How the Coronavirus Changed My Marriage
I don’t think anyone can argue that this isn’t a terrible time. People are suffering, people are dying alone – the tragedy is so intense, it’s almost unimaginable. In comparison, my complaints are almost insignificant, but I do miss my friends, my routines, my freedom to go anywhere and everywhere. What I miss the most is seeing my kids and my grandson. The desire to live, and to eventually be reunited with the rest of our family, has led my husband and me to quarantine ourselves. I am in isolation with my husband, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All this togetherness, what could possibly go wrong? Or what could go right?
Like many couples, we’ve tended to drift apart since the kids left for college. Without the routine of family dinner, kids needing homework help, and all the other activities having kids at home entails, we no longer have the enforced schedule of a young family. We love each other, but during the week, we tend to do our own thing. My husband is a hard worker, usually putting in about 60 hours a week at his job. He’s also been training for an Ironman triathlon, working out anywhere from twelve to eighteen hours a week. By the time he got home from a grueling day of work and exercise, we would mumble a few words to each other, go to sleep, wake up, and then start the day over again.
About three weeks ago, it became clear that the Coronavirus was spreading rapidly. Since we’re in the high-risk group due to our age and I have a susceptibility to respiratory illnesses, we knew it was time to make some strict changes in our lifestyle. Staying home is a small sacrifice to make to ensure our good health and to make sure we don’t compromise anyone else’s health. It’s not like we’re being asked to climb Mt. Everest or swim the English Channel; we’re merely asked to stay home.
We’re lucky my husband has the kind of job that is possible to do at home. The first step was to clean up the room, which has jokingly been referred to as his “office.” In reality, it was more of a storage room. We’ve lived here twenty years, yet this is the first time the room is actually being used as his office. In fact, it’s the first time I’ve seen the floor of the room for a while. Having him working from home is a significant change in routine for both of us, and we both had some concerns as to how it would work out.
Then it was announced that Ironman Tulsa, which had been scheduled for May 31, is postponed until next May. With that announcement came some disappointment, but mostly relief. It was hard to continue to train at an intense level when the event was in question. Taking the workout level from approximately 16 hours a week down to six left even more free time and energy.
Suddenly, I have a husband home in the evenings. Well, actually home all the time, but downstairs, spending time with me in the evenings. We’re having lunch together in the middle of the day. We’re having dinner together every evening and, even more amazing, I’m cooking the meals! Neither of us drink very often, but as part of our new normal, we usually have a small glass of wine with our evening meal. After dinner, we play a game of Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit. If it’s a nice evening, we may play a game of basketball in our backyard or take a short neighborhood walk. I find myself wondering, is this what most couples do all the time? I didn’t realize the fun I was missing!
Our version of going out to eat now means having dinner on the back patio.
We’re lucky that we aren’t really alone. We communicate with our daughters every day by text, Facetime, or phone. We know that if we need something, they would do a door-drop delivery. We have a backup support system, but I feel like my husband and I are functioning as a team. More than we’ve done in years, maybe in our whole marriage, we’re planning meals together, dreaming about future travels, and talking about our days.
Most importantly, we’re talking about big things like fears, end-of-life wishes, dreams for the future, and feelings. He’s the only one who understands how deeply I miss our grandchild who is only a mile away, but might as well be a continent away. He gets it because he feels the same longing. When I worry about our kids or have anxiety about the world, he’s there with a hug and a compassionate ear. Some of my fears may be irrational, but he listens and says, “Emotions don’t have to be rational to be real.” It’s good to have a partner you can depend on in these uncertain times.
We both miss this face SO much! It’s the longest we’ve ever gone without seeing our grandson!
Because we are completely isolating, I sometimes feel like we’re in one of those weird Twilight Zone episodes where we’re the last people on earth. As it turns out, I’d be glad to have him as the only other person left on the planet. If I ever wondered how to answer the question about who I want to be stranded with on a desert island, there’s no longer a doubt. I’ve never questioned our love, but our connection had become like a frayed cord over the years. We were hanging on, but the cords were loose and growing thinner. If there’s one good thing to emerge from this crisis, it’s a stronger marriage bond.
Few people will emerge from this pandemic unchanged. Some will suffer the loss of a friend or family member. Many will face financial problems and possible homelessness. Marriages that were on the edge of collapse will end in divorce. Sadly, domestic violence and child abuse will increase. I can’t imagine there won’t also be a spike in mental health issues because of the pandemic.
But there will also be positive changes. Families will bond tighter, marriages will strengthen, and when this is over, we’ll appreciate our simple freedoms such as going to the gym or meeting a friend for coffee. It will be interesting to see if we hold onto some of the beneficial changes. Will we readjust our priorities when things get back to normal, or will we forget and slide back into our old, busy, self-centered ways? My wish is that we will take some of the positive aspects with us into the next phase and live our lives as if every day is precious.
I’m hoping my husband and I will hold tight to the memories of the nights we sat on our back patio quietly talking, the evenings we spent playing games and laughing together, and the way we came together as a team in a time of crisis. Maybe the Coronavirus didn’t actually change my marriage, maybe it just reminded us of who we are together. The virus forced us to depend on one another and spend time together, lots of time! It proved our relationship is worth the investment, in the worst of times and also in the best of times.
We’ve teamed up for lots of triathlons, but this time we’re teaming up for the most important race of our lives, to save our lives!