How COVID-19 Changed My Marriage: Part 2

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My husband fell hard on the ice last week. I watched as he fell in what seemed like slow motion, his head almost bouncing on the ice-encrusted driveway and then his body going still for what seemed like forever. As I reached for my phone to call for an ambulance, he managed to stand up. His head was bleeding, but fortunately, it turned out to be a superficial wound. After an ice pack, some Advil, and a couple of hours on the couch, he was fine. The scare caused us to hold each other a little tighter that night. It made us realize how incredibly fortunate we are to have a partner to watch out for us, to care about what happens to the other. Has COVID-19 changed our marriage, or have we learned not to take each other for granted?

Last April, I wrote a blog about how the COVID-19 pandemic had changed my marriage. I look back on that period of time and laugh at my naiveté. How innocent I was to think we would be in a pandemic for a short time, that this was merely a minor blip in our lives. We had been quarantined for three weeks when I wrote that blog, still in the “honeymoon” stage of isolation.

We had no idea we would still be in a pandemic almost a year later, with a death toll in America exceeding 500,000! Because my husband and I are in a vulnerable age group, we’ve been fairly strict about staying isolated. We understand we are privileged to be able to work from home and have most of our necessities delivered. Fortunately, my husband and I are on the same wavelength about the virus. We’ve kept our eye on the prize – staying as safe as possible and focusing on short-term sacrifices to get to our long-term goal of surviving the virus. We know we can’t eliminate all risks, and we have been lucky to avoid catching the virus. What some people call fear, we think of as caring about our future and listening to the advice of medical experts.

Since March of 2020, we’ve gone through many phases in our marriage. We went through a particularly tough phase where I experienced anxiety related to COVID-19, and I depended heavily on my husband to ease my nerves. We’ve gone through times where we merely existed together, each doing our own thing and barely acknowledging the other. We weren’t living separate lives because of anger or hatred, but just out of a numb going through the motions. We even went through ten difficult days of having to completely isolate from each other while still living in the same house after being exposed to a positive case. That was not easy.

I’m not going to say it’s always been a party. There have been moments where we’ve been on each other’s nerves, but there have also been moments of sheer gratitude and, dare I say, romance? We’ve danced in the kitchen more times in the last year than the rest of our twenty-one years of marriage combined. We’ve eaten meals by candlelight and played board games. We’ve taken the time to talk about goals and dreams for our post-pandemic life. We’ve been fortunate that being together almost non-stop has created a closeness for us. We’re lucky to have discovered we still like each other in addition to the love.

I’m not so innocent as to think the pandemic has improved all marriages. For some, it has brought the sad realization that their relationship is not one they want to continue. The forced togetherness has been the straw that broke an already strained situation. Cases of domestic abuse have risen, creating a pandemic within a pandemic. We have barely begun to see the tip of the iceberg in the mental health and domestic and child abuse crises that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.  It’s been a tough time and there will continue to be fallout for years to come.

There is light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. Vaccinations are being distributed faster, and hospitalizations in Oklahoma are beginning to drop. My husband and I have received the first doses of the vaccine and are anxiously awaiting the second. For now, we’ll continue to play it safe and wear a mask and socially distance when we go out. I am optimistic we’ll have some form of normalcy by the fall, and I’m more than ready for that. But I hope that even after we return to whatever the new normal might be, there will still be evenings we dance in the kitchen and talk over candlelight dinners.

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