There is an old saying: “Home is where you act the worst, but are treated the best.”
Well, if you’re acting your worst at home right now – and if you’re isolating or under lock-down at home – you might want to re-think your behavior. After all, nobody wants to come out of quarantine only to head straight to divorce court.
We all know that familiarity breeds contempt and that’s even during the best of times. So before the walls start closing in, I’d like to offer 19 ways to keep your cool, keep your perspective, and keep your marriage healthy during the COVID-19 crisis, whether you’re quarantined or just spending more time at home than usual.
1. Watch your voice tone. If you use a snarky, impatient, critical or condescending voice tone, you can expect to be met by a voice tone of equal or greater value from your spouse. So watch your mouth. Remain conscious of your voice tone and make sure it’s pleasant.
2. Clean up after yourself. This one speaks for itself, doesn’t it? Look behind you when you leave a room – did you leave your dishes on the table? Are your work papers still sprawled all over the coffee table?
3. Look in the mirror. Sure, working from home might mean you have the rare luxury of staying in those comfy sweats all day…but should you? By all means, indulge in some frumpiness, but don’t let it become a habit. It has a way of draining one’s energy.
4. Pick your battles. If you, your spouse, your kids and even your pets are all housebound, it’s going to be impossible to avoid conflict. When it happens, remember to pick your battles. Is it something worth losing your temper or fighting about? If you blow up or expect perfection from those who are as irritated and closed-in as you, it’s only going to lead to hard feelings.
5. Take care of business. Don’t let your work or your kids’ schoolwork fall behind. As importantly, make sure that you and your spouse face your challenges together – evaluate your financial situation and budget accordingly. Make a pact to face this crisis together…it will pass, and when it does, you’ll look back with pride at how you came together.
6. Respect your spouse’s personal space and time. If your husband disappears downstairs for a couple hours to play video games, or your wife hides in the bath for a little longer than usual, so what? Give them their space and enjoy your own while you’re at it.
7. Keep your sense of humor. Laughter is an instant stress-reliever. It also has a way of making something scary just a little more manageable.
8. Relax the rules. It’s okay to binge-watch Netflix. It’s okay to stay up a little late and sleep in a little longer.
9. Rediscover board games. Yes, binge-watching can be fun. But so can Monopoly, Uno, or a game of strip-poker between you and your sweetie.
10. Don’t obsess. Check your online Covid-19 facts once or twice a day, say every morning and/or evening, but try not to go overboard.
11. Work out. When you feel irritated by your spouse and/or kids (and you will), please don’t take it out on them. Take it out on your treadmill. Or if you’re in a small space, do fifty push-ups. Blow off steam in a positive, physical way with exercise.
12. Have empathy. Remember that quarantine is taking its toll on your spouse and kids, too. Perhaps your spouse has lost a promotion, or your kids are missing their friends, maybe even missing their own graduation. This time isn’t easy for any person.
13. Have humility. As soon as you start to think about how annoying or difficult your spouse is to live with, I suggest you remind yourself that you can also be annoying and difficult to live with.
14. Share chores. Be sure to divvy up responsibilities like cooking dinners, doing laundry, vacuuming and so on. Being stuck in your house is bad enough. Being stuck in a dirty, messy house is even worse.
15. Ask your spouse how they’re doing. If they’re worried about work or their health, or their parents’ health, offer support and words of comfort. Don’t just assume “they’re fine” because they’re not sharing their fears or anxieties.
16. Do something nice for your spouse. Cook your wife’s favorite meal for her, or help your husband clean out his garage or workroom.
17. Have something to show for it. As an individual, now is the time to finish that big work project, dive into a second language or begin that screenplay. As a couple, see if there’s anything you can do around the house – this might be the perfect time to drag that paint out of the basement and liven up your sunroom…you might be spending more time in it.
18. Reconnect. If you’ve had relationship problems, or if you’re working through them right now, take this time to see whether you can reconnect over favorite memories, old movies or music. Don’t put too much pressure on yourselves to resolve your issues – it’s enough to live in peace right now.
19. Make time for “couple time.” If you’re quarantined with your kids, make sure to prioritize some private time for you and your spouse. Plant your kids in front of the TV or their video games, or put them to bed early, while the two of you enjoy some playtime behind locked bedroom doors.
I hope these pointers will help you get through this time, even in some small way.
– Debra Macleod, B.A., LL.B., International Relationship Author-Expert & Creator of the “Fair, but Aware” approach. Now available online.