Are You a Cooped Up Couple Who Can’t Work from Home?
Many couples aren’t working from home because they can’t. Main Street is shut down. First, their livelihoods were obliterated, and now they’re being asked to “stay home and save lives.”
Most of these couples aren’t sick… but they’ll soon be sick and tired of their home quarantine experience.
Here are 11 “best practices” for getting through this together and keeping your marriage intact.
- Accept that a Home Quarantine Will be a Serious Mental Health Stressor for All of Us. I can’t sugar-coat this. Quarantine, even a relatively comfortable home quarantine, is linked with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). At times you will both feel angry, confused, anxious, and irritable.
Research suggests that 29% of people experiencing home quarantine show some signs of PTSD, and 31% had symptoms of depression afterward.
“Being quarantined gives one a sense of being at the mercy of other people and other uncontrollable forces such as an epidemic. This leads to a feeling of helplessness and uncertainty about the future that can be very unsettling.” Frank McAndrew, Evolutionary Psychologist.
And even after this is all over, the negative impact will probably linger. We’re all in for a bumpy ride, but there are things we can do to make it a bit easier to endure.
- Share Your Fears. Cooped-up couples enduring home quarantine resemble couples who are about to move in together for the first time.
One partner may be particularly apprehensive about sharing space indefinitely, while the other may have completely different concerns.
Share your fears. You’ll find similarities between them, but also stark and surprising differences. If neither of you is symptomatic for Covid-19, allow room for positive expectancy.
- Learn Something New. What do I mean by positive expectancy? Home quarantine is an opportunity to learn something new. It could be an important skill, like cooking from scratch, or something fun like learning backgammon or poker.
Although this example is a bit of a stretch, I once saw an interview with a disgraced public official. He was asked to comment on his 7-year experience serving time in federal prison for bribery and tax evasion.
Here’s what he said:
“I lost 40 pounds, got into the best shape of my life. I read over 500 books, learned to speak fluent Spanish, and took up watercolor painting. It was also important for me to reflect on how I was going to make amends to my wife and kids, and put my life back together. I may have been serving time…but I also made the time serve me.”
Home Quarantine Will Give You Plenty of Time to Talk
- Validate Each Another’s Feelings about Coronavirus and The Anxiety of Uncertainty. Coronavirus and home quarantine are major stressors. But for many couples, those fears are further enhanced by economic uncertainty. It’s essential to listen to each other’s feelings and make one another feel heard.
“When one partner is feeling anxious, it is important for the other partner to listen to their feelings and show support. Often, the sense of being heard and supported is what the partner needs most. However, there are so many practical concerns related to this crisis that partners may be looking for help with problem-solving. It is always best to ask a partner if they need help with problem-solving.” Dr. Michael McNulty.
- You’ll Need a Few Monastic Moments From Time to Time. Create a sacred space in your home where each of you can go and not be disturbed. You will both need to learn the skill of moving between being close and being more distant. You will discover that sometimes you’ll need to get away from each other from time to time to recharge and replenish your stamina.
- Watch out for How You Both do “the More…the More…”Every couple has a repetitive feedback loop. The more you say or do X, the more say or do Y. You’re already infinitely familiar with how to push each other’s buttons…and now you’ll have all the time in the world do so.
- Create New Rituals and Traditions. We are all living through an extraordinary moment in history. This will call upon us to create new rituals and traditions to honor our collective journey through this momentous experience.
Please remember that the way a conversation begins is the way it ends 94% of the time. How you treat your partner will have an enormous impact on their already stressed nervous system. Be gentle, patient, and kind.
We may not be responsible for the world that created our minds, but we can take responsibility for the mind with which we create our world.– Gabor Maté
Keep Your Brain Stimulated While in Home Quarantine
- Take a Closer Look at Ways to Stay Busy. This is a unique opportunity to accomplish tasks that ordinarily, you could only fantasize about doing.
Organize those closets. Clean out your file cabinets. Organize your food pantry. Go through your possessions and items that have no longer have any purpose or value.
Goal-oriented activities create a sense of purpose and renewal. activities such as cleaning the house, or rearranging furniture can introduce novelty and help create vital mental stimulation.
- Stay Connected Through Video Calls With Family and Friends. For an indefinite period, many of us will all be living on screens. Prolonged periods of time where nothing changes can compel many people to turn inward. This can blur the boundaries between what is going on in your imagination and what is actually happening in your environment. That’s why it’s essential that you maintain intimate connections with friends and family.
Home Quarantine Requires Us to Pick and Choose Our Battles
Learn to Accept the “New Normal” in this extraordinary transition in the Coronavirus Crisis. Dr. Michael McNulty is our CTI team member in Chicago. recently he was interviewed about the coronavirus crisis for Parade magazine.
He explained that one of the reasons why we’re all getting on each other’s nerves right now is that our routines have been utterly disrupted and we’re all highly stressed. But he has a solution… you’re going to have to create a new routine.
“A good plan can help. Crises, by nature, are out of our control. When we realize that, it helps us to deal better with the temporary, new normal. Accepting the fact that we are living in close quarters and must cope with each other’s idiosyncrasies may help us to lower the bar in terms of what we expect and help us to pick and chose our battles.” Dr. Michael McNulty.
- Use ‘I’ statements to Ask For What You Need. Now, more than ever, couples need to manage conflict with skill and fight fair.
“When we have to choose a battle, it is important to complain without blame. Use the classic Gottman ‘soften-startup’ template:
‘I feel __________, about________ and I what I really need is _____________ . That would make me happy. What do you think?
When we use ‘you’ statements to describe our feelings and needs, our complaints quickly come off as criticisms, and the other person quickly becomes defensive. Use a soft-start-up instead.” Dr. Michael McNulty.
- Get Help If You Need It
If your marriage is suffering from a home quarantine, you can take action.