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Emotions and anxiety levels can run high during the COVID-19 pandemic and trigger tension within personal relationships. According to psychologists at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Counseling and Student Development Center (CSDC), the added strain can dredge up old conflicts or wounds.

“This may activate unresolved or unsaid kinds of things. Things that are swept under the rug and have not yet been addressed,” said CSDC Psychologist Mike Yap.

Because so many of us are trying to regain a sense of control during the globe’s unprecedented health crisis, Yap said some will work on fixing their relationships first. This highlights the importance of effective communications.

silhouette of couple

Yap said, “One party has to be as vulnerable as possible in terms of speaking about things that they’re concerned with. The other needs to be very open and hopefully non-judgmental in order to best hear what the other party has to say.” To promote further growth in the relationship, Yap explained it would be ideal to switch these roles.

Conflicts should be addressed in small bits during scheduled times that are mutually agreed upon, such as an hour once a week. It is also key to set a firm beginning and end time to talk.

“That allows us to become more open and more vulnerable in the things that we talk about knowing that there will be an endpoint and then there will be relief after we are exposing ourselves,” said Yap.

As uncertainty surrounding the pandemic lingers around the world, this crisis may actually present an opportunity when it comes to relationships in particular. According to Yap, people can use this unprecedented time to reinvent themselves and foster more fulfilling relationships.

—By Moanikeʻala Nabarro

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