The “Great Blackout” in New York City in 1965 did not result in a “Baby Boom” nine months later. This is the stuff of Urban Legends. People think that in times of national crisis or natural disaster, couples suddenly realize how much they love and need each other and then, boom, nine months later, maternity wards are filled up with the babies that represent that wonderful romance. The Disaster Theory Baby Boom isn’t true. Sadly, it’s just the opposite.
It’s nice to think that in extreme circumstances or with newfound time on their hands, couples romantically turn to each other for comfort, security, and well, you know. The reality is that instead of turning toward each other, they often turn on each other. Research shows more evidence of “Break Up Booms” than “Baby Booms.”
It makes sense if you think about it. The stress of adapting to radically new schedules and routines, the pressures from the economic impact of these unexpected disruptions, not to mention the understandable worry and anxiety caused by things like, say, a global pandemic, together can form a perfect storm that pushes even the best relationships to their limits.
So here we are. Wow, right?
Everything is canceled. Many couples will be staying home and working from home and spending time together 24/7. What kind of “boom” can we look forward to?
Someone said that we are like sponges. When we get “squeezed,” what’s inside of us will come out! Times like these will bring out the best in us and the worst.
That old relationship copout, “we don’t get a ton of ‘quantity’ time together, but, hey, we get ‘quality time’ together” has just been thrown out the window. The world has a “Sorry, We’re Closed” sign hanging on it. Looks like the quantity time is here now. Will it be quality time too?
Will this result in couples lovingly “rediscovering” each other and taking their relationships to deeper levels of intimacy? That is the ideal. But that will not be the Default Response. That will only happen if you are intentional and work toward strengthening your relationship.
The reality is, times of crisis can result in people who are already on edge and cooped up with each other taking all their stress out on each other. Domestic violence increases during these times. Sadly, people often tear each other and their relationship apart. The divorce lawyers are already talking about how their caseloads are about to get crazy.
In times like these, how do you fortify your relationship and not just your home?
- Understand that these stressful situations will put stress on your relationship. Sometimes just knowing it will happen, knowing that is what’s going on, knowing the dynamics in play, is incredibly helpful. Remember how under different, normal circumstances, you chose to spend the rest of our life with your spouse? Recall your reasons why.
- Understand that you and your partner may respond to and process the stress differently. We all have different stressors and respond to stress in different ways, so agree to have a conversation about how you each relate to stress. Ask each other how you are feeling and work to really listen and understand each other. Ask each other about what you need right now. One of you might need time alone and one of you may need more “face time” to de-stress and feel connected. How will you navigate those differences?
- According to research, stress often acts as a magnifier in people’s lives and relationships. Quiet people may get quieter. Talkative people might become totally hyper-verbal. Relationships characterized by a lot of conflict will feel that conflict multiplied. You and your partner’s good and not-so-good qualities are going to be amplified. This may be an opportunity to identify and work on some of those relational things.
- Attitude is everything. Do you “get to” spend more time together or do you “have to?”
- Commit to facing these “strange days” together as a team. It’s Us Against the World.
- Even though you may be spending tons of time together, you still need “Me Time” and self-care. You might be used to going to the gym and blowing off some steam. The gym is closed now. What are some healthy ways to deal with your stress? Maybe it is working in the yard or walking around the neighborhood. “Me Time” may be a long hot bath. It might be watching television in separate rooms for an hour and then getting together to talk about what you watched.
- Do not make any big, important decisions during this time! Do not draw any definitive conclusions about your relationship or your spouse. This isn’t the real anything.
Sometimes when we are trying to change our circumstances the most, we realize that our circumstances are trying to change us. This time might be an opportunity, not an obstacle.
Do not forget to have fun! I know it is hard right now. Get creative. Get silly. Be intentional about romance. Have a candlelit dinner and a slow dance in the living room. If you have children, let them see how much Mommy and Daddy love each other and are having fun!
The world might be closed, but you can control if your heart stays open.
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***