Reports are coming in from all over the world…Great Britain…China…Home quarantine is making some couples frantic, antsy, even stir crazy.
The combination of a stir-crazy-making quarantine with poor communication and lingering resentments percolating under the surface could devastate many marriages.
Here are 15 Ways to Stay Sane While Sheltered in Place.
You Got a Problem?…Take it Outside…Fighting in front of the kids is abusive. If you need to hash something out, go for a walk around the block. But don’t go for a drive, because car fights are predictably bad.
Home quarantine is hard. Expect negative emotions to bubble up from time to time. If either of you had a rough childhood, anxiety and stress will erupt more than usual. Know this, and plan for it.
Name… Don’t Blame. Take ownership of your feelings. Don’t blame your partner for them. Use connected language. Talk about your anxiety as if it were an unwelcome guest. It makes sense that you’re a little stir-crazy. Everyone is feeling uncertain and uneasy right now.
Express Appreciations on a Daily Basis
Express Appreciations…Especially About Little Kindnesses. Being critical makes it more difficult to feel close. Notice when your spouse does something helpful or nice and praise them for these daily mundane courtesies.
If Your Stressed, Listen More and Talk Less. Stress and anxiety will inhibit your communication skills. Slow down. Listen more. Talk less.
Empathy is so Important Now. You may not understand how your partner feels, but you can always describe what you notice. “You seem stressed, do you want to talk about it? I’m here when you’re ready.”
Offer to Cover the Kid Detail. Offer your partner some alone time. take charge of the kids for a few hours. Particularly if they do most of it. You need to get away from each other so you don’t get too antsy.
Have Routines, but Don’t Micro-Manage. With all of you under one roof, it’s like battlefield triage. What tasks need our attention today? Accept that you’ll both be doing jobs that aren’t normally in your wheelhouse. And make sure that you ruthlessly exploit your children to extract some age-appropriate child labor.
Bookmark Your fights. If you’re both getting antsy, and a fight about nothing is escalating, call a time out. Continue the discussion at an agreed-upon later time. Use Generative Conversations to focus on understanding both points of view. “Ninety-five percent of it is about understanding your partners’ point of view,” says John Gottman.
Antsy and Stir Crazy?
Notice How You Explain Your Partner to Yourself. Your spouse has their own thoughts and feelings. Don’t become too comfortable with the partner in your head.
Ask Your Real Partner for What You Want. If you want something, be specific. Don’t make vague global requests with an exasperated tone that suggests that you’re pessimistic.
Your hunkering down surrounded by an invisible enemy. it’s OK to ask things of each other.
Ask for things of each other because they will improve your sense of security, or curb your anxiety.
Women are socialized to care for others, and men are raised with the “guy code” which teaches them that asking for something is a sign of weakness.
You’re probably both getting antsy and stir-crazy share the feeling and ask for what you need. Be prepared to give and to accept support from your spouse. Step up and ask for what you need specifically with an attitude of positive expectancy.
Embrace the Suck. Bitching and moaning about the situation can become a bonding experience. “This sucks, doesn’t it?” can lead to an intimate conversation. it’s a freakin’ global pandemic. Feelings are permitted. And you’re not necessarily going to see eye to eye about how bad things are going to get. That doesn’t mean either of you is wrong.
Stop Finding Fault. This is a global pandemic. Not an opportunity to correct your partner’s shortcomings.
Watch the Differences in Your Comfort Taking Habits. Let’s face it. You’re both going to feel antsy and stir crazy. And you will have ways of soothing yourselves that will be unhealthy (an oreo appetizer followed by the main course of cool ranch Doritos?), or unwise (binging on Tiger King and wanting to actually discuss Joe Exotic’s lifestyle?).
Unhealthy habits might annoy the daylights out of your partner. They may also take a dim view of your tendency to play Kenny G and watch Perry Mason reruns. Bite your tongues. Roll with each other. Indulge each other with resilience, forbearance, and generosity.
Be Mindful of Each Other
Acknowledge Each Other. When your partner starts a conversation, no matter how inconsequential. Bestow your undivided attention. You will need to respond more reliably to one another now. Please do so. Watch your emotional bank accounts, and make regular deposits, no matter how small. It will pay dividends.
Imagine This is Over. Think about a year or two from now. You’re looking back at this bizarre time in your lives. What do you imagine you could have done better? How could you have been more patient or gentle with each other? What do you remember most fondly about your home quarantine coronavirus crisis? As a thought-experiment, share a future, backward-looking perspective.
I Can’t and Won’t Sugarcoat This…
A home quarantine will probably be tough on your marriage. It will be for most couples.
Marriage in the time of COVID-19 might hurl thousands of American couples into divorce court. It’s too early to tell.
But any failed marriages will not be couples working hard to have a “good enough” relationship.
These marital failures will consist of couples who believe marriage is an expression of a deeply romantic and emotional bond; a bond whose fragile durability endures only to the extent that both partners are experiencing personal fulfillment and unimpeded growth.
Sheltering in place will require you both to roll up your sleeves and deal with each other in a way that you never have before. Personal fulfillment and unimpeded growth may have to take a back seat alongside your inner child.
This global pandemic demands your best selves to show up, and you may both need to defer your personal aspirations.
Many of us will be spending the month of April under one another’s feet, and what happens in May and June remains uncertain.
You will get through this…but chances are you will both be transformed by the experience. Reach out for help now while you’re only occasionally antsy and stir-crazy. You may need new skills. We can help with that.
Discover What Marriage Coaching Online Can Do For Your Marriage.
Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist. He is the Blog Editor. He currently works online seeing couples from Massachusetts at Couples Therapy Inc. He uses EFT, Gottman Method, Solution-focused and the Developmental Model in his approaches.