If you’ve been reading your social media regularly during the Covid-19 lockdown, you’ve inevitably started theorizing about how your “couples” friends are coping: they’re going to be having a baby in nine or so months; they’re going to be separating; they are lying about how well they’re doing; they’re holding on for dear life, managing about as well as you are.
I don’t think many of us would be surprised at a post-Corona baby boom. I can see it now: every variation of the name king and queen you can imagine. After all, there are only so many things to do when you’re stuck in the house with no place to go. And, there are only so many things you can do over Zoom. Don’t even think of combining them. What is certainly surprising to no one, are the very real stressors on couples who’ve promised for better or worse, but not for lunch. And, are now stuck in close quarters without a single, solitary break from each other. Everywhere I go he’s there. Everywhere I go my child is there. But I digress. I kid. I kid. Save me.
After almost 25 years together, that’s 18 married in some eyes, with an additional seven married legally (thanks Supreme Court!), you might say that the husband and I have mastered staying out of each other’s way, at least long enough to avoid major eruptions. Sure, things have been incredibly difficult during this lockdown, especially with working from home and homeschooling a four-year-old. But, those 25 years have given us a few tricks beyond “don’t go to bed angry” that make our relationship work—even with a high-energy four-year-old in a lockdown situation. These work for us but your mileage may vary.
1. Live Your Best Instagram Life. You know all those moments that you share on social media? The ones that you stage and post? Whether they be of your kid in a ridiculously cute outfit, of your meal or of the toenail you just clipped? Stop photographing the moment and live it. Yes. Live it. Stop documenting and live. Today, we did an entire obstacle course in the backyard for the four-year-old to burn off some energy. We spent hours putting it together, running the course, laughing, playing. It was ephemeral, now living only in our memories—our shared family memories. I can still hear the laughter. I can still feel the soreness. It belongs to us.
2. Forgive, Like You Would Like to Be Forgiven. How many times have you done something incredibly stupid? I’ll wait while you count. How many times have you said something thoughtless? Again, I’ll wait. How many times would you have liked to push reset? Ah! You see where I’m going? We all want do-overs. We all do dumb things. Now, I want you to stop and think about all the pressure that we are currently under; these pressures are not ordinary pressures—these are not ordinary times. When you get into an argument—and we all get into arguments—ask yourself: if I had done this dumb thing, would I want to be forgiven? Is this thing so massive, that it’s worth holding on to? I’ll wait. I am not, by the way, advocating free Get Out of Jail cards. What I am advocating is grace. It’s all about degrees. Don’t set a standard for your partner that you’re not willing to set for yourself. Don’t set too high a standard for yourself either.
3. Do Spend Some Time Apart. Go into a separate room and read a book. Take a walk. Talk to a friend on the phone (and I mean talk, not text). Engage in a separate and distinct activity from those that are in lockdown with you. Whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, time away from those around you is essential to help you find yourself. Under regular situations, you would be alone and/or with different people for some part of the day. Try to mimic that as much as possible.
4. Vary Your Days and Routine. Do not engage in the same activities every single day. Take turns cooking, homeschooling, cleaning. Make sure you know what day it is. Set up schedules so that each of you do different things on different days. If your days start to run together and all feel the same, you are doing something wrong. Once routine starts to creep in, boredom is next followed by anxiety, stress, and well everything that comes along with it.
5. Get Out of the House. Go for walks. Run essential errands. Get some outdoor exercise. Spend time in the yard, go on a short hike. Even if all you do is take a walk around the block while you mumble to yourself, you’ve left the confines of the space you’ve been in. You’ve had a change of scene; with that change of scene, usually comes a change of perspective.
It’s funny (peculiar, not “ha, ha”), but among our friends, we are among the longest-married couples. Funny, because as a gay couple society does not normally look to us as an example of a successful marriage or partnership. Yet, 25 years later, we’re still chugging along. Yes, chugging. Marriage, partnership, coupledom (note, not martyrdom) is hard work—made harder by the addition of children; made harder still by the current lockdown. Yes, I keep using the word lockdown. To a lot of people, the term shelter in place simply does not fit the bill. When they are prevented from doing what they want to do, they can hear those bars swinging shut. At least this time, we’ve had some choice regarding who are fellow inmates are. And, we do get to decide, what’s for lunch.