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The Pandemic Pivot: Love In Quarantine

 May 3, 2020 at 9:44 AM PDT

Relationships need room. People need time and space away from each other. You know, so we can better appreciate the times we are together. It’s just not normal to be stuck in one house with your loved ones all the time. And yet, here we are. The invisible box the pandemic has drawn around us is starting to feel a little prison-y, right? And for lots of relationships out there, all this together time is actually tearing people apart. *****Clip 6 Was Worried Going IN I mean I was worried about going into quarantine with him because I, I was worried that, um, rather than bring us together, it would expose our, our, our flaws and we would have to part ways. So, um, I was aware of that going in. I think it made me super anxious and on edge going into it. Um, you know, right off the bat. I didn't really set the best stage for going into quarantine. Um, and yeah, it didn't go well. Jackie Bryant is a freelance journalist. She and her boyfriend had been dating for a little over a year when the stay-at-home order hit. Thirty five days later, their relationship was over. Clip 3 Spent 35 Days Before Everything Blew Up We spent 35, two days together in quarantine before, um, everything kind of blew up. In retrospect, Jackie says she and her boyfriend probably weren’t ready to live together. But COVID-19 accelerated their relationship, then smashed it head first into a brick wall. The main problem was the same problem that hacks away at the roots of so many relationships... Clip 10 Communication Was The Problem Communication is the number one problem in our relationship. Um. Or, more precisely, the lack of it. Clip 8 Speaking Rudely To One Another We kind of like. Got really short and angry with each other and it, and it just turned into a really disrespectful exchange. And I think, you know, he was annoyed that I was in a space and I was annoyed that he wasn't opening up to being in me being in his space. And we just kinda kept speaking, you know, gruffly and rudely to each other because of that. BEAT Clip 11 Crisis Pulls Together or Pushes Apart You know, it was, it was, it was too much, too soon. So it definitely exacerbated, I mean, he even said that verbatim. He said, you know, this may have lasted longer, but, um, you know, it wasn't because of this necessarily, but, you know, crisis has a way to either brings you together or pulls you apart, right? BEAT/TRANSITION Clip 1 divorcewebinar Okay. Welcome everyone, and thank you for attending tonight. I'm going to be talking about divorcing during the pandemic….[fade out and under vo] so I'm not sure if the two of you are living together, if you're separated, if you're sharing children, This is a divorce webinar. That’s right, a webinar to help you get a divorce. About a dozen people in San Diego and other parts of Southern California recently took part. Clip 2 divorce webinar So, yes, these are unprecedented times and it's causing a lot of stress. And, um, we're concerned about our health, we're concerned about our children, we're concerned about our work, about, uh, finances. So divorce is traumatic on its own. And then we have to add on top of this, the pandemic and being isolated…. BEAT So yeah, breaking up, divorce, temporary separation...that’s one way to go. But one local group is working overtime to offer another solution. Clip 1 National Conflict Resolution Center Welcome Welcome everyone. We're so delighted to see you here in our workshop and our virtual workshop, and it's the artful conversation. This is a special workshop for couples and we are really happy to have you here. BEAT I’m Kinsee Morlan and you’re listening to The Pandemic Pivot, a KPBS pop-up series where we check in with our community to see how we’re coming up with creative and innovative ways to navigate our new lives with COVID-19. Today, a story about the breakdown of communication in quarantine….and a nonprofit that’s trying to help. MIDROLL 1 This divorce webinar is put on by Vesta. divorcewebinar second track clip 1 The divorce process, as you're going through this, there's, you know, it's an isolating process that there's lots of stress, lots of anxiety and tension and depression and, uh, you know, confusion and frustration and anger and resentment. All of these emotions going on. The company pulls together therapists, divorce attorneys, life coaches and other professionals who can help people navigate a separation. One of the company’s founders, Deanna Coyle, says yeah, sorta sadly, the pandemic has boosted their business big-time. BEAT Pre-pandemic, Vesta hosted mostly small, in-person events. Clip 1 Had to Pivot Quickly To Webinars Obviously with what's going on with Covid, we had to pivot really quickly. So about seven weeks ago, we decided to have all of our events as webinars, and we've actually found that to be a great opportunity. Yep, an opportunity. Now their services are all online. And they’ve seen a huge uptick in demand for more information about divorce from couples crammed in quarantine together. So they’ve cranked things up a few notches. In April