Lecture – Love and Isolation During the Time of COVID

Available with English captions.

Presented by Jacqueline Olds, MD, and Richard S. Schwartz, MD, McLean Hospital – McLean Forum lecture

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically increased loneliness in this country while simultaneously creating difficulties in couples’ relationships from too much closeness. We are already seeing the effects on our mental health and can expect to see consequences on our physical health as well.

Drs. Olds and Schwartz, who are both psychiatrists and psychoanalysts and are married to each other, look at these emergent problems and offer strategies for addressing them with patients.

Watch now to learn more about:

  • Health risks of loneliness
  • Treatment strategies to decrease patients’ loneliness during the pandemic
  • Effects of the pandemic on couples’ relationships

Schwartz focuses on COVID-19’s impact on loneliness. He explains that physical distancing inevitably leads to social distancing. The catch to social distancing, he says, is that “it can save your life in the short run, and it can shorten your life in the long run.”

“When physical space is shared, we share so much more,” says Schwartz. “And that’s true even today, with all of our wonderful technologies of connection, which get us part of the way there but not all the way there and leave many people completely out in the cold.”

Olds, meanwhile, focuses on how the reduction of physical distancing between couples can be stressful on a relationship. She explains that it’s important for people to get a break from interaction with their partner.

“One of the reasons having a routine in the week in which each partner has someplace to go to, like work, means that you get some time apart without having to put too fine a point on it,” says Olds. “It just happens, and each person gets a chance to explore the world on their own, do their own thing.”

She adds that she believes that the couples who are flourishing most during COVID are the ones who have established some sort of routine in which partners routinely spend a substantial amount of time apart from one another.

Olds says that there “has never been a time historically, that we know of, where couples spend so much time together.” She describes the pandemic as a concentrated experiment in which we are finding out how increased time together is affecting people’s relationships.