How to talk to your friends when you disagree on COVID-19 restrictions

Click to play video: 'How to talk to that friend who breaks COVID rules'
How to talk to that friend who breaks COVID rules
Relationship expert Jessica O’Reilly drops by 'The Morning Show' to share tips on talking to that friend who breaks public health guidelines and puts others at risk. – Apr 22, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has put our friendships and relationships to the test, with many Canadians disagreeing on restrictions, politics and obeying lockdown regulations.

If you’re not seeing eye-to-eye with one of your friends, it’s still important to respect each other’s boundaries, says Toronto-based relationship expert Jessica O’Reilly.

People have different comfort levels in regard to meeting up, and we can’t take their behaviour personally, she adds.

“Don’t tell yourself the story that they’re not prioritizing you. Don’t make this about you,” O’Reilly says. “They are prioritizing their own comfort and their own physical and mental health.”

Keep in mind, misinformation has been rampant during the pandemic and we don’t necessarily have to personalize how people are interpreting information, she adds.

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Now that we’ve been living in a pandemic for over a year, O’Reilly says it’s possible that some friendships may not outlast the impact of COVID-19.

“The reality is that not every disagreement or conflict is fully resolvable. You won’t necessarily be able to come to common ground,” she adds.

O’Reilly says the challenge is to recognize if the issues you’re facing are more than just a difference of opinion — it could be deeper-rooted in contrasting ethics or values.

“You may find that maybe your friendship and values aren’t as aligned as you thought they were.”

It’s important to keep in mind that what we’re experiencing is temporary and disagreements might dissipate post-pandemic, she adds.

Wait-lists for couples counselling have been on the rise during the pandemic, meaning people are trying their best to seek support for their relationships.

If your partner refuses to go to couples counselling, O’Reilly says you should still go on your own.

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“If you believe that your relationship can benefit from therapy, you can probably also benefit from therapy on your own,” she says.

You can adjust your own thoughts, reactions and behaviour, but you can’t control your partner’s, she adds.

“A therapist can help you to learn to perhaps communicate your needs more effectively… and explore how you can make changes that might positively affect your relationship.”

If your partner is refusing to work on the relationship altogether, then that’s when you might run into compatibility issues, O’Reilly says.

But it’s important to consider whether they might feel better-supported through other mechanisms like self-help programs and group support, she adds.

(For more information on friendships during the COVID-19 pandemic, watch the full video above.)

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