For Better, For Worse and For the Pandemic* -- 9 Ideas for Surviving COVID-19 With the One You Love Most
*If you and your partner are wildly and passionately in love with each other and look forward to the opportunity to spend nearly every single minute of the day together, you probably won’t enjoy this post. Feel free to skip it and move on to another day of making love and memories together.
Can You Identify?
The morning starts poorly. Another day of “social distancing” and you want a little more distance from your partner. You slowly sidle out of bed, only to feel the covers thrown back on the opposite side. Your mood darkens even before you are fully awake. You brace myself for the tension of shared space, altered routines, and the increased volume of the television blaring out another day of depressing news.
The one you promised to love for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health is arising, just when you hoped to have at least one blessed hour all to yourself. It does not seem like much to ask, but apparently during a pandemic it is.
Seriously, being together 24/7 is a real test of one’s love.
Those little quirks you found so endearing when you were dating now drive your blood pressure right off the charts. In fact, if someone were to mention “date night,” you might wonder if it could be with someone other than your spouse. At this point, and for the foreseeable future, a boys’ or girls’ “night out” sounds a lot more appealing.
A New Reality
It goes without saying that the coronavirus has brought a whole new reality—one with significant disruption to our daily lives and lots of couple and family togetherness. Not so very long ago the thought of more time together was a high priority on the leisure time wish list. Today, not so much. A lot has changed in a very short span of time.
So what is a couple to do to keep the flame of love glowing without “burning down the house” of their mutual affection in the process?
For answers we talked to some people in the trenches to see what they’re doing to survive and thrive during an uncomfortable and historic period of the 21st Century.
1. Schedule individual alone time. Even the most gregarious person occasionally needs his space—and if he doesn’t, his partner does. Allow some specific blocks of uninterrupted time for your partner to be alone reading a book, going for a run, taking a shower. Absence often really does make the heart grow fonder.
2. Do some “new” things together. Clearly, you’re not going to be able to take those group dance lessons you’ve been talking about or that fabulous trip to Tahiti, but you can enhance your couple relationship by choosing a new skill or activity to do together. This could include practicing a new cooking skill, reading a book together, trying a yoga routine, or going for a hike in a new location.
3. Feed the kids at a different time. If you are together all day, eating breakfast and lunch as a family, then you may want to feed the children earlier, turn on a child-friendly flick, and treasure an adult dining experience without the interaction and spilled milk of little people.
4. Embrace the Compromise: Nobody enjoys having their world turned upside down. When we realize we're all in the same boat, it's easier to row together. That means doing things you might not necessarily enjoy in exchange for not having to do things you dislike. Whether it's as simple as household chores, taking care of the kids at specified times, or those DIY projects you've put off. You and your spouse both have nothing but time, so understanding you each have to pass the same amount of hours helps everyone in the house. We are not Congress. Compromising is key.
5. Tackle a Project Together: It's true. We're stuck at home and out of excuses. It's time to join forces to complete a project together. Close quarters can be daunting in times like these, but a carefully picked (and easily completed) renovation project might be the strategy you need to pass a few hours (or days). So now's the time to paint the hallway, fix that faucet, or even just organize those pictures of the kids you swore you'd get around to doing. Make a plan and conquer it together!
6. Remember the power of common courtesy. Simple words of "please" and "thank you" go a long way to show value and respect to one another.
7. Avoid comparison. When one partner is engaged in an "essential occupation" (e.g. healthcare) and the other is not, it can challenge the relationship in new ways. Set time to transition from work to home for the partner who must go out. Be open for communication, but understand that because of privacy regulations, not everything can be shared. Watch for jealousy that can develop when one person is engaging with others while the other feels "trapped at home.” Or, the one working may resent that one "has to work" and the other doesn't.
8. Agree about how much media/news to watch each day. A constant stream of input from outside the home can feel like an invasion. Be responsible in keeping up with a quickly changing world but let the relationship in front of you be the most important one who have.
9. Find time to develop shared spiritual practices. Commit to reading the same daily devotional and offering insights. Take time to offer shared prayers of gratitude and concern.
Dr. Jennifer Baker, Founder & Executive Director of Good Dads, is a clinical psychologist and family therapist with nearly 30 years of practice helping individuals, couples and families. She is the wife of one, mother of two and grandmother of eight. She may be reached for question or comment at email@example.com.