Quarantined Together: The Impact of Global Pandemic on Our Marriage

The grand pause of the coronavirus quarantine forced us to stay inside, to change our schedules, to shift the way we do our lives, and to retailor the multitude of hats we wear spouse, parent, child, employee, boss, lover, partner... First, we were worried, then we tried to occupy ourselves, then we were bored, then we complained, but eventually, most of us settled, took a moment, looked around, and noticed the silence. 

As delightful or as unsettling as it was, most of us had no place to rush to, no rigid schedule to keep, no excuses for not being present, and no way to escape ourselves or our loved ones. Here it was – the rat wheel of our lives stopped, perhaps for the first time in decades, and we were granted a unique opportunity to contemplate the nature of the wheel and whether we want to get back on it or not. 

The thoughts that follow are strings of my own stream of consciousness. They rose in my mind during the weeks I spent with my family in self-isolation in sunny Los Angeles, which, ironically, delighted us with exceptionally exquisite weather during the days of the quarantine. 

The couples therapist in me was curious to observe the impact of quarantine on our relationships and marriages, while the psychologist in me inquired about the shifts in our individual and collective value systems and identity. Did the “common enemy” unite us in an attempt to survive and protect the vulnerable, or did the fear turn us against each other and establish the rule of the jungle? Were we able to cooperate and strategize together, or did the panic impair our judgment? What voices were heard the loudest in the background of the pandemic? 

I believe this pandemic served as a contrasting backdrop, emphasizing and magnifying the weaknesses and flaws in all our systems, starting from our families and ending with our global community. Spending weeks at home with our loved ones intensified the points of tension in our relationships and closed off some of our usual exit routes. We could no longer escape our spouse by heading out to work, sending our partner to work, or taking the kids to school. The tensions in our relationships, the unexpressed resentments, frustration, hurt, disconnect, or anything else we worked so hard to avoid in our daily routines now became unavoidable, inescapable, and very much in our faces. 

Every crisis has within it a seed of opportunity. In this case, the opportunity is to notice what works well in our relationships and what needs more work. I love my husband very much but was very much in doubt about whether we would do well locked in closed quarters for a prolonged period of time. We both share an opinionated nature and a lively temperament, which at times creates quite exuberant situations. Surprisingly, I was wrong and we were able to enjoy our time together very much. The quarantine created many opportunities to talk about our life vision, our goals, the direction each of us hopes to take in the next years, etc. It also provided plenty of time to connect. 

The beauty of this grand pause is the abundance of time. Once it is clear to us what areas of our intimate relationship we would like to improve, we can invite our partner to join us in this conversation. Share your thoughts on the things you enjoy in your bond and parts that work well for you, as well as those aspects that leave you wanting more. A fun way of doing it is using Gottman Card Deck available for free online. It is a great resource and as a couples therapist, I often recommend it to my clients, who want help in starting important conversations. 

Once the covid 19 pandemic is behind us, our lives don’t have to “go back to” what they were before this crisis. Instead, we can “move toward” the life and the marriage we desire, starting today.  It starts with a new conversation, with a new decision, with a first step. Out of the silence of the world standing still may the new “We” emerge.

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