Keeping your marriage strong in times of chaos
Tips for working from home during Covid-19
Suddenly, many of us have found ourselves working from home (WFH) temporarily, due to the COVID-19 crisis. Or worst yet, you might be unexpectantly ‘at home’ because your workplace is shut down or closed. Or you might have been on vacation, and now you are in forced self-isolation for two weeks. And to top it off, the kids are now home due to school closures. With all those people in the household 24/7, you might have a recipe for real strains on your relationship. Even the strongest of marriages can be tested to the limits in times of chaos and stress.
And I know what you might be thinking… ‘what advice could Divorce Mediators possibly have about saving my relationship – don’t you normally work on helping couples separate?
Yes, we do. But after you’ve worked through the sheer number of divorces and separations that we have, it teaches you a lot about what makes relationships successful and what pulls them apart. So, in extraordinary times like these, we wanted to share some tips to working and living together (24/7) so that you might not only survive this temporary situation, but also have your relationship actually thrive.
Tip #1: Working from home (WFH)
Employ ‘best practices’ for working from home. There are several helpful tips online about this topic, from finding separate workspaces to sharing internet bandwidth, and setting up specific schedules for each of you so that the kids can do their homework assignments. But what’s important is having an agreed to ‘disconnect’ time to end the day. Shut off the cell phones, shut down the computer. WFH can easily stretch beyond the workday, into family time and couple time. All work, no play? If that might be your pattern, it’s really important to avoid this trap.
Tip #2: Be productive with your time
Don’t just lay around. Be extra purposeful in how you use your family/couple time. Turn off the news. It can be overwhelming (and be careful what impact the news is having on your children’s confidence and outlooks on life as well). Take a walk together, or maybe help one of the kids learn how to ride a bike, together; rent/watch a funny movie together. Besides, there are no sports on TV, so use the time to lean in toward each other and rediscover common interests.
Tip #3: Setup or revise your family budget
Time to redraw that family budget, especially if there has been a change in either of your incomes due to the crisis. Maybe you’ve been asked to reduce your hours, or you don’t have access to tips, or worse yet, one of you has lost an income altogether. Use this time to pull together, not apart. It’s no one’s fault, but it may be a stark new reality. Financial pressure puts even the strongest couples at risk. You need to draw up a new set of spending guidelines, a new budget. Get on the same page and approach the expenses as a team – otherwise, resentment will quickly set it.
Tip #4: Restructure the household duties and responsibilities
Disruption to our regular routines might just be the perfect time to renegotiate the household chores and (sometimes unwritten) rules around who does what. Don’t be afraid to shake it up, take on a chore you are not as comfortable with. And if children are part of the household, it might mean sharing different routines – like who takes them to the babysitter/grandparents, or who reads a story while the other parent cooks dinner. Sometimes our old patterns of habit need reviewing in terms of what’s working or not working that well for you under the new working conditions.
Tip #5: Don’t take each other for granted
The best way to avoid this is communication. Take this time to open up the chat lines between you and your partner. Listen more intently, practice feeling more empathically to what your partner might be going through in this time of uncertainty. Another approach to break the ice each evening – give each other 10 mins to ‘unpack’ their day. What went well, what didn’t, what’s worrying them. Do this on a regular basis, and you’ll quickly find yourself feeling closer together. Limit the unpacking to 10 or 15 minutes so that the workday stress doesn’t continue on until bedtime. Some people set an egg timer to hold each other accountable to the time limit. With only 10 to 15 minutes, you are forced to focus on the most important unpacking points so you can let the small stuff go. And be sure to include at least 2 positive things that happened that day. Negativity can be contagious.
Tip #6: Give each other space and grace.
Suddenly being together 24/7 can be unnerving for some couples not accustom to this situation. So be sure to be aware enough to pick up on those signals that might be about ‘I just need some ‘me time’, alone.’ This can be especially true for the common workspace times. It doesn’t take anything away from the relationship or your love for each other. In fact, a healthy discussion of needs can lead to a sense of renewal, and a better understanding of each other.
Be gracious toward the needs of each other, as well as all the strengths that your partner does bring to the relationship and household. It’s possible you might have lost sight of those important things that brought you together in the first place, especially if you’ve been together for a long time.
Tip #7: Chart a new course for the future.
Perhaps you can use this time together productively. Sit down and draw up a set a new set of common goals you want to work towards. Some couples create a vision board. Other’s find online apps to accomplish this. It’s about the discussion, the sharing of dreams and concerns that can make a relationship stronger, even during such an uncertain time as COVID-19.
Having everyone at home around the clock may not have been the way you expected to spend this Spring. And the first few days may seem like a stay at home vacation (except with work demands thrown in). But if this forced change of family routine continues for a long period of time, it might take other actions to avoid straining the relationship. Divorce rates have already started to spike in China due to the COVID-19 shutdown. Let’s come together to avoid that relationship trend arriving here.