If you’re like me, your patience ran out a long time ago. First it was the quarantine heard ‘round the world, then month after month of a life most of us have never experienced. Kids at home 24/7. Working from home. Your spouse working from home. Everything, it seems, from home.
I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Most of us have complained about the tedium since this whole mess started. But what many hesitate to talk about is how these changes in our home environment are affecting our marriages. Because they are.
I don’t think I’m alone in this. As a writer and business owner, I work entirely from home. I also exercise at home (Covid); cook; come and go from the house for walks, grocery runs, and errands; listen to music; talk on the phone – you know, live life. But then my husband moved his office home and everything changed.
Suddenly, I was too loud. My vegetable chopping in the kitchen could be heard through the Bluetooth. My drill sergeant exercise instructor could be heard yelling her virtual commands. My dog barked. And did I know, my husband asked as tactfully as he could one day, that I talk very loudly when I’m Skyping with clients?
Just like that, my normal routine felt inconsiderate. I lowered my voice. I turned down the volume on my computer, and sometimes I actually tiptoed through the house, careful to avoid stepping in front of the Zoom camera as my husband met with his team. And I resented it. The intrusion on my life. The lack of normalcy. Even my husband, who I love dearly, but who would make me very happy if he just went back to the office.
I’ll say it again – I don’t think I’m alone in this. In fact, I know I’m not. Psychiatrists and marriage therapists are so slammed with appointments they are turning people away. A whole lot of togetherness can sometimes just be a whole lot.
So what can we all do to be kind, loving, Christian spouses and maybe even grow our relationships during this time?
- Be honest about your needs. I made the enormous mistake of not talking to my husband about my need for quiet while I’m working. So it was inordinately unfair of me to let the frustration build until I finally said something. His simple response was completely justifiable: “Why didn’t you just tell me?” In trying to spare his feelings or not cause conflict, I had allowed myself to build resentment and frustration. Better to share your needs as exactly that – your needs – not as a criticism of your partner.
- Let your spouse know when you can’t be disturbed. Never assume that your partner knows your schedule or understands that you are in the middle of something that can’t be interrupted. This very much needs to be a partnership of consideration for one another. If one has a presentation, the other should be as quiet as possible. And both roles should be respected so that one partner isn’t making all the sacrifices.
- Do thoughtful things for each other. Sure, we should do this all the time, but it’s especially appreciated when date nights are limited and we are restricted to home-bound activities. Since Covid has started, I make a full pot of coffee every morning to keep my husband properly caffeinated, keep the house stocked with soups and salads for lunch, and wander to his chair periodically to give him a hug or kiss. It’s the little things, right?
- Don’t feel like you need to over-supervise your kids since they are home more. This can really place a lot of stress on parents, and the first thing that goes is the attention spouses pay to one another. Kids are perfectly capable of entertaining themselves, and mostly capable of doing their own homework. It’s good for them to take responsibility for their work and to find activities to entertain their time. So take a breath and spend some time with your spouse. No guilt allowed!
- When the work day is finished, avoid jumping into conversation about anything negative. Everyone needs time to decompress. This used to take place during the car ride home or a stop at the gym. That time is necessary to shift gears from a work mindset to a home mindset. You can help that along by opening conversation on a positive note. Talk about what went well that day and wait at least a half hour before you bring up anything that needs to be done around the house. Make those first few minutes after work pleasant ones that set the tone for the evening.
Yes, we are all struggling, but don’t have to struggle quite as much. Put a little effort into these 5 changes and you should see a positive difference in your relationship.