alone, Deanna says they’ve held forty online divorce webinars. And each one has been pretty packed. Clip 4 Uptick in Interest We've definitely seen an uptick in people who are reaching out to us as well as attending our online webinars. Clip 2 Increase in Divorce The situation that we're in is, is likely to cause a huge increase in divorce filings. We've seen that happen in China and other areas where COVID has hit them earlier. BEAT/TRANSITION The National Conflict Resolution Center knows a thing or two about communication amidst a crisis. In normal times, the nonprofit specializes in teaching people how to have more productive conversations. And now, in COVID times, their tools and tips to help cope in a crisis are more needed than ever. That’s why they launched a new series of “Virtual Community Circles,” online group therapy sessions conducted via Zoom. Clips 2 relationship workshop We're all under tremendous stress right now. Uh, and that affects our relationship, the relationship that's the most important in our lives, right? The free online sessions are meant to help San Diegans learn coping mechanisms and communication tools to better weather the COVID-19 crisis. Clips 2 relationship workshop So the stress, not knowing what's going to happen, basically having no me time. And being with your partner so much of the time. And these current situations can bring up triggers of past pain and trauma that we've had in our life. So this is a good opportunity, we believe, to really look at that relationship and our communication. BEAT Learning how to be a more effective communicator is at the core of what the National Conflict Resolution Center does. And, full disclosure here -- KPBS partners with the center for a series of community conversations...right now those conversations are also online and focused on the census. Ashley Virtue has worked at the center for over a decade. And she says the things they talk about and teach in their sessions are actual skills and tools that can be put to use to help improve quarantine communication. Clip 9 Like Learning a new language I always tell people. Learning conflict resolution is like learning to speak a new language. When you first started, you're really having to think a lot about what's that next word I want to say and how is this going to come across? And then the more you practice it, the more fluent you become. In-person events are the meat and potatoes of what the center does. Before COVID-19, they split their time between community workshops and corporate workshops, teaching participants the art of a good conversation. But, of course, the coronavirus forced them to change, and fast. Clip 1 Knew They Had To Continue Their Community Circles So we have done a lot of community. Circles, dialogues, trainings over the years, and those have been funded by the, uh, HSA and liberal San Diego. Um, and then as the covert 19 crisis hit, we really thought, okay, we need to be meeting the community's needs more than ever. And even though we can't gather in person, we need to find ways to be able to do this virtually. Ashley says the center pivoted really quickly. They pitched the idea for the virtual community groups or circles, as they call them, to the county of San Diego, and the county, which has a “Live Well” program focused on mental health, was really into it. Clip 2 County Was Supportive They were immensely supportive, very excited that we could continue the work on a new platform and actually even expand the work to new levels based on the demand we're seeing. The center’s hosted several sessions so far on a variety of pandemic-related topics. And the session for couples has been one of the most popular. Clip 6 The ARtful Conversation For Coworkers Works for Couples So couples are under a lot of stress and. What we have done is adapt our really popular, um, you know, artful conversation workshop to be able to have, um, all those skills and techniques apply to that couples conversation. And it's amazing how, um, how it really can be effective. Some of these same principles that you might use with a coworker. Um, it really can be used with a spouse. BEAT Clip 4 Could Replicate the magic online What we've experienced in the physical in-person circles is that people show up not really knowing what to expect, and they're amazed at the transformation that happens for them, where they experience, um, this vulnerability, this ability to share because others are sharing. And an ability to really say and experience some of the things that they're thinking about. And so what we've, we were at first wanting to make sure we could do is replicate that experience, um, online and make sure there was that same sense of vulnerability and not just, well, I'm sitting here in my living room on mute behind a computer screen. I'm not really actively participating. But that’s not what happened. In fact it was quite the opposite People showed up with such a sense of. Interest and a need to express how the experience has been for them, and more so than just expressing how the experience has been for them. Really needing to think about ways to look forward and have a positive outlook on the future. And