by Micki Lavin-Pell, Marriage and Family Therapist and Relationship Coach
In sickness and in health…Most of us never imagined a worldwide pandemic when we got married and while no one thinks Covid was a good thing, we now have actual data results from studies on relationships in Covid times and the news is not that bad. As it turns out, not every relationship fared badly during lockdown. In fact, many have seen their marriages weather the toughest times and grow stronger because of it. Yes, stress went up- due to sickness of course, but also due to the indirect results of Covid- mainly job/income stress, and stress related to caretaking of kids at home 24/7.
According to the recent American Family Survey at Brigham Young University, while 34% of Americans reported increased stress, 51% of these Americans felt their marriage has never been stronger, and 58% appreciate their partner more. Of the Americans hit hardest by financial struggles this experience has made them turn towards their partner and lean on them for support.
So what is all this Fake News about divorce rates skyrocketing? The media loves to report bad news, bad news is good news for the media. However, as the studies have shown, more marriages not only survived the greatest hardship in our generation , but thrived.
Are you one of the 49% who disagrees and believes Covid has killed your marriage? Now that we are entering year three of Covid, we need to reflect on the past and learn how we can shore up our relationships and brace for the inevitable storm ahead.
Initially, during the first lockdown, the notion of being able to close ourselves off from the world and surround ourselves by our loved ones and create whatever environment we wanted without outside influences appealed to many.
For some, Covid lockdowns was a time to hunker down, surround yourself with fresh baked bread, a good book, a warm bath , another good book, another warm bath and more bread – all while basking in your lovely family. For others it was crazy chaos of kids, cooking, dishes and more dishes, all while trying to stay employed.
And your sex life? According to Brigham Young, initial lockdowns didn’t exactly make for sexy time and masking is evidently a turn off. Families with young children fared the worst with tensions and dishes running high. Who had the energy in the bedroom? As vaccinations became more prevalent, children went back to school -many stripped off the masks along with everything else….
In my line of work I noticed a significant difference between couples who did well over lockdowns versus those who fared worse.
Couples who fared well in lockdown reported they were really on…Meaning they woke up early with a plan in hand. They met daily personal as well as family goals. They checked in at night and made sure to have regular couple time together. Whether it be sport, art, baking or cooking. These people did things to nourish their souls rather than just watch endless amounts of news and Netflix. They kept themselves active and on the ball…They were balanced.
In order to prepare for the next lockdown, what can you do to get ready and prepared so that you maintain your sanity while keeping your relationship with yourself, your partner and the ones you love together?
Here are some tips to keep your cabin fever at bay:
- Maintain a routine: you may feel that you want to use this time to just let everything fall apart, however the long-term consequences will hurt you. By maintaining a healthy routine you’ll feel better about yourself as you keep things in check and on track.
- Maintain balance: Don’t overdo anything. Make sure everything you do is in a healthy balance, work, exercise, time with kids, time with partner
- Keep good strong boundaries
- Make time for yourself
- Keep things light
- Have realistic expectations: While you may be used to having a super tidy home, try to let go about needing things to be perfect. This is not the time for perfection but rather about making sure you keep your wits about you.
- Get everyone to pitch in: by giving everyone something to do the heap wont fall all on you. The big kids can help with meal prepping, tidying, and folding laundry. The little ones (3-6) can tidy their toys. This is the best time to initiate a family chore chart when you are home to hold them accountable.
By maintaining positive vibes and energy everyone wins. The house will feel pleasant and the people in the home will feel more connected to one another.
When you feel angry about your partner or kids not keeping up with their responsibilities, consider what would encourage and inspire them to hold up their end. If you feel angry, rather than shouting at everyone around you (trust me, I get it) feel your anger and let it out through a good silent scream or a loud one in the privacy of your bathroom . You will feel so much better for it.
As the data suggests, family and marriage is truly resilient – able to withstand even the most trying times. A marriage, like a country , needs a cause to rally against. Stand together in support of each other and know that each of you is suffering together. Lean on each other , because , admit it- you need each other. Marriage is a partnership , family is a team. Families who suffer together stay together.
If you feel proud of how you fared over the last lock downs I’d love to her about it. Alternatively, if you wish you could have done things better I’d love to hear about what you think went wrong…I’d love to brainstorm with you about how you could improve.