Courtney Weaver is joined this week by Dr. Claire Barbetti of the Carruth Center to talk about relationships during a pandemic. They chat about some common issues that couples may face during this time, and also provide some quick tips to help your relation-“ship” sail smoothly. Don’t forget to check out Carruth’s healthy relationship programs at: https://carruth.wvu.edu/

Transcription: 

Welcome. Welcome. Welcome to Wellbeing Wednesdays. I am Courtney Weaver, your host. I'm the director over at WellWVU here at West Virginia university. Today. I am joined by a guest Dr. Claire Barbetti from the Career Center. She's a supervised psychologist up there. Uh, and so we welcome. Welcome you, Claire.

And why don't you tell us a little bit about your role here at the university. Thanks, Courtney. I'm really glad to be here today. Um, so yeah, uh, current center I'm supervised staff psychologist. Uh, my areas of focus are, uh, anxiety, depression. I work with a lot of students on those issues. Um, also trauma. I work with, um, relationships and healthy sexuality.

Uh, so those are. Yeah, my areas of focus and people can come to me just to work on those issues. And I think that you're already going to be invited back so that you and I can have a talk about healthy sexuality. Cause that's also my area of expertise and focus. So already, this is just your first appearance.

So it will be many more down the line. So let's topic of our show today. We're going to be talking about relationships during the pandemic. Now maybe you were in a relationship at the start of the pandemic and you're not anymore, or maybe you weren't and now you are, or maybe you've been single through.

Wow. So let's talk a little bit about relationships strain during this time. So, Claire, what do you think some of the issues are for relationships during a pandemic? Certainly when the big things that, uh, has popped up for a lot of people has been, uh, kind of weird tension between needing space, um, when they're stuck with a significant other or a long space of time.

And, um, also needing more connection, more touch, um, people. Get lonely have gotten very lonely during this pandemic. Um, and so it's kind of sometimes this weird back and forth of, I need space. You're driving me crazy. Um, and Oh gosh, I feel disconnected. I need somebody to care about me. Um, I need to be close.

Yeah. So that's one of the big things I think that is coming up for a lot of people. Um, and it can kind of be whiplash a little bit and unexpected. Um, Oh my gosh. I'm forgetting the next thing I want me to talk about it gets edited out human wellbeing. Wednesday is we are big fans of them. Um, let me pull up.

That outline. That was so wonderful. Cause I don't have it in front of me.

That's all right. Well, I think, um, something else that I know that is on the outline, but maybe we haven't really talked about it yet is the fact that some folks might not live with their romantic partners. And so when this pandemic started, and we were all quarantined that they had to stay away from them and then other times.

There were folks who live together either, you know, maybe they were married, maybe they weren't. And now both partners work from home and now they have to spend all of their time together. And so that's also an interesting balance because, you know, if you're living with your partner, you. Don't steal.

Don't spend all of your time with them. Let's be honest. You spend most of your time if you're working full time at work, Mark, uh, and you build those relationships with those folks. So now to be constantly in your partner's presence, its kind of. It's a new level of, I don't know if the intimacy is the correct word, but it's really a new level of getting to know someone.

This is true. Yeah. Which can be really stressful and more opportunities for that person's baggage to come up. Um, and to start triggering each other with each other's baggage. Um, so all sorts of emotional issues are going to come up where in close quarters with someone for that long. Um, and I need things can trigger it too.

Like, uh, you left the toothpaste. On the sink instead of in the drawer, you know, just dumb stuff like that can trigger all sorts of things. Um, so that's to be expected. I saw a meme, I think during this time that was from a wife and she's, she's like working from home with my husband, made me realize that my husband is a let's circle back type of guy, because she's overhearing him on his work calls.

And, you know, sometimes people are. I don't want to say different people at work, but they might have to behave in a different way. And there, if there are romantic partners, I used to see them that way that can be kind of. Could be kind of jarring for folks as well. This is true. Yeah. Whole new identities kind of pop up.

Yeah. That's very true. Um, and then you have the folks who maybe just went through a breakup right before the pandemic started. So I don't know if we have thoughts on that or what they could do. Yeah. I think that that's been particularly difficult for a lot of people because one of the ways that we deal with breakups is to spend time with other friends.

Um, to do things, to distract we, um, to deal with some of those heavy emotions of being alone, of feeling rejected. And now we simply don't have those opportunities, these, so that can cause a lot more, um, depression really. Uh, and I, and we've been seeing, yeah, people who've been feeling really, really down after losing somebody that they were close to and attached to.

Right. And if you're the type of person like I am, for instance, like every time I call someone on the phone or say like, let's do a zoom together. Yeah. They're I feel like I'm bothering them. And so it's like, well, they probably, I wouldn't say no anyway. And so you never reach it. And then, you know, your problem just kind of become exasperated because you're not getting any kind of emotional support.

You're not really even going anywhere. And maybe spilling your guts to the grocery store clerk, because they're the only person that you've seen in awhile.

