- Steve Rakowski
Can the isolation of quarantine improve the marital relationship?
A positive attitude and modest amount of effort can go a long way toward coping with pandemic isolation and building stronger relationships with family members.
Many people are working remotely these days. For some, a change of pace from the regular commute to work, worrying about clothes and makeup, and punching a time clock is a welcomed change. New freedoms from convention can be liberating. But the nice change of pace can pose unique challenges for many couples facing the new normal of continuous close proximity.
There is an old saying that goes: “For better or for worse but not for lunch.” You may think you know your spouse pretty well. However, these are complicated times and the new work protocols, home-schooling procedures, and diet and exercise changes introduce behavior-altering stress. You may not even be aware of it. The slightest aggravation by a spouse could prompt a very unfortunate reaction.
Coping tools for isolation survival
For those stuck inside after months of the same routine it can be difficult to find an “up-side” of the isolation. The trick is to maintain a positive attitude and conscious desire to be the best parent and spouse you can be. A modest amount of effort can go a long way and demonstrate support to family members.
Share plans and dreams. While social distancing, quarantining, and testing may shorten your “fuse,” don’t allow it to create barriers to communication. Instead, encourage the kids and your spouse to share their goals for the coming year. Planning a vacation, home improvement project, or self-improvement course can create a common interest or goal that helps minimize the separating effects of anxiety.
Maintain a ‘half full’ viewpoint. Remember how inseparable you were when you first met? Rather than viewing isolation as a disadvantage, appreciate the additional time with your spouse as an opportunity to develop a closer relationship and rekindle the excitement you once shared. Explaining your feelings to one another rather than blaming the other person for their behaviors is a way to constructively begin a conversation that does not result in hurt feelings. Expressing your fears to one another can evoke healing sympathies and increase patience during these challenging times.
Employ healthy diversions. To combat feelings of loss caused by routine change or physical separation from friends or family, occupy your mind and your time with constructive pursuits. Rather than risk your garbage man leaving an AA pamphlet in your recycle bin, renew an interest in an old hobby or commit to a new exercise or detox regimen. Invite your spouse to join you. Even if s/he does not accept your invitation, pursuing hobbies and activities will keep your mind occupied and positively directed.
Walk a mile in their shoes. Resist the temptation to focus on your own dissatisfaction. Try to put yourself in your spouse’s shoes to appreciate their perspective. Offer to take on some of their chores or change one of your behaviors. It will demonstrate commitment and may prompt a reciprocation and actually bring the two of you closer together.
Share your story. With the many social media outlets available today, consider sharing your success stories with others. Post your strategies and successes to encourage other couples struggling with pandemic isolation. An altruistic mindset will help maintain a positive outlook by making you feel that your struggles were not in vain but can be reconstituted as positive direction to those who need it.
Familiarity, distractions, and fatigue all rob us of the focus and energy needed to maintain relationships. Making a conscious effort to renew and revive your relationship can help you preserve your marriage when so many others around you are failing. Employing one or more of the healthy coping mechanisms enumerated above, you can potentially avoid the devastating impacts of COVID isolation.