How Do Marriage and Lockdown Work in the COVID-19 Crisis?
Marriage and lockdown was not a combination we would have ever needed to consider just a few weeks ago!
Well it is pretty weird, this lockdown and working from home business, isn’t it?
If you and your partner are working from home, this adjustment might be presenting some new issues such as who works where, being quiet when video or telephone meetings are happening, and even, what’s for lunch?
These are things that most couples do not have to deal with during the working week. (Those of you who already both work from home can laugh at the rest of us, smug in the knowledge that you have it all worked out already…)
The Challenges of Working From Home With Your Partner
My husband was sent home pretty early in this coronavirus pandemic so we have had quite a while to get used to things. But, boy was it a struggle for me at first!
He is frequently on phone calls which meant I had to be quiet (and keep the doggos quiet!).
I realised he has a “work voice” which delighted me no end and led to snickering conversations with my sister.
There was never any food left in the house because all three adult males were home for every meal ALL THE TIME! And the kitchen was showing the signs of this continual meal prep (eye roll).
Seeing The Positives of Marriage in Lockdown
The challenges that my husband and I initially identified (who will work where) have been largely resolved.
We have established a new routine. On the mornings when I am not at my office (as a Psychologist, I am an essential service provider and although all my sessions are now online, I conduct them from the quiet of my therapy space) we enjoy later morning dog walks (hooray) as his travel time no longer gets factored in to our morning routine.
We take turns making morning or afternoon tea (coffee!).
There is a renewed understanding that home life has to continue even if one of us is on the phone. That means no more grumbling if our dogs bark at the postman (still happens – every day), the vacuum cleaner is being used, or if we are both on work-related phone calls (thankfully we have rooms and don’t live in a studio apartment!).
The Radical Changes to Family Life During Lockdown
Out of what was initially looking like a challenge (mostly for me because I am used to having the house to myself when not at the office) turned into an opportunity for my husband and I to better understand one another’s work world, to make room for our professional peccadillos, and to generally show more patience with one another.
My sons who are both at University struggled with the removal of all socialising initially, but they have also adapted. They are spending more time together. For the first time in years, evening meals see all four of us seated at the dining table. We are doing jigsaw puzzles together. Playing board games. We got a dart board and I beat them all (and I will never let them forget it – humility is not my strongest trait).
Marriage and Lockdown Might Be A Wonderful Opportunity to Grow Together
If you and your “loved” one feel more like you and your “tolerated” one, perhaps you can look for the upside in this new set of circumstances?
Are you sleeping a little later and finding you don’t both race out of bed to a shower or exercise class and therefore have some time for a relaxed morning chat? How is that changing how you understand one another?
What does that slower pace allow for, in terms of detail of communication and understanding?
Are there more opportunities to dine together? What is it like to have breakfast and lunch together each day?
Are there more opportunities to have a laugh?
Can you and your partner schedule a break and debrief about the latest in each other’s work day?
My wonderful virtual assistant (who makes all the magic happen behind the scenes) and her partner challenged themselves during work days to come up with the most awkward “water cooler” conversation they could think of when they passed each other in the hall. [Yes we did, and the best we came up with was “Hey, did you know that Norman Swan is not an actual bird?”]
These are all opportunities to achieve a closer connection, an intimacy previously reserved only for colleagues, a chance to peek into a facet of your partner’s life you are not usually privy to (due to confidentiality restrictions for me, this means my husband always gets to be the one to talk about work).
Discovering Things About Your Partner That You Dislike
But what if you don’t like the “professional” side of your partner?
What if you find them rude or abrupt with co-workers when on the phone or video-conferencing?
What if they are slightly sycophantic with their boss?
What if they are a total stress-head at work and you never knew?
How do we reconcile this new knowledge of a partner who has attributes that were previously unseen, and which we do not like?
Disruptions and Coronavirus Stressors
What if your partner’s job means they are on the phone ALL THE TIME and you never get any quiet around the house?
What if you and/or your partner are out of work? How is this impacting on your relationship? Are you arguing more? Are you both laying awake at night worrying about how to get some cash in?
What if you have kids who are being home-schooled? Who gets to sit with them (from all accounts from those around me, parent supervision is totally necessary to help kids navigate new online lessons)? Who has to take time off from work for minding the toddler?
Self-Care Might Be Harder During Lockdown
There is plenty to argue about and plenty to worry about right now. Not least of all a potentially deadly virus that is easily transmissible.
Never before has self-care been so vital. But do you have the space to do what usually works for you? With more people at home, there is less space for exercise, meditation, or even just sitting quietly with a book.
It can be a challenge, particularly if your space is small, or you don’t have any outdoor space (or it rains).
Opportunities to Strengthen Your Marriage in Lockdown
What are some ways you and your partner can come together in this challenge and create an opportunity?
There’s a wealth of opportunities for connecting over a shared experience. This is why people from our childhood, our siblings, or anyone we have experienced something with, is special to us – we shared a life event that means we understand one another a little more.
We can share this COVID-19 pandemic event with our partner.
Shared Experiences Enhance Connections
Talk to your partner about the ebb and flow of the anxiety you are currently experiencing.
Talk about the challenges and upsides of trying to work throughout this crisis – or if it applies, the stress of being out of work (while it might be nice for your body to have a rest, your mind is constantly stressed about finances or career concerns for the future).
Use the kids’ home-schooling as an opportunity to have a laugh (maybe when the kids are in bed – we don’t want them feeling like a burden) about things that were said or how annoying it is that each lesson ends with “discuss this with a parent”.
The more we share these experiences, the more we give our partner a way to connect with us and join with us. It is highly likely that they are experiencing something similar to you.
Accept Your Feelings and Look for Silver Linings
Can you acknowledge to yourself that you feel annoyed with your partner at times, make room for that feeling, and choose to respond in a way that conveys understanding or acceptance?
Can you find some silver linings in relation to your romantic relationship during these times?
What are some of the upsides of the coronavirus self-isolation measures you have noticed?
Couples’ Counselling Can Help Your Relationship Survive the Coronavirus Crisis
If you find that your relationship during lockdown is under strain, consider getting marriage counselling.