get personalized text messages for 21 days to help foster a renewed sense of connection. By making intimate communication a consistent part of your daily routine, you and your partner learn to apply the skills in everyday life.

Our understanding of the coronavirus is changing rapidly. With the tips and resources listed above, and accurate information, you can keep your conversations constructive and productive. Stay up to date on the latest information by checking the Coronavirus Information for Our Military Community page for updates.

It is natural for all relationships to feel tested during an emergency or crisis. If your spouse or partner has made you feel unsafe or afraid, help is available through the Family Advocacy Program. Speak to a victim advocate to explore next steps, or call or chat with the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7, at 800-799-7233 or thehotline.org.