How do we make it through an already difficult time of year when many measures we have to take to slow the spread of the coronavirus—including sheltering in place and social distancing—exacerbate feelings of isolation and grief? Besides dealing with pandemic/holiday stresses, how do we safeguard a marriage against divorce? Brad Coates, divorce attorney and author of Divorce with Decency: The Complete How-To Handbook and Survivor’s Guide to the Legal, Emotional, Economic, and Social Issues (5th Edition), joined Dr. Diana to sort out these questions and more.


Beginning with COVID and the holidays, it is useful to set realistic expectations, including being flexible about factors beyond your control, and adopting psychological flexibility to help regulate your emotions. Step back and shift your perspective when things do not go the way you expect. Practice self-care by tending to your most basic needs, including sleeping, eating, exercising, and having sex. Yes, sex makes you happier (is a natural anti-depressant), increases immunity, and improves the relationship. (Dr. Diana’s book, Love in the Time of Corona: Advice from a Sex Therapist for Couples in Quarantine, has lots of suggestions for keeping things spicy during lockdown.)


We are usually stressed about the holidays because there is too much to do, so try to keep things in perspective. This year there is less busyness, perhaps providing more time for reflection and reminders not to take things for granted. By embracing your feelings, difficult conversations about hard decisions are facilitated, as are setting boundaries, being intentional and mindful.


Another important topic: ways to safeguard a marriage against divorce. For one guy it was too late: “My marriage had preexisting conditions, and COVID killed it … We weren’t a partnership, we weren’t working together.” If you want to avoid divorce, being a cheerleader for your spouse, with lots of support and encouragement, really works. So does having sex with your spouse or significant other. We all crave assurance—if not in words, then in body language—that we are still desirable to our partner. We don’t just want a partner who is willing to have sex with us, we want one who wants to have sex with us. If contemplating a divorce, remember that you had what it took to fall in love; it’s entirely possible that you have what it takes to stay there.

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