By Victoria Riollano, Crosswalk.com
At the dawn of a new decade, few people anticipated how much the world will change in a matter of months. Things once taken for granted like taking children to school, sitting at a coffee shop, or taking a family vacation would quickly become health risks. With so much change, in such a small amount of time, few had the opportunity to process how being forced to stay at home and do less would affect their everyday life. In fact, it’s been found that those claiming symptoms of feeling down, a lack of motivation, low energy, and having thoughts of harming themselves has tripled since the start of the COVID-19 crises. It’s clear that many were unable to cope with such sudden change in the environment around them.
Interpersonal relationships have also suffered. On one hand, many interactions were suddenly cut off. From no longer seeing work friends to church events that were cancelled or required no communication amongst congregants, those who once had vibrant interactions, were forced into isolation. Married couples and parents were now with their family members trapped within their home for months at a time.
Although this could have been positive for some relationships, for others the inability to have time away from family members may have exposed or made worst current issues within the home. Even within my own home, both my husband and I realized that even the healthiest couples need some moments apart to keep the peace. It is apparent that COVID-19 continues to take a big toll on relationships.
Here are four ways COVID-19 has complicated relationships and a few things we do to see a change.
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1. Less Face-to-Face Interaction
The first, and most obvious, way coronavirus has changed relationships has been the reduction in face-to-face interaction. In many states, Stay-At-Home orders have forbidden the ability to be around more than 10 people at a time. This is in addition to many jobs requiring telework and churches moving to completely virtual services. Talking through a screen has become a standard way of communication. Even within my own family, our annual Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings turned into family zoom meetings.
Face to face communication has both social and psychological benefits. Socially, face to face interaction provides the ability to communicate properly as each person can adjust their body language, tone, or inflection to share their heart. This is often lost when conversations are strictly digital and increases the chances of misunderstandings. Additionally, those who are isolated are more likely to experience anxiety and depression. Even teenagers are struggling with the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
A recent study has found that from April to August of 2020 the cases of mental health emergencies have increased by 31%. The inability to date in person, have time with school friends, or even attend their prom, has been a source of great agitation and disappointment. The truth is, we were made to be in community with one another and this crisis has made connecting with one another a difficult task.
Photo Credit: Religion News Service/Screenshot
2. Social, Political, and Religious Division
Mask or no mask?
Church or no church?
Vaccine or Mark of the Beast?
What started as a health issue, has become intertwined with political divides, socioeconomic status, and even how people interact with the Church. People who were once close friends no longer associate over the idea of wearing a mask. Those who have taken the vaccine are called “sheep” and those who refuse to are a “part of the problem.” Regardless of where you stand on these issues, we can all agree that even those within the Church, we are not walking in unity.
As a pastor’s wife, I’ve seen how COVID-19 has created a clear line between those who feel like we should “walk by faith” boldly facing coronavirus and those who are in the “walk in wisdom” crowd who feel we should be aware and approach with caution. It would seem that everyone knows the best way to respond to a pandemic and have no issues sharing their opinions with divisive social media posts and looks of disdain in public spaces.
No matter where you stand on the matters at hand, division has never been God’s best for His children. In fact, the Apostle Paul spoke on the topic of strife and division throughout the New Testament.
"I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)
I believe Paul was aware that division can become a distraction. Divisiveness is more than just a disagreement. Instead, division typically occurs when one or both sides refuse to budge, compromise or understand the other person’s opinion. In some ways, the one who chooses to walk in a state of division carries a sense of pride that says, “I’m right and you’re wrong.” Often this stance creates disruption and distracts from the goal at hand.
Within the church, this has caused entire denominations to split. So, while those in the church continue to argue over who’s right and wrong, those on the outside see a poor reflection of God’s heart of unconditional love and reconciliation. In his article, “Church, Don’t Let Coronavirus Divide You” Brett McCracken says it best,
“No one of us should assume we’ve arrived at the definitive answer on how to do this well. Let’s model humility by acknowledging that everything is not obvious, and we are all just trying to do the best we can in this “build the plane in midair” moment.”
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3. Strained Financial Problems
With over 36 million American filing for unemployment since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many can relate to being financially strained. These financial issues don’t just affect the individual who may be jobless or have reduced work hours, entire families can also struggle to keep up with day-to-day needs. With financial issues being one of the leading causes of divorce, it is fair to say an unstable economy with few available jobs can leave marriages in ruin.
Lack of the ability to date, plan family vacations, buy special gifts for one another, or provide for one’s family can leave couples feeling overwhelmed and scared about what their futures hold.
In the article, “Money, Marriage and COVID-19: 4 Steps to Keep Your Finances and Relationship Strong” financial advisor Rachel Cruze suggests four ways couples can remain resilient and even grow closer during this uncertain time.
- Acknowledge your fears – Rather than avoid talking about the issues, share your heart with one another.
- Make a budget – Calculate any possible fund and create a plan.
- Don’t do debt – Focus on necessities.
- Share your dreams for the future with each other – Remember the pandemic won’t always be around.
With this in mind, we can be good stewards of what we have and remain hopeful. Rather than make permanent choices based on temporary solutions, couples must make a choice to take life and their finances one day at a time, while trusting the Lord for His provision.
“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
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4. Challenged Friendships
The coronavirus pandemic highlighted the importance of community and intentional friends. During this time, many came to realize that some friendships weren’t sincere. Often being a part of the same organizations can give the appearance of a deeper relationship. We see this often with church friends and work associates. Once our church membership or place of employment changes, the people we once saw as close friends are suddenly a fading memory.
Without being intentional, many friendships were dissolved and challenged. Those who want to maintain relationships can no longer count on the weekly moms’ meet up or church outing—instead phone calls, text messages, and zoom calls are necessary.
In my own life, my friends went out of their way to make me continue to feel loved and surrounded. From throwing me a drive by birthday party to coordinating a meal train after I gave birth in late 2020, I was without a doubt cared for. Although this requires more effort, friendships that can sustain a pandemic are ones that will last a lifetime!
There may be times when you need to share your needs, fears, and expectations of those you care about. Rather than feel like your friends have abandoned you during the pandemic, don’t be afraid to reach out. Valuing one another and maintaining relationships matter more than ever. So although relationships may have proven a bit more difficult lately, with prayer, love, and intentionality we can all grow stronger together.
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17)
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