You’ve been cooped up with your spouse for weeks, and it’s time to start gradually getting back to normal. Maybe the two of you have been sharing the household chores, but now one will go back to work and leave the other stranded at home — how will you balance the load fairly? How do you keep the good relationship habits you’ve developed while being quarantined? How do you guard against old habits creeping back into your relationship? What are your and your spouse’s expectations for this next stage? And how do you readjust — yet again?
Here are some questions you can ask your spouse as you prepare to un-quarantine. If you’re having trouble expressing your ideas when your spouse asks you these questions, I’ve given you a few suggestions to consider (and a few of my personal responses).
1. What will you miss about being quarantined?
- Working from home (virtual office) … zero commute time.
- Quality, uninterrupted time together … being physically together to connect and have fun (games, movies, puzzles).
- Having a set schedule and structure.
- Taking a break from hectic and busy schedules.
- Banding together as a family (fighting a common enemy).
- Saving money (gas, eating out, shopping).
- Blaring Christian music all day.
- Staying in my “play clothes” all day long … no need to dress up for work.
- Sleeping in.
- More sex.
- Gaining new perspectives: Watching what my spouse does at their job, better understanding of why they’re so exhausted and don’t want to talk at the end of the day.
- Completing projects around the house.
- Eating meals together more frequently.
- Gaining clarity around marriage issues that we needed to deal with.
- Strengthening our bond, connection and intimacy as a couple.
2. What will you not miss about being quarantined?
- Fear, worry, uncertainty (job security, groceries, frontline workers bringing sickness home to family).
- Loss of control and independence.
- Big and small losses (jobs, health, sports, prom, celebrations, weddings, vacations).
- Wearing uncomfortable face masks.
- Using earbuds for virtual meetings and staring at a computer screen all day.
- Trying to entertain bored children and get work done at the same time.
- Frequent interruptions.
- Being separated from family members.
- Worrying about shortages (toilet paper, ground beef, disinfectant wipes).
- Having to disinfect everything.
- Homeschooling without preparation.
- Nonstop cleaning (three meals a day at home).
- Social distancing and lack of social contact.
- Being stuck at home and getting on each other’s nerves.
- Incessant coronavirus news.
- Blurred boundaries between work and home.
- Gaining weight (COVID 19 pounds).
- 24/7 togetherness … no break … everyone in everyone’s space and business. (My kids could update you on the inner workings of Focus on the Family.)
- Missing hobbies (fishing, hiking, spin class).
- Conflict from feeling micro-managed or treated as a co-worker or subordinate.
- Resentment, dissatisfaction and conflict from unresolved issues that have been ignored and buried for years.
3. What have you missed doing together as a couple?
- Ministering together.
- Date nights.
- Church attendance.
- Socializing with friends.
- Eating out.
4. What behaviors or habits do you want to continue after the quarantine?
- Cooking together.
- Sharing the worry.
- Living a quieter lifestyle and enjoying more time at home.
- Keeping the house organized.
- Being more involved in the kids’ schoolwork.
- Exercising regularly.
- Eating healthy.
- Communicating about chores, schedules, to-do lists and tasks.
- Dividing household responsibilities and child care in a way that feels good to both spouses (win/win solutions).
- Experiencing deeper communication around needs, feelings and grief.
- Being more intimate.
- Avoiding nitpicking and overlooking annoyances (grace).
- Giving each other more compassion around losses (big and small losses).
- Having more quality time … being physically together.
- Prioritizing alone time (self-care).
- Organizing and decluttering rooms.
5. What responsibilities do we need to shift or reevaluate when the quarantine is lifted?
- You may have shared responsibilities in the house more than normal; this may need to shift if one spouse now needs to go back to work while the other spouse is at home. How will you divide cooking and other housework? Who is in charge of monitoring the kids around homework and screen time? Who will go to the grocery store? Who is working where in the house when you both need a quiet place? What does personal space look like? How will you find time (and space) to connect as a couple?
6. How have you changed as an individual during the quarantine?
- I got really disciplined around eating because I wasn’t traveling, which can be stressful and exhausting. I lost over 30 pounds!
7. How has our marriage changed?
- I have much more appreciation for how much Erin does around the house, for the kids and for her counseling clients (seeing her in actions 24/7).
- I better understand how Erin worries about our family and I want to help shoulder that worry.
- I want to cook dinner regularly.
8. How can we keep bad habits that we’ve broken during the quarantine from creeping back into our lives?
- Make commitments around what you want to keep and discard moving forward … and put these in writing.
- Have regular feedback conversations to see how the progress is going. (Does anything need to change?)
- Take time to reminisce about your quarantine time, recall funny stories and share memorable experiences. Include the emotions you both went through. This will strengthen your bond and commitment.