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Siblings fighting. Spouses at odds. How to fix relationships damaged by COVID.

  • April 16, 2021

The long-term impacts of the coronavirus – on our bodies, our brains, on society – won’t be fully understood for years. One of the most unsettling questions is how the pandemic has changed our relationships with people we love but who we’ve disagreed with on the threat of COVID-19 and the steps necessary to stay safe. 

COVID has altered family dynamics. Fights over mask-wearing and social distancing created new rifts, and for those split on politics pre-pandemic the crisis deepened fractures already formed.

There’s the sister who wouldn’t socially distance at all and the one who only socialized outside six-feet apart. The husband who refused to wear a mask and the wife who wouldn’t leave home without one. The aunt who said she’s in no rush to get vaccinated and the cousin who signed up for a shot the minute he was eligible. 

COVID has tested some of our closest relationships.

The most cautious family members butted heads with the more risk-tolerant ones. Even for families who largely agreed on COVID restrictions this past year, the continued uncertainty of an increasingly vaccinated world has created challenges around returning to “normal.” When it comes to resuming life, not everyone is on the same timeline. 

Couples clash over COVID:‘I have cried. I have begged. I have yelled’

USA TODAY spoke with two psychologists on how families can work to repair relationships damaged by disagreements over COVID. These are their tips for moving forward:

Determine if both people are willing to work on the relationship

Melissa Boudin, clinical director for Choosing Therapy, an online therapy platform, said nothing can be accomplished unless both family members are interested in healing.

How to do a mental health check

People need the opportunity to hear one another out, to compromise where they can and set strong boundaries in places they cannot.

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