COVID-19 has already resulted in numerous causalities. Even the best of marriages can be strained by social isolation and 24/7 togetherness. Those which previously experienced symptoms of marital illness are more at risk. Don’t add your marriage to the casualty list. Inoculate it with these tips for survival.
1. BUILD IN MARRIAGE “SEPARATION”
Negotiate a period of time in the morning and one in the afternoon of “solitary confinement.” That break in the cycle of continuous interaction can work wonders. If an hour or two is too long when you have responsibilities for entertaining children, carve out what you can for each of you.
2. DO THE SAME FOR YOUR CHILDREN
Just like you, your children are likely feeling the impact of intense connection. Boredom is the mother of creativity. Who knows what marvelous inventions we’ll see on the other side of this pandemic if we don’t over entertain or screen-time our kids. Don’t solve the boredom dilemma for them. Simply identify a period of time when they are fully responsible for entertaining themselves. They can nap, dig out neglected toys from the past, create new games, write a list of random acts of kindness they will perform now and a list they will perform when connection with others is possible. Allowing video games during this time diminishes the likelihood of boredom and its potential for creativity.
3. DO THE OPPOSITE TOO–CREATE JOINT MARRIAGE DIVERSIONS
We are all searching for ways to keep cabin fever at bay. And it’s easy to see one another’s strengths and even easier to see weaknesses when all you are focusing on is each other. Try some of these ideas to not only divert your attention but to engage with one another:
- You can’t leave your house but you can take a trip down memory lane. Remember when we used to print photos and put them into albums? This is a perfect time to re-visit those with your spouse, particularly early photos when you were dating and during the initial years of your marriage. Photos never made it into albums? Now’s your chance to look through them together and sort into albums. And toss the ransom-worthy ones!
- Read a book together. It could be about marriage or a shared interest or a thriller that captures your energy. The point is to read or listen to it together. John Gottmann is the marriage researcher. One of his books you may want to consider is Eight Dates, Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. If gratitude is in short supply, enjoy one of my favorite reads, Destiny of the Republic, and you’ll realize how fortunate we are to be grappling with this virus with our current level of medical sophistication.
- Plan Your Next Vacation. No, we can’t travel now, but travel will happen again and planning the details will enhance the experience now and later. Search YouTube for videos of places you’ve dreamed of visiting. Read a novel together set in Ireland or the Greek islands or wherever your dreams (for now) take you. Doing this exercise will support the belief that you WILL be financially okay when this crisis passes, provide some comfort in that thought and even potentially an immunity boost. You might be a bundle of nerves, but dream as if you don’t have a worry in the world—that’s what dreaming is about.
4. FIND THE FUNNY–Every. Single. Day.
Either because you see it in the absurdities that is life now or you watch videos like these https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4ssmKWDPCw Just find something that makes you laugh out loud for real. We’re fighting a disease. Laughter is still the best medicine.
5. THE MARRIAGE GRATEFUL Rx
Express gratefulness to one another for small favors. That’s always a good idea, but during times of high stress, gratefulness is a soothing lotion. And everyone is struggling here. Give each other a break.
I don’t want to minimize the stress our current health crisis is generating and suggest that these type of band-aids will work a miracle cure. Perhaps life in the time of COVID-19 will reveal fault lines in your relationship that make clear you need to make a change. But don’t go there too quickly based on a temporary situation. This WILL pass. Do your part to make it pass as peaceably as possible.
Wishing you and your marriage good health,