Handy Husband and I had an insightful chat about what we’ve learned about our marriage while quarantined during the Covid-19 pandemic the other night.
I was cutting his hair, so I had a captive audience to discuss all the observations and mushy feelings that had been floating around inside of me the last 49 days, 12 hours, and 47 minutes.
Before you think this hair cutting thing was an act of desperation while quarantined, I can assure you it was not. We cannot blame quarantine on how he looks because I’ve been cutting this man’s hair for over twenty years. I’m pretty sure even before we got married he asked me to cut his hair.
Talk about a trust exercise!
The man refuses to go to a barber.
There was only one time that he acquiesced to my request to have someone else cut his hair. I sent him to my hair stylist in Minnesota and before he left I said, “She’s going to tell you that you need to buy ALL the hair products. Just say no.” What does he do? Comes home with all the hair products.
I think he did it just so that I’d keep cutting his hair.
Hmm…he’s wicked smart, but maybe he’s craftier than I’ve given him credit for.
Here are the observations we’ve made about our marriage during quarantine. Please be gentle with your comments…this isn’t easy stuff to share. Also, I am well aware and sensitive to the fact that there is an entire range of relationship dynamics at play in the world. This is simply our story.
What We’ve Learned About Our Marriage While Quarantined #1: It’s a good thing we like each other.
I’ve always believed that a healthy marriage needs more than romantic love. You have to genuinely like and respect the other person.
Nothing will test this theory more than being stuck in the same house for weeks on end with only your spouse for adult company.
So, kids. Before you get married, ask yourself if you could stand being quarantined with your spouse for months.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t get irritated with each other from time to time. We ARE human! Some of us don’t know that dirty dishes go in the dishwasher not the sink and some of us don’t like to clean the hair out of the shower drain, but after 21 years of marriage we have developed the skills to handle those irritations.
Or the presence of mind to overlook them.
What We’ve Learned About Our Marriage While Quarantined #2: We have greater appreciation for the nuances of each other’s day.
We might not be able to walk a mile in each other’s shoes, but we are tripping over those shoes while quarantined and it has given us a greater appreciation for what goes on in each other’s day.
I could tell within the first week of quarantine that Handy Husband and I were in much better sync with our parenting.
This is the first time he’s been home to see everything that goes on with the school portion of our day. It didn’t take him long to understand that there were legitimate reasons why during normal times he might come home to any of the following scenarios:
a. The monkeys running the zoo and the zookeeper is too tired to care.
b. The zookeeper grounding all the monkeys because she has reached her limit.
c. The zookeeper and the monkeys living in peaceful harmony and the zookeeper wondering why they didn’t have more little monkeys. Clearly, she forgot about reasons A and B.
This isn’t to say that Handy Husband didn’t appreciate all the things that happened in a day prior to when he got home, but now he’s bore witness to why I have some of my grey hairs.
The funny thing about Handy Husband working from home is that I now know WAY more about his job than I’ve ever wanted to know. I would never disclose those things because we have a circle of trust, but it is eye opening.
I know when he’s in polite disagreement with his coworkers. I know when a meeting is a waste of time. I know when an algorithm he’s been working on finally comes together. I observe how he’s able to laser focus on a task when there’s chaos around him.
I know he works hard, but I’ve had a ringside seat to see that hard work in action while we’ve been quarantined. It gives me greater appreciation for the responsibilities he juggles on a day-to-day basis.
What We’ve Learned About Our Marriage While Quarantined #3: This isn’t the first time we’ve been on our own.
We have lived away from a built-in support network (e.g. family) for the vast majority of our marriage. We’ve also moved a lot and that means we’ve found ourselves in new places without anyone else to rely on. Try moving to a foreign country where you don’t know anyone and you are forced to really lean on your spouse for everything.
I’m not saying this is a balanced or ideal way to live. I doubt anyone would say that.
Humans need a social support network and building one in a new place can take time. It was really scary to me that when I enrolled the kids in a new school in New Jersey that I had no one physically close to put on the “in case of emergency” form.
My point is, we’ve been on our own, as a couple and as a family of four, a lot. I suspect this has given us an advantage in dealing with the social isolation of being in quarantine.
