Your new lifestyle, courtesy of the coronavirus, is giving you some interesting challenges, isn’t it? You’re working from home, homeschooling your kids, and getting meals on the table – all while trying to stay healthy.
Then, just the other day, you realized something. All those little quirks your sweetie has – the ones you usually brush off – are starting to wear on your nerves. Today you read that there’s been a spike in Chinese divorces since the coronavirus and you thought, “No surprise! It’s only been a couple weeks and s/he is a making me crazy.” At the same time you’re wondering…are these quarantine quarrels a sign of something serious?
Maybe – maybe not. Here’s one way to figure it out:
First, relax. Take a deep breath. Remember that you’re both used to your space and now you don’t have it. It’s stressing you out. It may seem like forever, but it really is temporary.
Next, take a minute to stop and regroup. Fighting is a normal part of a relationship. You are bound to get on each other’s nerves from time to time. Right now you both need some time to be apart. Plan it – go out for a jog, find a quiet place in the house to be alone, call an old friend. If you have kids, each of you take some time alone with them so your partner can have some me-time.
Then stop and think. In The Five-Year Marriage®, I tell people to focus on patterns of behavior. When you’re bickering, are you arguing about a temporary annoyance or a pattern? Is your sweetie watching repeats of old SuperBowl games or binge watching Downton Abbey and it’s annoying the hell out of you? If those aren’t regular patterns, it’s likely to be more about immediate stress relief. For those, as the old nuns used to say, “kiss it up to God.”
On the other hand, if your partner is online and running up the credit cards…as usual…that’s a pattern of behavior. It concerned you before, but now you’re both out of work, money is an issue and it doesn’t seem to matter. Or maybe it’s not about money or something so concrete. What if s/he has a pattern of constant complaining or seeing the downside of everything. That negatively affects you and it matters for your health and well-being.
If quarantine quarrels are highlighting serious issues – around money, alcohol, online gaming, criticism, etc. – that’s a problem. Maybe in your busy lifestyle you didn’t even notice it. or it wasn’t an issue. However, now that you do and it’s a concern, DO something. It’s not going to magically disappear when the coronavirus quarantine is over.
You can start by mentioning it as a concern that you want to talk about later. Trying to fix it when you’re stressed enough and cooped up in the house together probably isn’t a good idea; it will only add to your stress. Still, you can share your feelings and get an agreement to talk about it at the end of the confinement. You might even get an agreement to get outside help with a marriage therapist. If you do, make the appointment now – once the quarantine is over, therapists are likely to be very busy!
Finally, understand that the coronavirus quarantine isn’t the end of all things, but it’s a definite shift. Pay attention now and prepare so when life returns to what will be the “new normal” you can be better off and ready for the good stuff.
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