We are now weeks into Coronavirus social distancing. That’s just long enough for everybody to get some extra shuteye, accomplish some things around the house and admit they are 100 percent ready for this to be over.
Even the couples and families who usually get along just fine are reaching their tolerance limit for being around each other 24/7.
I’ve been thinking about the fact that there are really a lot of positives that could come out of having what feels like the rug ripped out from underneath us. Yet at the same time, we are going to have to be on our guard for the ways social distancing has the potential to negatively impact our relationships in at least five ways:
If you are an introvert married to an extrovert. You, the introvert, are probably livin’ the dream thinking you just died and went to heaven, being forced to hole up in your house until further notice. Meanwhile, your extroverted spouse feels like they have just been sentenced to the ultimate punishment – not being allowed to be around others which is what energizes them. That face-to-face human interaction is their lifeline. We all know that opposites attract, but this may be a moment when you aren’t feelin’ the love so much.
The amount of time everybody now has on their hands could also have a negative impact on the relationships in your home. Some children and adults who are used to having a packed schedule are suddenly trying to figure out what to do with themselves. This right here will test the best of families when it comes to patience, adaptability and willingness to take it one day at a time.
Expectations of how things will go in the coming weeks is also a thing, for real. If spouses aren’t on the same page about social distancing, finances, family schedules, help with household chores and such, it can create a lot of angst not only between the two of you, but with your family as a whole.
No matter how much space you have in your home, so much togetherness can make it feel claustrophobic, not to mention the fact that differences become magnified. What seemed like “not a big deal” before manages to get on your last nerve at the moment.
Spending so much time and energy on the relationships in your home that you don’t have time to connect with relationships outside your home can, unfortunately, make you resentful of the people in your home.
So how can you counter these potential relationship toxins?
A great place to start might be to ask some questions such as: What does my spouse need? What do I need? What do my family members need? This could actually be a conversation between you and your spouse and/or your children with the goal being for everybody to understand that each person is probably coming to this COVID-19 experience from a different perspective. All your introverted family members who may not be too hyped up about having to be closed off from the rest of the world are struggling to understand their extroverted family members who are feeling the significant loss of being physically present with others. Seeking to understand each other’s perspective can go a long way toward creating calm and peace in your home.
When it comes to time, I think it might be helpful to talk about how frustrating all of this is and then make some decisions as a couple or family about how you will actively plan to deal with it. I know in my home, we constantly talk about, if we had more time we would do this project or that project. My husband actually started painting a room we have said we needed to paint for forever. I have been going through photographs from two decades ago in preparation for our daughter’s wedding that might not go as planned.
If your children say they are bored, it might be good to make a list together of things they can do – both fun and the helpful things – like spring cleaning. Some family members might want to start a new hobby like reading, an exercise plan, baking bread or learning how to play new games like checkers or chess. This could be the perfect time to go through those fall/winter clothes or purge the garage in hopes of having a yard sale sometime in the future or donating to charity.
This break is also an opportunity to realize that it’s really ok to be bored and do absolutely nothing sometimes. If schedules are usually packed so much that rest gets thrown out the window, don’t feel pressured to fill all of the time with activity. Give yourself and others in your home time to do absolutely nothing. And be willing to overlook things that get on your nerves from time to time.
Now is a great time to connect with extended family members and friends by phone call, text, video chat or a letter. It’s also an opportunity to help others out from a distance by assisting them in placing a grocery order or making sure they have what they need during this time. Older people who live alone would probably really appreciate hearing from you – and the extroverts in your home will probably be all-in on making those connections.
When it comes to expectations, getting creative about things could save the day. Instead of one person doing all the cooking, you can have a cooking competition with what you have on hand. Each family member could be responsible for creating a menu and either preparing or helping to prepare the meal. Divvy up the chores that need to be done. Have a poetry contest. Put “dress-up” or theme days on the family calendar. Try to make things FUN. Focus on the positives. For example, every time you think a negative thought about your situation, think of something positive related to it.
One last thought. Many of us, including our children, wonder how long this will last, are we going to have enough money, what happens if one of us gets sick, etc. I wish I had the answers, but I don’t. I can tell you this: You’re not alone and I’m rooting for you – and for all of us – to come out stronger.