so people were 100% engaged. It was really neat to see. BEAT Bonnie Clayton Loewey (low-ee) is a virtual circle convert. She’s been to the center’s in-person workshops in the past. So she wasn’t convinced they could recreate the experience online. But she says so far, so good. She says she’s getting what she needs out of them. Clip 2 Bonnie Knowing that you're not alone. Knowing that other people are, can see, you can understand your experiences is very comforting, I think for humans generally. And once you feel that safety is like, wow, somebody gets me and sees me, and it might be somebody you don't even really know, which makes it all the more special in a way. Clip 3 Bonnie And I've gotten some great ideas. From being in those circles of, of things that I could do to just take care of myself so that I'll be able to be better for my kids and other people in my life. You know, you gotta put your own oxygen mask on first, as they say. And this has been a lot like that, I think, not just for me, but for lots of people. Another thing Bonnie’s learned from the virtual sessions with the National Conflict Resolution Center… She says they’ve given her ideas for how to continue her own business virtually. She works with people who’ve just recently been diagnosed with dementia...She helps them and their families come up with plans for how to move forward. And when the social distancing rules went into place, she just hit the pause button on her work. But now she’s been inspired to move forward with her own work, setting up zoom sessions and even telling her clients about the center’s online therapy sessions, too. Clip 6 Sends Her Own Clients to virtual Circles So I have told several of my clients about the circles for this very reason. I had a client tell me recently that I was their only social contact. And I thought, okay, I got to start sending you these emails. BEAT Bonnie says learning how to better communicate, especially in these high-stress times has been super helpful. But just sitting back and listening has been just as valuable, too. ******Clip 7 Just People Coming Together We're just people coming together to talk about our experience. And we might get a question like, what's bringing you home. Right now, or share something in your environment that's special to you, and you have this delightful experience of seeing somebody bring over to the camera an orchid that they've raised themselves, or their favorite spice blend, in my case, you know? And it's just inspiring to see that, BEAT ********Clip 8 Suffering is Survival Manual I had someone share a quote, and I can't remember who it was from that said, um. Someday your suffering will become another survival manual. BEAT You know that it's important to share the stories of the ways in which we survive. The ways in which we cope. You start to feel like, okay, I can make this day meaningful. Even though it's the, you know, the news cycle is devastating and depressing and infuriating at times. You know, I'm bored out of my mind and you know, I miss swimming or whatever else it might be that, you know, we can come together and support each other. Cope. For a full schedule of upcoming Virtual Circles, check out Jackie, by the way, the freelance journalist whose relationship fell apart amid the pandemic…. I asked her if something closer to normal came back, if maybe then she and her boyfriend might try again. The breakup is just a week old, so she says it’s just too soon to know. Clip 9 Would We Be Ok Under Normal Circumstances? it can be hard to separate, like, do we just not work well together under under these, you know, stresses in this weird time or. Can we not live together? So I imagine a lot of other couples are dealing with that too. Like, how do you know, like, how do you know if it's just too much and under normal times it would be. Okay. And how do you know, um, if a, you know, it just exposes that you suck. I don't know. I don't really know where the line is drawn on that BEAT The Pandemic Pivot podcast is written, produced and hosted by me, Kinsee Morlan. It’s edited by Alisa Barba. Emily Jankowski is the master of sound design. Lisa Morissette is operations manager. And John Decker is director of programming. Thanks for listening

Today, a story about the breakdown of communication between couples in quarantine, and a nonprofit that’s trying to help. This is "The Pandemic Pivot," a KPBS pop-up series where we check in with our community to see how we’re coming up with creative and innovative ways to navigate our new lives with COVID-19. A company that puts on divorce webinars is seeing a huge uptick in demand. And yeah, breaking up, divorce, temporary separation, that’s one way to go. But one local group is working overtime to offer another solution. *** Got a story about how you pivoted because of the pandemic? Call or text us anytime at 619-452-0228‬. The Pandemic Pivot podcast is written, produced and hosted by me, Kinsee Morlan. It’s edited by Alisa Barba. Emily Jankowski is the master of sound design. Lisa Morissette is operations manager. And John Decker is director of programming. Thanks for listening. To support the show, donate to KPBS.