Ups and Downs: Marriage During COVID-19
Living through COVID-19 has been difficult for everyone. The ongoing pandemic has changed so much about how we live our daily lives and even how we experience our relationships. People are losing their jobs or working from home, helping their kids keep up with school from home and rarely leaving the house. In spite of, or maybe because of, the severity of the situation, it’s important to relish in the small victories at home whenever possible.
For some married people, quarantining with their spouse may be a series of frustrating and repetitive moments. In my experience, however, COVID-19 has impacted my marriage in mostly positive ways. My partner and I were engaged before lockdown started and got married in October 2020 in our backyard. But I know that isn’t everyone’s experience.
While there are some clear ups and downs to handling COVID-19 as a married couple, it should be possible, even probable, to come out of this with a stronger relationship.
Up: Learn about spouse’s career
When you’re restricted to home and both you and your spouse are still working, you’re granted an opportunity to learn more about each other’s careers. Many times, both of you head off for work for eight hours and more, and come home without any understanding of what your spouse does all day. If you’ve been fortunate enough to sit in your home and work beside your spouse, you’ve probably learned a lot about what they do for a living.
This knowledge can make you much more empathetic to what is going on in their daily routine. For example, you might see that your spouse takes constant video calls from colleagues, answers emails from clients and texts up a storm on the phone. Now you understand the level of communication your partner is dealing with at work, and this goes some way to explain why you don’t hear from them for hours or why they seem irritated when they get home.
In addition, more understanding of your partner’s workload allows you to have more substantive conversations about their day. This shows your spouse that you pay attention to and care about a significant part of their life.
It’s important enough that even when the work world goes back to normal, you should try to keep up that level of understanding and interest.
Down: Potential workspace conflicts
Sharing a workplace can cause conflicts, because it’s likely you both work very different jobs. For example, maybe one of you has scheduled calls all day, and the other gets random calls from clients. If you can’t reasonably be on the phone at the same time, you must work together to compromise and find a workspace that’s appropriate for both of you.
This is not only vital for your career, but it is vital for your relationship, as well.
It’s important to work these issues out by having a serious conversation with your spouse. Perhaps neither one of you has dedicated space in the house, and now is the time to work that out. You might not have even realized that your home, which you enjoy, doesn’t accommodate both of you equally.
While you might love sitting next to each other on the couch watching TV, most people need their space from time to time. Rearranging a few details so the two of you can work effectively also strengthens your relationship, because you’ve solved a problem together.
Up: Immediately enjoy relaxation time
When work is over, you can sit down and relax. There’s no two-hour commute. You don’t get tired doing a thousand little things when you get home, because you were home all day. You can bond with your spouse more than you have in a long time, thanks to all this time together.
With the extra time, you can enjoy long conversations, make dinner together and do whatever you want. (Yes, that, too.) You can keep the home fires burning, go on adventures and almost feel like you’re flirting and dating again.
We don’t know how long we’ll be working from home, but take advantage of the time you’ve been given and deepen your relationship with your spouse.
Down: The kids never went anywhere
If you’re married with children, you’re facing an additional set of challenges. Your kids are likely attending school from home, and that can put a damper on having an adult relationship with your spouse. This can be especially difficult if you need to help the kids with their schoolwork on top of your own responsibilities.
This is another uncomfortable but necessary conversation to have with your spouse. The two of you should sit down and decide who is helping the kids with school, on what days and at what times. If you’ve never needed to create a tight schedule before, this is a good way to learn.
Turn this headache into a victory as you learn to work together and solve problems. Working out a quality schedule will help the two of you—and your kids—live less stressful lives.
Up: Sharing lunch strengthens your bond
Eating lunch with your spouse is a date you can have every day. Send the kids to their rooms and eat at the dining table like adults. This is nothing more than a time to relax and truly enjoy each other. Have a mimosa if you like. Take a load off for just a moment.
Studies show that enjoying a meal with your partner can result in increased agreeableness with each other. These positive interactions can help temper some of the irritability that comes with quarantining together for so long.
Food is also a really good way for couples to get to know each other. Consider making some of your favorite meals for each other as a way to remind your partner of all the good times you’ve had together. Perhaps surprise your partner with a new recipe you think they’ll enjoy.
This is a lighthearted and simple way to strengthen your relationship.
Down: Alone time has vanished
If your spouse and kids are all home right now, it’s likely you have very little alone time.
It’s crucial for partners to schedule some time apart. This is increasingly difficult in a house that is constantly full, but you have to plan for alone time.
For many people, time apart is necessary for refreshing the mind and bringing peace. Give yourself that time, even if it’s just 10 minutes in the morning to sit outside and drink your coffee. Self-care is vital in these quarantine days.
Just as important though is to plan for some romantic time with your spouse. The strength of your relationship relies on choosing to have intentional quality time with your spouse. Make a change so you can, you know, be married again.
COVID-19 won’t last forever, but while it’s here, try to enjoy the quality time you’ve been given. Throughout this crisis, remember that your marriage is constantly evolving. In a world evolving with COVID-19, allowing your experiences to teach you, rather than break you, is one of the best moves you can make for your relationship and for yourself.