According to statistics, approximately 827,000 divorces happen each year. And with the stress and strain of COVID-19, many legal professionals were bracing themselves for a boom in divorce filings as states started to reopen.
While there's some question as to whether those predictions will actually come true, some couples are understandably struggling to adapt to this new normal. With millions of Americans out of work or trying to work remotely -- and children stuck at home until September or longer -- it's no wonder that most people are grappling with new family dynamics or unhealthy coping mechanisms.
But rather than succumb to the challenges the coronavirus has placed in front of them (and risk having to go to virtual divorce court and be forced to pay child support until their kiddos turn 21), many couples are taking a proactive approach. If you're looking for ways to strengthen your marriage during lockdown, you'll want to pay attention to the following tips.
Take Time For Yourself
Even if you consider yourself to be an extrovert, you're still going to need time by yourself to unwind and recharge. Since you may not have access to other outlets (like the gym or a work happy hour) that allow you to blow off steam, you'll need to carve out time in your schedule that will allow you to de-stress without any pressure from your partner. You'll need to clearly communicate your plans, of course. For example, if you plan to take a walk around the neighborhood every day after you've finished your work or you just need to be alone for 15 minutes, express your needs to your spouse and follow through. Be honest with yourself and with others about this and realize that taking that bit of time for yourself will allow you to be there more completely for others.
Keep an Eye on Coping Mechanisms
Realistically, most people aren't coping with all of these changes very well. But you'll need to keep an eye on your habits (and those of your spouse) if you want to preserve your relationship and make it through quarantine together. Not only do 13.8 million Americans have problems with drinking, but alcoholism could become an even bigger problem due to the substantial rise in liquor sales that occurred during the pandemic. While it might be okay for some to enjoy the occasional cocktail, it's essential to keep drinking in check -- particularly if you or your spouse has experienced job loss or another type of traumatic event during this time. It's also a good idea to keep tabs on your online shopping habits, cigarette or substance use, online gambling tendencies, binge eating, sleeping, and social media scrolling. In addition, you'll want to substitute any of those unhealthy coping mechanisms with positive additions, like outdoor exercise, meditation, or online therapy.
Maintain Your Sense of Routine
It's likely that at least some of your regular schedule has been thrown out the window during the pandemic. Even if you're continuing to work from home or you were deemed an essential worker, most social activities have been canceled and many services have been put on hold. Whether you're trying to juggle childcare while working 40 hours a week or you're trying to figure out a way to occupy your time now that you're furloughed, you and your partner will both fare better if you establish a regular routine. Although there isn't a whole lot you can predict right now, you should keep a relatively steady agenda in order to preserve your mental health and your relationship. That might mean building regular workouts into your day or having an at-home date night each Friday. Not only will it give you something to look forward to, but it'll make everything else seem much less uncertain.
Set Boundaries and Ground Rules For Conflict
Boundaries are an essential part of every healthy relationship. But when so much is up in the air and couples suddenly find themselves occupying the same space much more than they used to, you might start to notice issues that used to be easy to overlook. For example, if you need peace and quiet to work but your partner wants to talk about personal matters during business hours, you might need to set a boundary pertaining to your needs. Your partner might also set a boundary that involves stopping work at a certain time of day or keeping electronic devices turned off during family meals. You should also talk about setting some ground rules for conflict. Undoubtedly, arguments will happen during this period. But if you set expectations that both of you need to follow during arguments (and establish boundaries for what happens when things become too heated), you'll be able to work through those issues in healthy ways rather than allowing them to snowball.
The pandemic will undoubtedly test everyone's limits and try your patience with your partner. But these tips can allow you to retain some semblance of perspective and preserve your relationship as COVID-19 continues to impact our lives.