Many of you have never spent this much time with your partner. Welcome to my world.
I’ve been working from home with Mr. H since 2017. Not just working from home together…we run a business together. When we first started our business that fateful year, chuckles, murmurs—and probably some divorce bets—rose from the crowd. Everyone thought we were going to straight-up ruin our marriage.
Well, we survived. We’re on track to celebrate our 15-year anniversary in a few weeks and our business is still around.
When COVID came into our lives, we were oddly prepared for it. We had already been spending the majority of our time at home together—because of the nature of our work and because of our commitment to ditching alcohol for a while.
In a weird way, we were self-quarantined before the COVID quarantine. That didn’t necessarily make things any easier, because we certainly mourned the months of pre-lockdown isolation when we could have been interacting more with humans. “For fun,” we also moved across the country during the pandemic.
I’m not a marriage therapist or a relationship coach, but I have a decent amount of experience being a shut-in with my husband. During various quarantine conversations, I noticed clients and friends started dropping hints that they wanted me to reveal our secrets to shut-in marriage success. Here you go…
Give Each Other Space
A one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment was the “happy” setting during a couple of our work-from-home years. We have since smartened up and invested in more space to accommodate our shut-in lives so we don’t kill each other.
During quarantine, there is only so much space you can give. There’s no coffee shop, shared workspace, or lunch meeting to find some reprieve.
Food-chewing and gulping water suddenly take on a whole meaning. Somehow you both end up on conference calls at the same time and you try to talk over each other. Then, you try to pick out a movie to watch together in the evening and you have a stupid fight because you can’t agree on anything.
You need to establish boundaries in a restricted space. It is possible. If you can, set up your workspaces in different areas of the house. If you’re in a small space, shift your work schedules so each person commandeers the productivity area at different times of the day. Go over your schedules daily and weekly to avoid double-booking calls.
During downtime, it’s okay NOT to do things together. When Mr. H and I had salary jobs and spent most of our time apart, we needed to spend more of our downtime doing things together because that was the only time we had. That’s not the case for most of in lockdown—so feel free to enjoy hobbies and entertainment separately.
As always, the key to a happy marriage is—DUN, DUN, DUN—communication. Be honest about your needs, then follow up with positive (and affectionate) reinforcement. A few things we say to each other that work well:
- “I’m not talking to you right now, but you’re the best.”
- “I need some space, but I love you.”
- “You’re driving me nuts, but give me a smooch.”
Don’t Be Too Distant
Give each other space, but not too much space.
This quarantine has been an introspective time for all of us. Winter is usually the time for introspection, yet those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are battling the energetic urges of Spring. Meditate on things, but don’t get swallowed up by that introspective tunnel.
Your partner is there if you need someone to pull you out, and you should do the same for them. Our relationship signals are out-of-whack, so don’t be afraid to tell your partner that you need an emotional boost.
They may not be able to read you the same way because you’re around each other so much. And remember…they’re dealing with their own introspective shit right now too. Your job is to pull them out—and you might need to ask if they need support in order to do that.
Maybe that’s a long walk or watching a silly movie together. Maybe that’s an hour of couch time in the mornings, doing separate things but sitting side-by-side with a cup of coffee. Maybe it’s as simple and paramount as putting your devices away and talking to each other, uninterrupted.
Keep the Romance Alive
Mr. H and I often joke and say: “There you are.” Because the “Oh, it’s you again” is a very real thing when you’re locked up with your partner.
Before you used to see other things and other people and have date nights. Now you get to see each other in your home…all the fucking time. Before you used to spend time apart, forget each other’s faces, voices, and scents for a while. Now you’re seeing, hearing, and sniffing each other 24/7. You never miss each other anymore because you’re both always right fucking there.
Yes, this constant togetherness takes away some of the thrills you used to have. And you need to fight to keep the romance alive. Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do…
Have Sexy Time
Guess what? Sexual tension is likely the reason you’re sick of each other. Stick to a regular weekly cadence of your choosing. Magically, even if you are totally sick of each other, you will love each other again when you have sexy time. Make it a point to get it on.
You might think your sweatpants with the hole in the crotch offers easy access for spur-of-the-moment sexy time. It won’t happen. You don’t feel sexy in your sweatpants—you’re sick of wearing them.
Remember that your partner has to look at you in your sweatpants, so they’re even sicker of them than you are. Put pants on that your partner wants to take off. Those aren’t your crusty sweatpants.
Beyond sexy time, remind yourself to be affectionate with your partner. I say “remind yourself” because hugs, ass pats, smooches, caresses, gropes, and cuddles won’t come as easily as before when you spent time away and missed each other.
A useful trick for feeling like you miss the other person is to spend as much of the day as you can in another room so you have that sense of separation.
Close the door. In small spaces, put your headphones on while the other person is dropping a deuce. And don’t talk to the other person about COVID news through the door while they’re doing their business. In fact, just leave them in peace.
Be Kind to Each Other
Even though Mr. H and I have gone through a shit ton of highs and lows together over the last decade and a half, we’ve never gone through a pandemic before. It’s safe to say that you and your partner haven’t either.
Quarantine life is a life the two of you have never shared together. You’re in the comfort of your home, but make no mistake…this is an insanely stressful time for both of you. You will get on each other’s nerves from time to time. That’s totally natural, but don’t forget to be kind to each other.
Easy things we like to do for one another is making sure everyone is taken care of on a fairly basic level.
He cooks breakfast for me. I make sure he takes his daily vitamins. He makes coffee for me. I make tea for him. If I’m going for a walk, I ask if he needs anything. If he sees that I’m bummed out after reading COVID news, he hugs me. Just be kind.
Cherish Your Time Together
I want to share an exercise Mr. H and I did once upon a time that helped us realize how much time we had spent apart. This exercise motivated us to take the leap, quit our salaried jobs, and start our business together.
Basically, you calculate the time you’ve spent away from each other over the years.
As an example, the first 12 years of our marriage had been spent apart at full-time jobs. My workweek was 50+ hours and Mr. H’s workweek was 60+ hours. We accounted for two weeks of vacation for uninterrupted time outside the weekends, which was 50 weeks.
If we go with 60 hours as an average—we roughly spent this much of our lives away from each other annually:
- 3,000 hours
- 125 days
- 18 weeks
- Over 4 months
In 12 years of marriage, that equals this much time apart:
- 36,000 hours
- 1500 days
- 214 weeks
- 50 months
- Over 4 years
When you see the numbers, you’ll see how much time you’ve reclaimed during the quarantine. It’s a much-needed reminder right now. It gets us to move past a lot of stress points and appreciate the unexpected gift of time and togetherness we all received.
We’re all going through a lot right now. We feel cooped up, trapped, locked down. The quarantine divorce memes, stats, and predictions aren’t helping any of us get through this.
See this time as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship. When will you ever have this much time together again? Maybe never, after things open back up.
And remember, this is some really crazy shit. If you guys can make it through this, you can make it through more crazy shit.