SPECIAL REPORT: COVID has put a strain on relationships potentially causing more serious problems

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BAY COUNTY Fla. (WMBB) — It goes without saying that the last six months have been stressful. But for some, they have changed the way we live our lives and, sometimes how we treat others.

With each day that passes, a new set of worries comes with it: paying bills, going to work, or planning family meals — the responsibilities are endless. Those responsibilities become magnified when a pandemic is thrown into the mix.

“You also have: Do I have enough hand sanitizer at home? Do I have a mask to wear into a store?” said Brittany Cole, the Life Management Marketing and Public Relations Director. “For those that are, not getting paid, even if they are needing to work more due to being essential workers, add all that stress on top of it, and that’s a lot to handle for anyone.”

Handling those additional pressures can lead to a strain on relationships.

“No matter what relationship you are in, whether it is romantic or a friendship, it is definitely more stressful,” said Cole.

She said marriages during COVID-19 have the potential to struggle, and in some cases, lead to divorce or even domestic abuse.

“If you are quarantined, most couples are not used to being at home together, 24/7,” said Cole. “And while it can definitely be a blessing, it can also be a lot to handle.”

Cole said it is ok to learn as we go, but adults should find their own space and make adjustments to the new normal.

“Obviously you want to avoid any type of physical altercation with your significant other,” said Cole.

If you find yourself in an abusive environment, Cole said to get help immediately.  Do not be afraid to reach out.

“It can cause lasting damage,” said Cole. “Not only can it cause physical damage, but it can also cause emotional damage.”

Always show respect and most importantly, communicate. Even if it seems minor, Cole said it is worth a discussion, which may require a mediator of some sort.

“There is nothing wrong with counseling, couples counseling,” said Cole. “More people go than most people know.”

If you do not want to go in person, Cole said there are also Telehealth options available.

Life Management is just one source of counseling. Most church families also offer advice and comfort.

“We have a staff person that deals with marriage counseling and we have seen a huge uptick in that,” said Dr. Craig Conner, who is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Panama City.

He said COVID has turned our world upside down, and relationships have suffered as a result. His advice — put your family first.

“I really think it is a great time for husbands and wives and children and parents, grandparents and grandchildren, to really get to know each other, and personally I think that is a huge help,” said Conner.

Bay County residents, Jennifer and Will Owen have been married nine years now and they are navigating the pandemic together — and all the strains that come with it.

“There have probably been some conversations that have been a little bit louder than normal,” said Will Owen. 

But they said they are using their experience from a former counseling session to get through the stress.

“What has worked for us is something our pastor has said to us, from the pulpit and to us in counseling before,” said Jennifer Owen. “And it is, it is better to be reconciled than it is to be right.”

They even have advice for other married couples.

“It is important to continue to take time, at least once a week we found, and it is not always possible, but as often as we can to spend time together and just continue to date one another even though we are married,” said Will Owen.

Here are a few resources available for you if you are need:

Life Management

First Baptist Church of Panama City

Florida Department of Children and Families

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