Edit: Since this post was so well received, I made three short follow-up videos that go along with this post. You can check them out using the links below.
The world is a scary place right now. The unknown has us all on the edge of our seats in anticipation of what MIGHT happen. Most of us are quarantined in our homes, with some of us facing the very real idea that we may not have a job tomorrow. We know that we shouldn't, but we can't stop watching the news, and it's making things worse.
There isn't a lot that we can control right now. For a lot of us, this is the first time, in a long time, that we are unsure of what the future holds. That's the scariest part of this whole thing, the unknown. The stress that comes with a global pandemic distorts everything around us, and it's hard to remain positive when the bills keep coming in, and food still needs to be bought.
So, when you and your wife are locked up together, inside for weeks at a time, things can get tough. The first thing that you have to remember is that you are both on the same team. You're both facing the same uncertainty. You may be taking it harder if you're the primary breadwinner in the family, but she is just as stressed as you are.
“The first thing that you have to remember is that you are both on the same team. You're both facing the same uncertainty.”
David N Johnson
Your wife isn't the enemy. You aren't the enemy. You and your wife are a team, and together you will prevail. At the end of this thing, your life may look different, but that doesn't mean your marriage has to follow suit. Here are a few ideas that you can use to get through these hard times.
Be Tolerant of Her Reaction to Stress
Not everybody reacts to stress the same way, and you have to be okay with that. This means that you must be tolerant of the way your wife reacts to hers, no matter what. Yes, that means even if she isn't tolerant of the way that you react to yours.
That may not sound fair, but meeting intolerance with intolerance isn't conducive to a happy marriage. Not only that, but it will ensure that being quarantined together is tougher than it needs to be. Look, things are tough enough right now, there is no need to pile it on with something that can be avoided. At the end of the day, you can control your REACTION to things even though you can't control the economy or the spread of COVID-19 (other than doing your part by social distancing).
As a Committed Husband, you have to go further than just being tolerant of your wife's reaction to stress. Talk to her about it. Ask her how the quarantine makes her feel. You can even ask her to give you three words that describe it. Before we go any further here, I think it's important to say that I don't want you to go into this with the idea that you are going to fix your wife. Yes, you are going to talk to her about it so that you better understand how she is feeling, but don't try to fix her. She isn't broken.
You can say something like, "I know this is stressful, it is for me too, how do you feel about this whole quarantine thing?"
"I'm not sure. It just stresses me out."
"I understand that. What are three feelings that come to mind when you think about it?"
"Anxious, a little scared and, a whole lot of overwhelm."
After listening, say, "Is there anything that I can do to help?"
She may say no, if she does, be okay with that. You can't fix everything. But if she says yes, then do whatever you can to help.
I wrote a post a few weeks back on creating an environment of acceptance, if you want to explore being more tolerant of who your wife is, feel free to check it out. I'd love your input.
“You never have to anticipate what you're wife is thinking, all you have to do is ask.”
David N Johnson
Practice Social Distancing
No, I'm not telling you to stay six feet away from your wife at all times, I'm just reminding you that most married couples spend the bulk of their day apart. Now, however, you're with each other morning, noon, and night. For some couples, this is great, for others, not so much.
In the beginning, this may be okay, but as time progresses and you're at home together more and more, you have to acknowledge the importance of alone time. Since one or both of you were working away from home before the quarantine, you had plenty of time apart, but now that you are together all the time, you may find that you needed that time alone to help regulate your emotions.
If that's the case, you may only need 5 minutes to collect yourself before re-engaging after a tense situation. While excusing yourself from those tense moments to collect your thoughts is okay, you should make some amount of alone time each day as a priority. You can put some headphones on and meditate, read a book, pray, or do something else to occupy your time alone. Just don't make your alone time an all-day, everyday sort of thing.
Yes, you're a couple, but you're also individuals. When spending 24 hours a day in the same house together, you must be able to spend time apart. However, you must also spend time together. Maybe there is a Nexflix show that you've both been meaning to watch, spend time each day snuggled up on the couch, and do just that.
Keep It Fun, Keep it Light
There's not much else you can do, so make it fun. My wife and I refer to our kids and our dogs as our co-workers. So it's a running joke now:
What is happening outside your doors is heavy enough for the both of you, and if you allow it to, it could crush you. Find things to laugh at, share funny memes, or videos; they always lighten the mood.
The secret to any healthy marriage is communication. I know, I know, that old hat?
I know that, David!
Okay, so you do, but it still needs to be said. The single biggest problem in most relationships is the lack of communication. That holds double true while you're in quarantine with your wife. She should know your fears, your successes, and everything else in between. Spend time talking about the future and where you're going to go from here. Life may be on hold, but it won't be forever. Talking about the future will also help to alleviate stress and creates hope.
Spend this time getting to know your wife again. Chase her like you used to, flirt with her, hold her hand, look her in the eyes and tell her that you love her.
Understand that no two people see things the same way; it's as if they are looking at the very same thing through different colored lenses. What that means is that you may see things one way, but your wife will see it another way entirely. That's why it's important to communicate. Talk about the little things and talk about the big things. Spend time reminiscing and enjoying one another's company. Life may have gotten in the way before, so use this time wisely and get to know your wife again. All of that happens through communication.
Do Things Together
Cook together. Clean together. Put the kids in bed and have a candlelight dinner. Walkout on the deck and have a glass of wine while you watch the sunset.
Just because you're stuck indoors, doesn't mean you can't do things together. Just last night my wife asked me if I wanted to do a puzzle, my first instinct was to say no because well, that's what you're supposed to say when somebody asks you if you want to put a jigsaw puzzle together. Then, I thought about all the time together we could spend, just talking about nothing in particular, and I was in. It's better to work together than to scream about the way things are, as I said before, you can't change what's happening so you might as well make the most of it.
Write a song together if your musically inclined (I'm not... at all), camp in the backyard, create 5 course meals for each other, create silly videos, make crafts, tell each other jokes, learn a new language, plan a vacation, the list is endless.
I'd love to get your input. How are you spending time with your wife during these tough times? What are you doing to pass the time? Leave a comment below and let's have a conversation about it.