So it's really, it's really difficult. Uh, and so Claire, what do you recommend as some tips to help folks? I mean, and really. Maybe any type of situation, maybe they're away from their partner or they just broke it up with their partner. They are being driven to distraction by their partner. Oh my goodness.

Yes. Um, so quite a number of things actually. Um, I'm going to separate that out. So folks who are in close quarters together, um, definitely clear communication about your needs. I think that's one of the most important things, uh, to communicate with each other. I need space. Um, I need touch. I need a hug. I need to cry.

I'm feeling this way. Um, communicating about feelings is so important. Um, and we often tend to hide those sneaks. Frank's breakouts sometimes if we're not communicating from the feeling part of ourselves, right? If we're communicating from you did this, you did that. How could you do that instead of. I feel hurt, sad, angry, lonely.

Um, my, I had an old coworker who, um, she was a healthy relationships educator basically. And what she always used to say to students in particular were like practice the three F's facts, feelings and fair requests. Love it. So the facts not like. You're like you see, because you didn't do the dishes in the sink.

It's like the dishes in the sink are still dirty. I feel disappointed when this happens. Is it possible for us to work out a schedule so we can figure out like how the dishes can stay clean? So I said the fact that I said my name, and then I had the fairer that's fantastic. I love it.

Oh, yeah. Yeah. She came up with it. Great. Nonetheless, she'd love it. I really liked that. Um, The other thing that I think is, is really important is recognizing that we all have needs for security. Um, and we all have needs for play for excitement. And so looking for opportunities for both of those, for your partner, as well as yourself, recognizing that's really important, there needs to be a balance between those two, otherwise.

I mean, if there's no play in the relationship. Um, things get stale stagnant real quickly. You get sick of your partner really quickly. There's no security. Then you start to feel like you're out in left field. Um, and that doesn't feel like a relationship either. So those are different things. Um, there's another thing that I think is worth looking at, and that is figuring out your love languages.

Um, and if people haven't taken that test, you can find it online. Google it. Um, five love languages, Courtney, maybe you can help me remember them all. I would say college health promotion, which is the land of STRs.

We have a love, language, need for touch. Some people, uh, have that love language, some acts of service, um, some words of affirmation. Quality time, quality time. Yes. And there's always one, I forget. Um, but you might have different love languages, right? One of you might need touch more than the other. One of you might need acts of service.

Um, more than the other. So figuring out what those are, I think is really important in close quarters. Claire, can you maybe elaborate on what like acts of service mean in the sense of a relationship? Because sometimes that might be like, like volunteer together, like what it's such a good point. Yeah. Um, acts of service would be doing nice things for your partner.

So, um, say your partner is not good at taking care of her car. Um, I'm not talking about anybody specifically. Um, so you say your partner doesn't remember ever to get her oil changed, doing that for your partner. She is terribly busy. She's going to appreciate that if acts of service is one of her love languages, cooking, dinner, those kinds of things.

Yeah. Yeah. Okay. That's good. Awesome. Um, so learning your love languages is definitely something that folks should consider doing. And that's something that they should be able to figure out pretty easily, uh, just by our good friend Google. So is that, um, are there any other tips for that particular group, keep reaching out to friends?

I'm your partner can't fulfill all of your needs. And it's unreasonable to expect them to. Um, and even though it's going to be on zoom, telephone, social media. Do it, um, ask people to support you in other ways and don't put all of that burden on your heart. Okay. Yeah, that's a, that's a good call. I must say I've actually been a little bit more social during the pandemic than I was before.

Cause I've gotten together on zoom with friends, from college friends, from high school friends from Dow back in Florida where I moved from. So it's actually been quite nice, which is weird to say, but yeah,

yeah. So what for what, what is some advice for folks who may be broke up with their partner right before the pandemic? Such a hard time, because I think part of breakups and recovering from breakups is discovering new things about yourself. Um, Kind of reshaping your identity, um, past this person that you've, that you've broken up with.

Um, and so, so looking for ways to do that, we don't have to get creative around that. Right. Um, finding ways to connect with people on zoom, finding new hobbies, making sure you get out and get exercise. I think all of those are really important. Creativity. In whatever way that you're creative, try to engage that part of yourself.

Um, the other thing is reaching out again so important to have that support from other people. Um, don't go it alone. Let people know that yeah, you have the feelings you're having. Um, those feelings are normal and to be expected when you have a breakup. Okay. All right. And then let's see. So I know we talked a little bit about like the necessity of exercise and touching relationships.

And one of the things that I don't know studied back in graduate school was, were ways that folks can still connect with their partner. I mean, intimately long distance. Um, and I remember there's actually. I don't know if it ever came to popularity because I think it was quite expensive. Cause this was also many years ago at this point.

But something that they have I had was to help folks in long distance relationships and really in a pandemic, if you don't live with your partner, I guess every relationship could be considered long distance. Um, but it was a hug shirts. So you put it up this year and then your partner. Okay. And control it, like on their phone or through a computer with like pressure.

So it felt like. Someone was hugging you. Yeah. So we could be chatting over zoom and I could be wearing the shirt and Claire, and then it would feel like I was being hugged. I love it. Right. It's cool stuff. That is super cool. Um, yeah, I haven't seen that for sale anywhere. I don't know if that actually ever like gained traction.

