Opposites attract. Right? That’s why one of you is a homebody while the other likes to be out on the town. One of you is a talker while the other is an observer. One of you is a night owl while the other is up with the chickens. And it’s why one of you is vigilant about abiding by the CDC COVID-19 guidelines while your spouse, wellllllll… not so much.
Not being on the same page with your spouse can always be dangerous and can affect your marriage in some very destructive ways. You may feel uncared for, disrespected, unsafe, scared, and even lonely. The burden of carrying the weight to protect the family, especially if you have children, can begin to overwhelm even the broadest shoulders.
The stage is set for some pretty volatile arguments, thick tension, the silent treatment, and other destructive tactics designed to express your frustration, anger, and resentment.
Some of us are stuffers. We don’t like conflict, so we don’t do a good job communicating the anger, hurt, and fear that we feel. So we passively let it build and try to make up for our spouse’s lack of seriousness about COVID-19 guidelines by being twice as vigilant.
Others of us seem to look for conflict. So our spouse never stops hearing about how selfish, uncaring, and irresponsible we feel like they are.
All of a sudden, if we’re not careful, we’re allowing COVID-19 guidelines to rip our marriage apart. People don’t take it seriously for various reasons: they think the media has overblown it, conspiracy theories, or the feeling of invincibility. Regardless of the differences in our approach to COVID-19, we can’t give it the power to divide us.
How do you cope when you can’t seem to convince your spouse that this is a serious matter?
Accept your spouse’s position. You’re not going to change it. You’ve probably been trying for four weeks now to no avail. Their position is their position.
Acceptance does not mean agreement.
To accept does not mean condone.
Accepting it does not even mean that you’re okay with it.
It’s an acknowledgment that this is how you feel and that, “I am no longer going to put so much energy in trying to change your mind.”
Discuss contingency plans. If someone in the home comes in contact with someone who has the virus or gets the virus, what will the household do? Will you quarantine them in a room? Will the rest of the household leave and stay somewhere else? What will be the showering procedures, etc.?
Work to allow your position and actions to be understood and respected. You will obviously carry the weight of abiding by CDC guidelines for safety, but you must not spend all of your energy trying to change their mind. You can work to have your position and corresponding safety measures respected and not undermined. Talking and agreeing to let you handle the implementation of safety measures for yourself (and the children) may be an extra burden that you must be willing to carry to maintain the peace.
Try to understand your spouse. Listen and ask questions to understand why they don’t take it seriously. We try not to do this from a place of judgment, but more from a place of clarity and even curiosity. Most people can appreciate being heard even if there is disagreement. (This could even open an avenue to more compromise on your spouse’s part.)
Focus on the issue. It will be easy to draw conclusions about your spouse. He doesn’t care about me or his family. She’s selfish and only thinks about herself. He’s lazy. She’s stubborn. And while it’s okay and healthy to share, “When you take this virus so lightly, it makes me feel like you don’t care about me or the family,” it is not as productive to simply label your spouse. The goal is to get through the pandemic and this time of quarantine. Keeping as many conversations focused on that goal and not one another’s character is key.
Talk about how you can show one another love in the midst of the differences. Ways you may show your partner love is by not talking to others about how they aren’t taking this seriously. You continue to talk about them as your partner. They may be able to show you love by being willing to wash their hands immediately when they enter the home.
Talk to a professional. Many counselors are accepting Tele-counseling sessions. Even if you are attending alone, it may be necessary to talk with a professional to walk through this season in your marriage.
This is no doubt a difficult challenge that can make you feel lonely within your own marriage. Remember that we all respond to a major crisis in different ways and that ultimately each person is responsible for the things they can control. As much as it hurts to feel like the people you love the most don’t share your same concerns, regardless of how grave they are, you are two different people and ultimately there are many differences that have kept you together before this pandemic and will be vital for your marriage after this pandemic.
***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.***