Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder: How Quarantined Couples Can Cope with Torturous Togetherness
Divorces skyrocketed in China in the months following their COVID-19 quarantine. And, now, marriage experts and divorce attorneys are reporting similar findings here in America. Although legal proceedings are limited right now due to clerical shutdowns, many divorce attorneys are reporting an increase in calls from unhappy couples.
People are starting to reach a point of desperation. Couples spent that first month sort of adjusting to their new normal, even treating it as a little bit of vacation. But, now the novelty and excitement have worn off, and suddenly all that togetherness is feeling tortuous.
Being together 24/7 can become annoying even at the best of times, but when you add in financial stress, health anxiety, existential dread, and the never-ending demands of childcare, online schoolwork, and working from home, you have a recipe for potential disaster.
This is a completely novel experience for us. We don’t know what to expect with each coming day, whether we are going to lose financial security, whether our loved ones will become ill, whether our government is taking the right precautions, whether we will be back to normal in a couple of months or whether we will ever get back to normal. It’s so easy to catastrophize and really let anxiety take over, and all this can put intense pressure on our relationships.
Most couples now only have each other to turn to, as they have no other adults in their home to connect with or share conversations. Everything inside of you is being dumped on that one person. It can put tremendous strain on your marriage.
But it is possible to carve out alone time for yourself during quarantine, even if you live in a small apartment.
Below the love/relationship expert shares her top tips for honoring your need for solitude even when you’re trapped indoors for the near future.
Reach out for expert help. Yes, money is tight right now, but we are also saving money on dining out, movies, commutes, vacations, etc. Use that money you saved to find a therapist and commit to online therapy to help you process some of these feelings that are being triggered by the virus and quarantine. You need to find someone other than your partner to vent to, and a therapist can really help you process these feelings and secure your mental health during this scary time.
Create a sanctuary of solitude. Talk with your partner about how you each need a place that is all your own. Whether you hang up a curtain, or even pitch a small camping tent or hang up a decorative canopy, you can find ways to create little private areas even if you live in super-close quarters. Decorate your space with twinkling lights or candles, or soft pillows and throw blankets. Make it a place where you can unwind and feel completely secure in your solitude.
Get headphones. A good pair of headphones or earbuds will give you the ability to carve out some auditory privacy. Whether you want to get lost in a good podcast or listen to relaxing meditative music, you will be able to tune out your partner during those times when their chewing noises or other habits might be grating on your nerves. It’s better to pop on a pair of headphones than pick a fight over how loud he chews his apples.
Have a secret signal. Use a visual signal like turning a picture frame around or hanging up a sign on your letterboard to signify when you’re not in the mood to talk. Sometimes you may wake up in the morning and just not be up for a coronavirus discussion or another frantic talk about the kids’ grades or your aunt’s canceled wedding. Put up a visual signal that can serve as a way for you to tell your partner you’re not up for conversation right now, and let them know it’s not personal, but just your way of safeguarding your mental health and making sure you don’t say something you’re going to regret later.
Exercise alone. Go for walks alone, take a solo bike ride, or do an exercise video in the privacy of your bedroom. Find little ways to get active and work up a sweat on your own, so you can focus entirely on you and your needs at that moment.
As poet Kahlil Gibran would say, 'Let there be spaces in your togtherness.'