The great COVID divide: Couples fighting more since kids' vaccine became available

If you and your spouse or partner have been fighting a little bit more since the COVID vaccine became available, you're not alone. Especially if you have children.

There are many decisions for parents to make when it comes to kids and COVID-19, big and small. We spoke with several local counselors about what to do when you and your partner are not on the same page.

"I'm hearing all of the issues with my clientele that I am having in my own home. One of the big ones was just having kids over for playdates," said Dr. Kelly Flanagan, Licensed Clinical Psychologist from Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville.

"One of the things I've been keenly aware of is all of the extra decisions couples have to make and how stressful that is every time you have to make a decision," added Flanagan.

That's everything from whether your child should get vaccinated or go to school or play on a sports team.

"Those are all extra decisions happening around this pandemic so I think that’s cumulative stress on couples. I think a lot of couples say I don't understand why we are so stressed. What they are really dealing with is the stress of uncertainty. What happens to a lot of couples in this situation is they encounter a power struggle in their relationship," explained Flanagan.

Jennifer Froemel is another Chicago area counselor with Innovative Counseling Partners who's been trying to help families navigate the great divide COVID can cause. She says some differences between couples are as big as the Grand Canyon and the primary reason usually has to do with fear.

Froemel says that fear can come from a few different place, like having experienced a COVID death, confusing information or just general uncertainty about how to live our lives these days. And when we're afraid, we're not very good at communicating.

"So many people when they are in an anxious state, hold their breath, which is the worst thing we could possibly do for ourselves.  As soon as we hold our breath or stop breathing, our brain starts to work against us and it says ‘oh no, we're going to die’," said Froemel.


Froemel says it's important for people to really listen to their bodies, so they can then listen to their partners.

"Take things at a pace of ‘we have time to figure this out, we can operate together. We are better together than we are separate.’ It's definitely going help the situation," said Froemel.

"The intensity of COVID and the fear of COVID, and the fear of restrictions with COVID have really amped it up to something. In my 30 years of psychiatry, I've never seen anything like it," said Dr. Walter Whang, Assistant Medical Director, Linden Oaks Hospital.

"I've found that when a couple, two individuals both go in and say ‘I'm going to win this argument,’ I usually find that they both lose. One of the big things is people have all these ideas about what COVID is and I've found a lot of people don't actually understand COVID 19 too well," said Whang.

Whang says a lot of people don't understand the vaccines or that you can still get COVID when vaccinated.

"I have found when people understand those basic things they can kind of look at everything a little bit more rationally. I found when people start doing that they start compromising. They try to understand that this person has this fear," said Whang.

For those who are afraid to fight with their spouse or partner, one of the counselors we spoke with says you should not be. Dr. Flanagan says if you hold off on having that discussion, then often times couples will be forced to make a fast decision. He adds it's better to start the conversation sooner rather than later.