You vowed to be together for better or for worse, and this is it.
In 2020, couples spent more time together than ever before. But working together from home and juggling household responsibilities with alone time, couples reacted in different ways. For some, the pandemic was a blessing in disguise, since it gave them an opportunity to slow down and spend more time together. These are the couples who supported each other emotionally during anxious times, found ways to communicate, and strengthened their relationship. According to a survey conducted in April, the lockdown brought together 43% of British couples. However, the effects of the pandemic weren’t the same across the board. For many other couples, the lockdown was a major stress test that caused anger, disagreements on family chores, lack of intimacy, and, for 8% of UK couples, the realisation that the relationship must come to an end.
Even when they are based on mutual love and respect, marriages can still be tough. Work, parenting responsibilities, and financial problems can get in the way of the “happily ever after” and shake up long-term relationships. So, when the lockdown came around, it created the perfect storm of stress factors: partners spending 24 hours together, turning the house into an office, balancing work and parenting, coping with salary cuts or unemployment, all of this set against a background of generalised panic, uncertainty, and health anxiety. Many couples didn’t manage to navigate these new problems, and law firms do report an increase in divorce rates during the lockdown, especially those initiated by women. But is this the unavoidable destination for couples who didn’t live their best life during the lockdown? Not necessarily.
If you learn to communicate and work on your minor misunderstandings before they turn into a full-blown crisis, you can emerge from the lockdown stronger than before.
Why marriage in lockdown can be complicated
The way your marriage emerges post-lockdown greatly depends on how this crisis found you. If you had a strong relationship before and you knew how to communicate, then you will emerge from it stronger than before. But if you had some previous issues that you didn’t acknowledge or avoided with the help of your routines, then being locked inside your home with all these issues isn’t going to be pleasant. On one end, we have the lockdown as a cosy family vacation, and at the other, as one long and excruciating Christmas dinner with relatives you don’t like.
But before you start blaming yourself for not having the picture-perfect marriage during the lockdown, you should know that disagreements at a time like this are completely understandable. Even for solid couples, the lockdown can still be challenging because it takes away some of those pleasant routines that offer comfort and stability. Then there’s the fact that work and parenting responsibilities collided, leaving married couples little time for themselves. Unfortunately, for many partners, the lockdown was an endless test on juggling responsibilities and instead of being a team, each partner felt like they were struggling alone.
The lockdown also exacerbated differences. Partners who had opposing hobbies and lifestyles got alone perfectly fine when they only had to share a few hours together in the evening, but when they had to spend 24 hours together, it became apparent that they didn’t have enough in common, and that led to a sense of alienation. The pandemic hit hard couples where one of the partners had mental health problems, was laid off or worked in a high-stress field such as healthcare because it led to feelings of anger, anxiety, frustration, depression, and isolation.
Lockdown marriage tips – how to help your relationship thrive when the world seems to be falling apart
Lockdown doesn’t have to lead to a breakup. Of course, if you are physically or emotionally abused, you should not leave in fear, and you should reach out to a service that can help you protect yourself and leave.
However, if you and your partner still love and respect one another but the lockdown is affecting your marriage, these tips will help overcome this difficult time:
- You may be spending more time together, but not all of it is quality time. Whenever you have a chance, plan a dinner date or do something together that’s meaningful and engaging – not just sitting together on the sofa and scrolling on your phone. Even better, find a new hobby as a couple.
- Give yourselves space. While spending time together as a couple is great, and you may be happy to finally have it, it’s still important to have some personal time and do things alone that help you recharge. Now is a great time to get into that hobby you’ve always wanted to try!
- Share parenting and household responsibilities fairly. When a partner has to look after the kids during the day and also cook and do the dishes at dinner, that can lead to frustration and resentment, so work together on a schedule that splits responsibilities fairly.
- Communication is key. Express your feelings and let your partner do the same. There are two sides to each conflict, and it’s important to put yourselves in the other person’s shoes. Lockdown can exacerbate the traits you didn’t like about your partner, and it’s alright to talk about them, but try to use a non-accusatory language. For example, saying I feel like you could turn down the volume while I work works better than You’re always getting on my nerves when you listen to music.
- Don’t run from your problems. You spend day and night together; all the issues you sweep under the run will come back stronger. Instead, acknowledge that the situation is bad, talk about your fears and concerns and accept that you’ll have to pass this test together as a couple. When things aren’t the way they were before, learn to manage your expectations and work together as a team.
And don’t forget, it’s OK to ask for help. You don’t have to be on the brink of divorce to see a marriage counsellor; in fact, the earlier to acknowledge the challenge and device to get help, the higher the chance of saving your marriage. A counsellor can help you communicate effectively, deepen intimacy and connection, and resolve conflicts without hurting each other’s feelings. During lockdown, you can even have couples therapy online or over the phone, which is even better because you don’t have to sync your schedules.