Remember when you dreamed of spending more alone time with your spouse or significant other, but busy schedules always seemed to get in the way? Now that a global pandemic has forced most of the country to shelter-in-place, you may have more time with your partner than you bargained for. Depending on your situation, that may or may not be a challenge.
Keep in mind that an extended period of quarantine is radically different than the so-called quality time we all long for. It comes with high doses of stress, a breakdown in routine – and a level of uncertainty that leaves everyone on edge. With that in mind, it’s understandable that you and your partner may be getting on each other’s nerves. These are not ordinary times.
Before you call a divorce attorney, try these helpful tips to keep your relationship intact.
- Respect your differences. Not everyone reacts to a crisis in the same way. Some people need to process every news bite while others are better off with less information. You may worry while your husband stays calm and collected, or vice versa. When coping mechanisms differ, it’s important to respect one another. If one person in the relationship needs to vent – or maybe even rant a little – show some empathy. It, too, will pass.
- Stick to a schedule. Plan your day as much as possible, including what time you need to wake up in the morning. Be sure to schedule time for work, exercise, chores, meal prep, helping your kids with their schoolwork, and recreation. Prior to the pandemic, your life was already structured. It’s best to keep it that way.
- Establish some boundaries. You’ve been spending a lot of time together, even if it is by default. But everyone needs some space. Try to create a separate space where each person in the household can occasionally retreat and spend some time alone. If you’re working remotely, you’ll need to designate an area where you can work without interruptions, and the same is true of your spouse. A good set of headphones can help drown out any distractions. Once the boundaries have been set, respect them.
- Share some activities. For those times when you need to connect, find ways to spend quality time together doing things you both love. Listen to music. Play a game of backgammon. Or simply talk about your day over a glass of wine. These are the special moments that will get you through the quarantine.
- Take a time out. If your spouse suddenly feels like the most annoying person in the world, that may be because you’re spending so much time together. If it leads to bickering or a heated argument, take a break, cool down and discuss it later. Don’t attempt to resolve the problem while you’re angry.
- Be a good listener. When you’re excited or upset, it’s easy to focus only on what you want to say rather than listening carefully to your partner. But good communication works both ways. Not only does your partner deserve the respect, but listening leads to a better overall understanding.
- Try not to sweat the small stuff. Your spouse left his dishes in the sink again. Your wife’s music is too loud. Under ordinary circumstances, these things may not be annoying. But in the middle of a stay-at-home order, they could be just enough to make tempers flare. Before you lose your cool, think about approaching the problem with a little civility. It may not be worth fighting over.
- Avoid the tendency to overreact. There’s already evidence that divorce rates are on the rise, an early outcome of the pandemic. While it may be too soon to tell how couples are weathering the storm, try not to make a rash decision about the future of your marriage. It’s easy to think that divorce may be the answer. But there’s a good chance you’ve just been spending too much time together. You might want to put any decisions about the future of your marriage on hold until life returns to normal.
David Lowenstein, Ph.D. is a psychologist and the clinical director of Lowenstein & Associates, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to providing therapeutic services to individuals and families, he offers training and consultation to numerous associations, schools and agencies around the country. Additionally, he is a frequent radio and TV guest and a resource and contributing writer for numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. Contact Dr. David Lowenstein at 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.