Seems weird to wish everyone a happy quarantine/lockdown, but these are the times we live in right now! It seems everyone is affected one way or another from the COVID-19 global pandemic. Some people are affected financially with job loss or revenue. Some people are affected with loss of loved ones or even just the loss of a social life. Some people are missing out on important milestones and celebrated events like weddings and even prom.
Many relationships are affected, as well. Either people can’t see their loved ones or they are forced to spend constant time with them. Both scenarios are extremes that can either bring you closer or pull you a part. For some couples emerging from their lockdown in China, it seems like it was the latter.
There has been some reports that the divorce rate hit a sudden spike in China the past few weeks as their lockdown has been lifting. This is of course, disheartening to hear, but I also can see why. It’s a lot of time to be spending with one person, and if couples aren’t getting their usual breaks from each other (breaks that everyone understandably needs!), then unusual arguments or annoyances with each other are likely to occur. If a couple doesn’t have a strong foundation, these arguments and annoyances can become a big enough problem to want out. As the U.S. experiences similar quarantine and lockdown situations, there is concern that American couples will come to a similar conclusion.
These are unprecedented times for our modern world to experience. There is no prior research done and shared about how to get through a pandemic with your marriage in tact. But I’m hopeful these tips can help ease the tension, keep your marriage emotionally safe, and of course, help it keep your marriage fresh!
#1 Be more patient with each other.
The emotions we are all experiencing, along with how we cope with the current and future changes are probably different from each other. Realize that one spouse’s need to stock up on supplies might be their way of coping, while another’s is to play more video games to distract their thoughts. Respect your different ways of coping.
#2 Take individual time in separate spaces within your home.
Schedule it if you have to, because it doesn’t matter whether you are introverts or extroverts, you will get sick of each other at some point! The key is to not lash out at each other over it. If you are in very tight quarters and the outdoors is not an option, consider hanging out in the bathroom on your own, or a closet, haha. You can even watch different tv shows or movies on your own devices with headphones on so you can mentally be in a different place than your spouse.
#3 Check in with how you each are feeling every few days.
We all need the opportunity to process our feelings on what’s going on, especially when the situation changes often week to week. Amberly, at A Prioritized Marriage, suggested some great questions for doing this.
#4 Create an environment of safety and refuge wherever you are both quarantined.
Allowing your partner to do the #3 tip and just listening to their feelings can be a great way to do this. Another thing is to do what you can to keep your home virus-free and clean by washing your hands, wiping bacteria away, and avoiding situations that you can potentially bring home the virus. When there are feelings of safety and comfort, more love can thrive and we can better react to what’s going on in the world.
#5 Have at home dates. (weekly, if you can)
This can be a positive escape from what’s going on in the world! Some ideas: We already have to make more meals than we did before, so why not make dinner together? Or sit out on the porch or grass and play a game together! Have a date delivered to you. There are a bunch of movies that were supposed to be in theaters right now that were just sent straight to streaming, so pop some popcorn and get some treats and “go to the movie theater,” so to speak.
#6 Be on the same page about your emergency plans.
When you’re not adhering to the same guidelines or don’t feel prepared for emergency situations like this, it could make one or both of you feel uncared for. It could seem like nagging if your spouse keeps telling you not to go outside or to constantly wash your hands. But remember their intentions have love and concern behind it. Keep each other safe by adhering to the health recommendations advised by the CDC and your local and state governments. We experienced an earthquake here in Utah while in quarantine and it helped us update ourselves on what to do in those emergencies.
#7 Keep serving each other, especially in little ways.
The little ways can mean even more now. Some ideas: If your spouse or both of you are working from home, make lunch for them and eat it at the same break time. Or randomly give them a neck massage while they are working at their computer. Do one of their chores for them. Write notes to each other. Enjoy some sexy time in the middle of the day. Honestly, whatever positive things you can do to fill up your emotional bank account will be smart because being around each other more means you’re more likely to have more negative interactions! So follow the 5 to 1 ratio rule, and maybe even increase that ratio!
#8 Keep aspects of your life normal as best you can.
Change can be difficult for people to begin with, but add in a whole lot of uncertainty about the future and the stress levels can skyrocket. Stress can lead us to react poorly to both minor and large problems so I believe that the more normalcy we maintain right now (while in the recommended limits of your state and county), the better off we will be emotionally for ourselves and our spouse.
#9 Reflect and reset (if needed) your priorities in a good discussion together.
This is a unique chance to reprioritize our lives with what and who is important to us. We have less commitments to attend to - no people to see, no places to be. Use this time to talk about the people, activities, standards, and goals that are important to you and make a plan for how to implement them better after this crisis has passed.
#10 If this is really uncomfortable to be around your spouse so much because you have been disconnected recently, I encourage you to dive into it.
You don’t have much choice here! Set aside a time to have those difficult conversations, while also making time to reignite your friendship. If you need help on how to have these difficult conversations productively, try using the ABC formula and follow the process of how it works. Some great resources for fun conversation right now: My list of 100 Conversational Questions to Ask Your Spouse! This is one of the most popular articles on Freshly Married! We also love card decks of questions like the Uncommon Questions.
I elaborate more on this tip that is easier said than done, in this recap video of a virtual speaking engagement I did recently. There are some great tips from other women about other helpful lifestyle tips and insight during this pandemic. But you can skip to minute 14 to get marriage help!
My last thoughts coincide with the #1 tip, in that we should give ourselves and our marriage some grace right now. In some ways, many of us are experiencing something traumatic in this pandemic. It’s a lot to process, and having to do that without having physical access to other family or friends makes it harder.
Whatever difficulties your relationship faces during this time, don’t immediately decide to separate. Once you can return to more normalcy and businesses reopen, take the opportunity to see a therapist together. And if necessary, please know there are therapists available still via video chat, like from Better Help.
Remember that ALL couples are in this situation with you on one level or another. We all need to implement these tips.