By Callie Albaugh, MA, LAMFT
When your wedding vows stated, ‘for better or worse, in sickness and health,’ you probably weren’t thinking that included a 14+ day quarantine with your spouse. Our world is changing by the hour. This field of unknown can heighten fear and anxiety, and impact how we relate to the ones we love most. Couples with healthy and unhealthy relational interactions are facing immense difficulties in managing being stuck in the same household for days on end. To make it out alive, I want to highlight four areas to keep your relationship running smoothly.
1) Open lines of communication
As unfortunate as it may seem, our spouse can’t read our innermost thoughts. When tensions are high, we need to communicate clearly and effectively with our loved ones so that they know how to best support and nurture us. In times of frustration and stress, this can be difficult!
- First, name your emotion and name your needs while using ‘I’ statements. For example, “I am feeling stressed right now and need some time to myself.”
- Try to refrain from using ‘You’ statements (ie: “You are driving me crazy!”) or using exaggerated terms such as, always or never (ie: “You always do this” or “You never help me with this”).
- Be sure to reflect back to your spouse what you hear them saying to ensure that you are hearing and interpreting the meaning of their words accurately.
If you are both working from home, create boundaries and parameters about each other’s workspace and work schedule. Use those open lines of communication to state what you need to accomplish for the day and when, and what you will need from your spouse during those times. Create a shared schedule together each day of what you both want and need to accomplish, whether that’s professional or personal. Include your work calls, time spent calling family members or friends, taking a walk outside, etc. Some couples utilize a whiteboard or piece of paper at home, some may use a shared calendar through Google,
3) Allow time for individual space
When we fly on airplanes, we are instructed to put on our oxygen mask first before assisting others. We need to care for ourselves before we can care for another person. When you’re quarantined with your spouse for an extended period of time, it can feel as though you are not able to take time for yourself. Your self-care and individual space are essential to properly care for your spouse and your relationship. When you are scheduling your day, ensure that you and your spouse are able to have alone time.
Give yourself, and your spouse, some grace during this unknown and anxious time. When Anxiety and Stress are heightened, our cortisol levels skyrocket and we can easily ‘snap’ at our spouse. When arguments occur, always follow through with repair work together. Own your emotions and your actions and leave room for grace with each other.
We have the ability to create a narrative of this chapter in our life. When you look back in 5 years at this time in your life, how do you want to tell this story? How do you want to say this chapter in your life formed you individually and in your relationship?
We can choose to view this time as challenging or suffocating; or, we can choose to view this time as a time for internal reflection, relational building and learning, and intimate connection. This time in our world is new and unknown. We are all figuring this out together. We need the ongoing support from those around us to make it through.