Let's face it, 2020 was a year unlike any other, and 2021 looks to be just as challenging as we continue to self-isolate during the waiting game to get vaccinated. Spending all this time together can really test the bonds of even the most harmonious marriage.
However, maintaining a healthy relationship during quarantine is very possible—even a lot of fun—if you're willing to work at it.
Talk about your fears
Living in quarantine is strange and often scary. We don't know how long it will last, and everyone has their own set of issues, including food insecurity, financial fragility, unemployment and even losing the lives of loved ones. This is enough to put anyone on edge—all while we're cooped up in the house.
I'm lucky that in my line of business, I can work from home. But that brings its own challenges when my husband and children have the four walls for entertainment, and I'm trying to make a deadline. This is where talking becomes essential: To prevent anyone from lashing out, we air our grievances, discuss our fears and make a plan to overcome this stressful time.
As in most situations, honesty is essential. It's easy to blame our partners for our irritations, but the reality is that most of the stress we're experiencing during quarantine is based on the fear that this will never end.
If you're going to survive this with your marriage intact, it's important to first be honest with yourself, so you can have a truthful conversation with your partner.
Set boundaries and routines
While talking with your partner can be helpful and reassuring, there's still the problem of how to navigate each day. To balance your time together, it's important to create a schedule that includes healthy boundaries.
People are creatures of habit, and one of the reasons the quarantine is so scary is the upheaval of normalcy. To overcome this, you can trick your brain into thinking you're in control by making a daily schedule.
The following is a general, block-type schedule for my partner and me:
Wake up at the same time each morning.
Read the news, check emails and prepare for the day.
Wake up the kids and make breakfast.
I work while my partner helps the kids with their schoolwork.
At some point midday, we take time for ourselves.
Late afternoon, we make dinner and then spend the evening together.
The only detail set in stone about this routine is that I typically set my alarm for 6 a.m.
Having a vague routine might sound silly, but it allows me to plan, which lets me feel like I'm somewhat in control. This also allows me to take it one day, one hour or even one minute at a time—depending on my daily anxiety—as I try to navigate our isolation.
Take time for yourself
One of the top priorities on this schedule needs to be time for yourself. It doesn't have to be much, even just 30 minutes, but it is essential to your mental health and your marriage that you make this happen.
For me, alone time used to mean my half-hour drive to work. I would drive in silence, and it was one of the most peaceful parts of my day. In the quarantine, though, this means something else.
Getting alone time in quarantine requires some creativity:
Soak in the bathtub with some relaxing spa music.
Get in the car and take a drive with no destination.
Take a walk while listening to music, podcast or the sounds of the area.
Claim the bedroom as personal private space for a half-hour.
No matter what task you choose—reading, writing in a journal, masturbating—it doesn't matter, as long as it's a time when you allow yourself to push your anxieties from your mind.
Of course, scheduling this alone time means your partner gets their own alone time, too.
Take time with your partner
Perhaps the most important tip to survive the quarantine with your marriage intact is to make an effort to spend quality time with your spouse. This might seem counterintuitive because you're stuck together, but the truth is your partner might be driving you crazy because you forgot why you got together in the first place.
This quarantine has forced us all to be stagnant. While this can be scary, we can actually use this opportunity to work on ourselves and our relationships. Instead of fighting it, take time to slow down, go for a walk, have a quiet dinner together or go for a drive.
No matter what you choose to do, make sure you take time for just the two of you. The most important rule: Don't sweat the small stuff.