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Resources to improve and strengthen your relationship in the face of COVID-19

The disruptions and changes to our daily schedule due to COVID-19 are innumerable. Navigating relationships can become even more challenging during this time.

Cite this
Doss, B. (2020, August 5). Resources to improve and strengthen your relationship in the face of COVID-19. The Couple and Family Psychologist. http://www.apadivisions.org/division-43/publications/blog/practice/covid-19-relationship-resources
A couple wearing masks and walking together

Being stuck inside for weeks on end can be stressful, especially when we are isolating with others. The disruptions and changes to our daily schedule due to COVID-19 are innumerable. Navigating relationships can become even more challenging during this time. Boundaries have become blurred between work and home life, and depending on our living situations, it can be difficult to find physical space for “me time.” Adjusting to being torn out of our daily routine can even lead to new problems in your relationship. If you are isolating with your partner, this may be the most time you have ever spent with them. You may be noticing things about your partner that annoy you that you never noticed before. Adding to this frustration, financial difficulties, and health concerns may be shortening your tempers, leading to an increase in tension and arguments. On the other end, if you are in a long-distance relationship or are unable to see your partner during isolation, you may be experiencing loneliness or poorer emotional support.

Finding help for your relationship during this time might seem:

  • Difficult due to the closure of nonessential  businesses.
  • Too expensive.
  • Not important enough to prioritize given everything going on in our lives right now. 

Luckily, there are effective options to improve and strengthen your relationship that can be done from the safety and comfort of your home. Self-help or advice books can be a great option. There are also telehealth options, therapeutic text services, and online relationship programs available.

If you are experiencing high levels of violence, some of these resources might not be right for you. Instead, it is recommended that you please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 799-7233.

What is an online relationship program?

Online relationship programs involve online activities to help couples develop a deeper understanding of their relationship, find solutions to relationship issues, and learn important communication skills. Two online programs that have had very positive results are the OurRelationship program and ePREP.

The OurRelationship program is an online adaptation of integrative behavioral couple therapy (IBCT). It takes about seven hours to complete over a six-week period. The focus of the program, like IBCT, is on couples’ “core issue” or presenting relationship problem. The program’s activities help couples identify and narrow their core issue, gain a more comprehensive understanding of the causes and maintaining factors of their core issue, and brainstorm solutions to improve their core issue. Many of the activities are completed individually and the remainder prompt couples to have a structured “speaker-listener” conversation to promote improved communication and emotional connection. The OurRelationship program can be completed individually or as a couple and can be done with or without a paraprofessional relationship coach. Evidence from two randomized controlled trials of over 2,000 couples shows that the OurRelationship program effectively improves relationship satisfaction, intimacy, and relationship conflict (e.g., Doss et al., 2016; 2020).

ePREP is an online adaptation of the Prevention and Relationship Education (PREP) Program. Rather than focusing couples on an issue they want to work on, ePREP helps couples develop communication skills, commitment, and ideas for spending quality time as a couple. It takes about six hours to complete over a six-week period. ePREP is comprised of videos and interactive activities that couples can do together or on their own. Like the OurRelationship program, ePREP has been shown to be effective in large-scale randomized controlled trials to improve relationship functioning (Doss et al., 2020).

Self-help books

Self-help books can be a good option to improve your relationship from the safety and comfort of your home during this time.

Understanding and solving current relationship problems

If your goal is to understand or solve current relationship problems, you may benefit from the following books written by the developers of two effective approaches to couple therapy—emotionally focused couple therapy and integrative behavioral couple therapy (respectively):

  • “Hold Me Tight” by Sue Johnson, EdD
  • “Reconcilable Differences” by Andrew Christensen, PhD; Brian Doss, PhD; and Neil Jacobson, PhD

Preventing future problems 

If your goal is to prevent future problems, the two books listed below are both grounded in evidence-based research. The skills and techniques in both of these works apply to any type of romantic relationship.  

  • “Fighting for your Marriage” by Howard Markman and Scott Stanley
  • “Seven Principles for Making Marriage” Work by John Gottman

Recovering from an affair

If you are recovering from an affair, you may wish to look into “Getting Past the Affair” by Doug Snyder, Kristi Coop Gordon, and Donald Baucom. This book is also grounded in effective in-person couple therapy approaches.

Strengthening your romantic connection

If your goal is to strengthen your romantic connection “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman may be helpful to you. Even though this title is not grounded in scientific research, couples across the world have found its advice to be extremely helpful.