Building Your Relationships During COVID

By: Katherine Wagner (B.Psych (Hon)


A decade-long study from Harvard University highlights the importance of supportive relationships. It’s the feeling of being accepted and cared for by key people that helps us live longer and happier lives. During Covid however, it’s normal for family relationships and even friendships to be under strain. After all we may be spending too much time together at home, or we may feel increasingly disconnected from friends. Luckily, there are some simple steps we can take to nurture our relationships.


Ways to nurture our relationships

Family and relationship problems may contribute to or be a trigger for anxiety during isolation. Here are some ideas for getting through:


Have realistic expectations.

Stress is often caused by our expectations simply not being met. So as an easy tool to help you feel more positive about your relationships, adjust your expectations. Remind yourself that it’s normal to feel frustrated with your household right now or to feel less connected to friends outside of the home… these are extraordinary times! But also remind yourself that this phase will pass and normal life will eventually return.


Renegotiate relationships.

If things at home have become tense, why not take the lead and initiate conversations about a productive way forward. Invite suggestions from your family members about how to divide household chores and ask individuals what “me time” means to them. Openly acknowledge the tensions of family life right now. It’s often not too late to reboot the dynamic and create a practical plan to increase harmony.


Use “I” statements.

People become defensive if we point the finger and blame. So when an issue arises next time, use plenty of “I” statements with open body language and a calm tone. E.g ”When I cook dinner every night I feel tired and unappreciated. I’d love it if you chipped in tonight.” This is much easier to hear than “I’m sick of cooking dinner! YOU’RE SO LAZY!”.


Create quality interactions

American relationship expert, Dr John Gottman has studied relationships for over 30 years. He says it’s the small everyday moments where we pay attention and show interest that gradually build trust and goodwill.  Dr Gottman recommends we strive for a 5:1 positive (i.e attentive and interested) responses to every negative response (like acting dismissive or sarcastic). So really focus your attention on the other person when they talk, demonstrate that you’re listening and are interested by asking questions.


Prioritise Catch-ups.

We all know we should make the effort to keep in contact with friends but realistically we let life get in the way at times. However, since relationships are super important for our wellbeing, video and phone calls are worth prioritising. So diarise zoom coffee chats or exercise dates and guard that time – it’s important that we stay up to date with how are friends are feeling and vice versa.


Finally, if you are involved in a relationship that has become abusive or you’re experiencing family violence, Drake WellbeingHub are here to support you 24/7.

Also, 1800 Respect (1800 737 732) or 000 in Australia can provide immediate support. ​


Need Support?

Contact us to speak to one of our experienced clinicians
AU 1300 135 600 NZ 0800 452 521 [email protected]

Please note, if you feel your safety or another's safety is at serious risk, please always remember to call 000 in Australia and 111 in New Zealand, for emergency assistance.

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