Marriage is hard. Even couples who consider themselves to be in happy and compatible relationships will tell you that maintaining a healthy marriage takes work. Every day with your spouse will not be champagne and roses, of course, but throw a global pandemic into the mix? It can take some serious work. Marriage issues during quarantine have become common, and whether you've been married 10 months or 10 years, just about every couple right now could use some guidance.
Dr. Jennifer Berman, an expert in women's sexual health, tells Romper that some of the most common marriage issues during quarantine include boundary issues and redefining roles. "When people have been in a routine and one or both partners are working, there’s a schedule and structure. A lot of people have had a disruption in their schedules, their lives are turned upside down — maybe both partners are at home now. Roles, responsibilities, and expectations are changing, and that creates stress."
Isn't that the truth. A "disruption in schedules" is the understatement of the year, especially when I'm often not sure what day it is. With both my husband and I now working from home, there can at times be an imbalance of work on the domestic side of things — I often feel like I'm doing everything, and while I may have felt like that occasionally while he was at the office, at least then our schedules and responsibilities were set and easier to maintain. Thanks to COVID-19, all order seems to have been thrown out the window, and that "me time" I used to enjoy (and truly need — everyone does) in quiet moments during the day is gone.
"The main thing is for men and women to be aware of their feelings — whether they are irritated, annoyed, fearful or reactive — due to something that somebody else is doing or saying," Berman says. "It's important to try to pause, take a timeout, breathe, and try to understand the other person’s position, concerns, what fundamental needs aren’t being met, and re-frame things to make the other person feel heard and comfortable."
I think we all know that communication is one of the main keys to a healthy marriage, but it's nice to have it reaffirmed by a professional, right? And while I feel fortunate that I'm able to talk honestly with my partner, others might not feel the same way. Add in being on top of each other basically all day long without any kind of reset or cool-off period, and things can get sticky real quick.
Lee Wilson, a relationship expert and dating coach, tells Romper, "For a lot of couples who were already having trouble, the quarantine came at a bad time. A couple is used to the daily break that going to work or running errands provides. Time apart, when there are poor relationship dynamics in place, allows for cooling off, reflection, and an emotional reset, but if a couple is quarantining together, an argument can resurface constantly with little relief. Based on client feedback, it appears that the lack of a buffer such as work can exacerbate what is already a difficult situation. Couples often report feeling anxiety and resentment when in the presence of each other."
But even if you aren't arguing with your spouse, there's still a lot to handle during a global pandemic. "Additional issues that may occur with couples are when one or both are essential workers, which magnifies stress, and couples who may disagree on the severity of the virus and what, if any, precautions need to be adhered to," Wilson adds.
While he agrees that open communication is paramount to maintaining a healthy relationship, Wilson also suggests ways to keep the spark alive. "Anticipating special days together, like a weekly date night, is so important. It gives a couple something to look forward to, plan for, and to help get past the boredom of quarantine." Even if that means a little takeout and Netflix after the kids are in bed.
Just remember that it's normal to feel a little out of sorts with your relationship and your partner right now. The key is to listen to each other, figure out why something is bothering you, and carve out quality time together. (And alone time for you.)
Dr. Jennifer Berman, expert in women's sexual health
Lee Wilson, relationship expert and dating coach