Relationships under strain when working from home

Relationship Coach, Kate Nicolle puts it down to basic transaction theory, where one of the partners adopts parent-mode moving away from an adult-to-adult healthy relationship

Lockdown has had a huge impact on relationships; as the never-ending news puts it, we are in unprecedented times, and this is true for our relationships. Couples who live together have for the first time faced spending all their time together, putting a microscope on their relationship.

With lockdown easing, relationships have more time to breathe, but with divorce inquires up 42 percent since lockdown (according to Co-Op Legal services) relationship expert Kate Nicolle of Happier Relationships calls on couples to make a simple change to their behaviours. She explains:

“In many cases, the core issues in relationships come down to basic transactional analysis theory. When one member of a couple adopts the ‘parent’ persona pushing the other into ‘child mode’, rather than talking to one another adult to adult.

“When one partner adopts this coping mode, the most common response from their other half is to feel like a child. So ‘child mode’ kicks in. We are all familiar with this mode and it looks something like this….‘Fine then, if you don’t like how I fill the dishwasher, do it yourself.’ I meet your parenting of me with a childlike response, one behaviour evokes the other. It is classic ‘chicken and egg’: the more ‘child’ one is, the more ‘parent’ the other becomes.

“This persona is perpetuated for mothers who have been pushed into doing the majority of the domestic labour, including childcare, they have had to adopt parent mode day-in-day-out, it is therefore no coincidence that women continue to parent in their relationships as there is no breather for them to return to being adults during lockdown. This is not exclusive to parents, but all relationships as one member of the partnership will take on the majority of the domestic and emotional load during this difficult time.


“So, as we emerge from lockdown, take time to reflect on your relationship. It is impossible to be in adult mode all the time, of course it is, but even if all you do is try to notice when you slip out of adult, that is going to help your relationship to flourish into something more respectful, mature, resilient and healthy.”