Conflict and covid-19 seem to go hand-in-hand in our mental health practice.
Something that is a pattern is the conflict surrounding people’s COVID-19 “bubbles” (and how to manage those boundaries). Many a session, I have spent speaking with couple’s, families, and individuals about negotiating boundaries around COVID-19 and how to do so appropriately.
The biggest challenge has seemed to be various people’s understanding of what is okay and what is not okay around COVID safety. As well as people’s understanding of what being in “their bubble” means.
As we are aware people have different standards surrounding what feels safe with COVID. Some people prefer masks 100% of the time, some people are okay without masks if people are socially distant, some people will interact with others not in their households without masks, and some do not wish to interact with any outside of their household unless it is utilizing technology.
Many have begun to utilize this idea of “the bubble” which includes people that you may have less restrictions with while you are around one another. This can include people outside someone’s household, feeling okay being inside their home, and wearing or not wearing a mask.
The biggest issue is the bubble and consent. This is when people who share a bubble are feeling unclear or have different expectations of what is okay for them within their bubbles. This can look like one piece of the bubble believing that another is taking unnecessary risks or not providing adequate communication surrounding the decisions they are making.
As a result of these decisions parts of the bubble are in conflict because there is a disagreement between the levels of risk they are engaging in and therefore creating that much risk for the “bubble system.”
Because COVID is so easily transmitted, the actions you take pose a risk to others around you who you may have less restrictions with. This can be particularly challenging for people who are at higher risk from dying from COVID or around those who have a higher chance of dying from COVID.
In therapy, we have spent many conversations discussing consent, communication, and boundaries.
How to Navigate This
This issue really comes down to communication and consent. If you are choosing to be in someone’s bubble you have to be able to agree on what is reasonable and feasible for your group.
If you are not willing to engage in the rules or disregard them, it takes trust out of the “bubble system”. This may mean that you have to create a different bubble or be willing to engage in communication with those for you to be able to come to agreements.
In relationships, trust and respect are vital to the success of the relationship. If you find yourself being dishonest, omitting, or not able to have conversations with one another… THIS IS A PROBLEM.
Breaking consent or boundaries in a relationship is also problematic! If you are doing something without the knowledge of someone else and creating a higher level of risk for them without their knowledge… that is a consent issue… and that is a pretty big deal.
I have had many clients talk about it “not being a big deal” and invalidating one another’s experiences.. Also not helpful! In these sessions, if we are not able to have the conversations and people are not willing to change boundaries or behaviors, I recommend dis-engtangling their bubble.
The most important thing is to keep everyone safe, healthy, and happy. We need to respect that we all may have differences as to how that may look and if it is so different than we are no longer comfortable… then we make different decisions around how to move forward.
If you do not think it is a big deal, that is your prerogative. HOWEVER, your actions have an impact on those around you… so it’s important to be mindful that no one can control you.
Yet others have the right to set boundaries as they see fit around their comfort. And if you do not like it, you may consider shifting your behaviors. Yet, if you are unwilling to do that, then you have to come towards a radical acceptance of this current outcome for the time being.
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