Cause I think it was also really expensive. Um, so it's probably with not within the budgets of most of our listeners and then the college range, age range. Um, one of the things I've been telling my clients, because I know people have gotten skin hunger really badly during this pandemic, um, weighted blankets for one, um, wrapping, wrapping themselves in that.

So you do get the sensation of, of a hug. And even though. You, um, cognitively knew, no, it's not a person. Your body doesn't necessarily it's understanding that pressure like a hug. So that's important. Um, other things that engage your skin. So giving yourself a massage, if you have your partner there. Great.

Do massage get a lot of touch in, but if you don't, you can do a lot of touching for yourself too. And that is really important and helpful for mental health. Right? And for those who don't know, skin hunger is the desire to touch and be touched, I think glare. And I know those words because

they might add that. And for that, like some people have. A lot, like a bucket and then some people have a thimble full. So some people, I don't know, I've met people, actually myself included. I actually don't really like to be touched particularly by people who I don't know. Um, but I enjoy a hug from like a good friend or a family member.

Uh, but others, I don't know if you've met people who are just like, Touch all the time. We're very like just touching arms or things like that, that it gives them a lot of comfort. So it's, everyone's going to be a little bit different with that. So let's see. What about, um, is there anything else that we tips for folks maybe who are living with their partner and like they have a fight.

What should they think of? Cause it's not like someone can storm out or maybe they live off base and having their own separate is tough. Like what do we do then when tempers get hot, um, you are not in the cognitive part of your brain. You're in what I like to call lizard brain and lizard brain does not think rationally.

So at that point, you need a time out, um, go to separate rooms. Um, you need to breathe. You need to monitor yourself and let yourself calm down. Um, you can't talk rationally about an issue if you're in lizard brain. So that's really important seeing that, uh, that's important. Yeah. Will help prevent fights and arguments in the first place is tending to just some basic needs.

Um, I referenced the acronym halt often, so H hungry. A angry L only T tired monitoring that. Are you any one of those things? If so, your current argument might be about low blood sugar. If you're hungry, right. Might be about, you've been too lonely for too long, or I need a nap. So take care of that body stuff.

That really, really elemental stuff. Right? So it's like a Snickers commercial. If you're hungry,

this is not, we are not paid by Snickers. I'm not saying. All right. Well, for our wellbeing snapshot, let's talk a little bit about the services and programs that Carruth has to help students build healthy relationships with their romantic partners and that we're still, you know, doing even in the time of pandemic.

Cause we're still doing a lot of stuff. There's some stuff that's still in person. And then there's a lot of stuff that we're doing virtually too. Yeah, absolutely. So of course Cruz offers individual therapy, um, and that is. Available to people. It is done over zoom right now. Um, because we're in the pandemic.

Um, but in addition to that, we have a few, uh, we have a number of things going on in the semester. Um, the first is a therapeutic and psychoeducational group called the relationship one Oh one. Um, it, uh, happens in like three weeks cycles. Um, and I believe there will be two to three cycles. Of that group this semester starting off in and submit September or so.

Um, we don't have an exact date for it yet, but if you're interested in, um, a therapy psycho psychotherapeutic group, um, that deals with relationship issues, um, that might be a good fit for you. And you can contact the Carruth center to schedule a screening for that. A couple of them. And for that one, sorry to interrupt you.

Um, that group, like, can you, do you have to go with your partner? Can you attend yourself? And what if your partner, maybe your partner is not a WVU student? Uh, yes. So if you're not a student, um, unfortunately. We can't provide services. A cruise center. This group is geared for, um, anyone, any sexual orientation.

If you have your partner and you want to attend great, that's, that's welcome. If you don't have a partner, um, or you want to attend without your partner. Great. That's welcome to, um, we will be screening for, uh, any instances of domestic violence, because then the group's not appropriate and we'll give you references.

Uh, for appropriate care. If, if that's an issue, the things that we have going on this semester include, uh, a and the life hacks series that we do, easy relationship hacks, one hour a webinar that's awesome. Tuber 20th at 7:00 PM. And we also have a healthy sexuality webinar. That's going to be on November 2nd at 7:00 PM.

Um, and that's what we have going on right now in terms of relationship chips stuff. Cool. Well, all that sounds awesome. So hopefully students will take advantage of those opportunities and learn how to build healthy stable relationships will be really good. Huh. So, yes. I keep telling everyone I'm like the people at the Curtis center really cool.

And it's not scary to go up and talk to. Them as, because they're just human beings. So, uh, if you there's less stigma around mental health and seeking help, but it's totally normal. It's like talking sometimes you just need an objective listener. They're trained to help you and they work to help you.

Let's that's important. All right. Well, thank you so much, Claire, for joining me today. I really appreciate it again. This is just your first appearance, cause we're totally gonna bring you back again. So you and I can't wait to talk about sexuality, but thank you so much and thanks to all of our listeners and we will catch you next time on Wellbeing Wednesday.