Does almost thirty years of marriage make being together 24/7 a walk in the park? Sometimes, just getting to the kitchen can be thought to navigate. See how I manage quarantine with the love of my life around the clock and how we make it work!
When I heard the news of the quarantine, my mind raced… are my parents going to be okay, what are we going to do with the kids coming home from college for months, food… and in a flash, my mind turned to. “I’d better hide the chocolate!” I needed to move our stash from our central location on a shelf in our sub-zero to the back of the drawer where I keep the frozen meat. I knew it would disappear before a bi-weekly grocery excursion. I wasn’t worried about toilet paper.
You see, one of the great things about being with my sweet, oh so funny, husband Jonathan for almost thirty years is that I think I know him pretty well. This Shelter In Place situation was going to bring out the snacker in him and I had better make sure that the reserves were going to last. And, frankly, that I had my secret support. Was that so selfish of me, to consider my chocolate needs before my partners…well, maybe? But looking at it from a domestic survival standpoint helps. It’s good for him, less sugar, and a calm wife.
I knew the whole endeavor of being at home with each other… and our three kids was nothing compared to our doctor and nurse friends who were working insane shifts at hospitals near us; most who did not even go home for the safety of their families. But we, as our contribution to the safety of others, had to make this Shelter In Place work.
I had never been with Jon, except for our honeymoon, in the same place for continuous hours on end and obviously we had many fun things to occupy us then. Wink wink. Here in quarantine, we had a lot more activity in a lot less space: work, chores, kids, distance learning, cooking, and our dog. How were we to manage all of this and still like each other at the end of each day (I was thinking that’s where that chocolate comes in)?
We came to our system after a few discussions and one long family meeting after our first week home. I like routine and my husband is far more flexible, so I credit him with his patience with my need for structure. Here’s what we figured out…
- Communicate, Communicate, Communicate (Marriage 101 in even year 29): say what you want and what you don’t want very clearly. I asked that the dishes be put away in the dishwasher and that whoever sleeps later makes the bed. He asked that I knock on his office door before coming in because he’s often on calls. We do it because each of asked.
- Listen Carefully (Marriage 102 still in year 29): you’re both in the same boat with a little less privacy, lots to do, less time to yourself and more responsibilities on a constant basis; if he needs to vent, I don’t take it personally, I just listen (unless it’s about me, of course). And if I want to talk about the kids or a work project I’m thinking, he pours a glass of wine and sits down at the kitchen island ready. No matter how tired we are. Those few minutes remind me why I love him. He cares.
- Divide and Conquer: this one is easy. Make a list and share the load. We share recurring household jobs and rotate others. And we gave a few to our kids who were happy to help. Then neither one of us feels overburdened and don’t take it out on each other.
- Keep the Bedroom, the Bedroom: We don’t use it as an office or daytime spot to hang out. It’s our private space. Now, used for some serious zzz’s and privacy.
- Keep our Workspaces Separate: I need quiet to work well and Jon’s a talker. We meet in the kitchen for lunch often overlapping with and offspring or two. We catch-up then and return to our corners!
- Find Time to Do Something Together: I love our long early morning walks where we’re practically the only ones out. It’s a time we chat about the things we CAN do, the state of our country, our latest podcast discoveries, and enjoy the sunshine and trees and flowers. Walking has become our new hobby. It’s nice to have more and focused time together and still talk about hopes our dreams like we did when we were first married.
Well into our second week of SIP, I went to the freezer for my “coffee break” and peeked in on the chocolate left on the shelf. More than half of it was still there. Knowing Jon, he’d been too busy to go get some, or really, he knows how much I like it and saved half for me. I smiled to myself bent down and reached behind the three frozen briskets, pulled out the four chocolate bars, and placed them back on the freezer shelf with the others.
In my haste and anxiety, I was worried that all of this was all going to be so difficult for me that I forgot; I wasn’t alone in these feelings. Those chocolate bars reminded me that he was and still is my partner in everything. We are getting through this scary and totally surreal time together and when I look back on it, “for better and for worse “ we had plenty of chocolate. Stay safe.