We know how it feels to not have in person social connections, so we weren’t blindsided by the emotional strain of it. We’d already adapted to connecting to family and friends in other states and countries through calls, texts, and social media. While not ideal, this aspect of quarantine has been a bit easier for us to navigate.
What We’ve Learned About Our Marriage While Quarantined #4: Perspective is everything.
We have been very fortunate thus far in the pandemic. We are healthy. Our kids have great teachers who are facilitating online school. Handy Husband still has a job he can do from home. I already run A Pretty Happy Home from home. Plus, we are in a happy, stable marriage.
We don’t take any of that for granted. I can’t emphasize that enough.
We are cognizant of the fact that our situation, and I don’t think we are alone here, is fragile. It could change in the blink of the eye. One of us could get sick. Handy Husband’s employer could start layoffs. A layoff would prompt the loss of our health insurance. And on and on it could go.
The inconveniences of being quarantined – that’s all they are at the moment – are nothing compared to the real hardships and grief people all over the world are enduring right now.
Heck, quarantine in and of itself doesn’t even make the list of the hard times we’ve weathered over our 21 years of marriage. Life doesn’t care who you are. It’s going to throw you some curveballs in a relationship that lasts multiple decades.
I count my lucky stars that we’ve come through those times stronger as a couple. If this situation gets personally scary there’s no one I’d rather face that adversity with than Handy Husband.
Bottom line, we choose to control what we can control – mainly our attitudes – and come what may the rest.
What We’ve Learned About Our Marriage While Quarantined #5: It’s a good time to work on our relationship.
Anyone who tells you marriage is easy is either trying to save face or has only been married for five minutes.
Furthermore, the fact that you have to work at something does not make it bad. Quite the opposite. It says this relationship is worth the investment you’re making in it. It says you aren’t taking it or your partner for granted.
Many of the relationship “quirks” we gloss over in normal times aren’t so easy to ignore when you are locked in a house together for weeks on end. Instead, those quirks have a big ol’ spotlight shining down on them that scream “fix it before the issue becomes irreparable.”
One thing I’ve been working on is what I’m calling my early alert system. If I’m feeling cranky or melancholy or anything short of my normal baseline emotional status, I’ve started to let Handy Husband know I’m in a funk before I say something I’ll have to apologize for later. A simple, “I’m feeling cranky” statement is all it takes.
Usually, he just asks me if I want a hug. Of course I want a hug. Hugs make everything better. It might not fix my crankiness, but I appreciate the gesture.
Guys. Communicating my feelings in an upfront way is something new I’m trying and we’ve been married 21 years. Before this I’d be cranky and he’d just figure out I was cranky the hard way. Poor guy.
For our relationship, there’s something about verbalizing how I’m feeling that helps release the tension. I’m much less likely to ACT cranky after letting him know that I’m FEELING cranky.
Maybe that’s because he gives me wide berth for awhile so I can deal with things!
Or maybe effective communication really IS the key. Go figure.
But, also, because I’ve told him how I’m feeling, he knows the mood is on me and has nothing to do with him. Therefore, he doesn’t take anything I do or say personally while I’m working out my feelings. In fact, I’ve noticed that when I do a good job of verbalizing my emotional state upfront, the mood doesn’t escalate to behavior (namely getting snarky with each other) we both have to apologize for later.
As much as I desperately want our lives to return to normal and there are signs of that slowly happening in our state, I am grateful for this time quarantined at home.
This is a season that will pass and I hope, and thus far feel confident, that when we emerge from this time we will be stronger as a couple. I think the key will be to keep up the good habits we’ve developed and not drop them as soon as we’re back to “normal” life.
As a reminder, as real as my blog posts are, they are just one glimpse into my life and definitely not the entire picture. This isn’t meant to be a comparison and I don’t ever want to give you the impression that our lives are perfect or that we’ve got it all together. We don’t.
We are just two people who are happily committed to trying every day.
I’m going to end by paraphrasing one of my favorite song lyrics by The Avett Brothers.
There is nothing worth sharing like the love that lets us share our name.
Have you learned anything when you were quarantined at home during the Covid-19 pandemic? I’d love to hear about it. In the meantime, here are some other posts you might enjoy.