With COVID-19 declared a pandemic and the number of cases in Singapore rising rapidly day-by-day, stay home circuit breaker measures have been implemented (and later extended) to better contain the spread of the virus.
Mass gatherings and meeting up with family members that do not stay in the same home are strictly prohibited. Most workplaces have been directed to shut while employees telecommute.
Students have had to adapt to home-based learning and keep up with the momentum as the school holidays is brought forward. On the other hand, parents find themselves struggling to figure out how to work from home while managing the household and their children’s home learning activities.
Indeed, the Circuit Breaker period is a time of adjustment for individuals, families, communities and organisations. While for some, this change in routines has given them more time to spend with their family, but there are others who may not be coping so well with the situation as they find staying home for an indefinite period to be extremely stressful.
This is especially so for couples and families who are confined to working from home in tight, shared spaces. Adding in the challenges of looking after young children, caring for elderly parents and dealing with employment and financial issues are sure to brew conflicts between husband and wife.
In fact, there has been an increase in media reports on divorce cases in Xi’an, China as a result of extended home quarantine. Other countries such as the UK are predicting a similar trend as the lockdown measures progress.
In Singapore, it was reported in the Straits Times that the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) received 619 enquiries related to family violence in March 2020. This reflects a 35% rise from the same period last year.
With this in mind, the Wonder Years team scoured for tips and advice from marriage and relationships experts to help all mums and dads to keep their relationships alive as we all pull through this trying period.
Tips to Maintain Your Marriage During COVID-19
1. Communicate and show that you care
With pressing things to get done every day, it is so easy for daily conversations to revolve around taking care of the home and the children. While these are important, they should not replace meaningful conversations that provide opportunities for you to connect with your spouse on a deeper level.
So instead of diving into the to-do list of the day, shift the attention towards your spouse by asking him/her about the best and worst parts of his/her day. Listen to each other’s worries, fears, hopes, stresses and pay extra attention to care about how the other person is feeling.
You can start the day with a short 10-minute conversation in this manner and revisit this at the end of the day when the kids have been tucked to bed. Think of this as “couple time” where you and your spouse get to do the daily “check-in” and “check-out” with each other.
2. Work together as a team
You have seen how this crisis has brought people from all walks of life together to fight against the spread of COVID-19. Take this great example and apply it to your marriage during COVID-19 too!
Grab the opportunity to unite as a married couple and as parents. Tap on each other’s strengths and learn to work as a team to keep things running smoothly amidst the chaos. Protect yourselves and your children with good personal hygiene practices and do your part to be socially responsible by adhering to the recommended measures.
Besides the primary goal of keeping your family safe, this helps to build the synergy between you and your spouse that will strengthen your marriage.
3. Establish roles and routines
Getting used to the “new normal” way of life is a work in progress and every day brings with it a new reality.
Lee Miller, a US-based marriage and family therapist advise couples to discuss the details on how they can create new home routines by establishing roles for each person and the expectations at the end of the day. A good place to start includes assigning a person-in-charge for meal preparations, cleaning up, taking care of the children’s home learning needs and nap times, and so on.
While details might have been agreed upon, this is not be cast in stone and a certain degree of flexibility should be allowed. For example, if one person happens to be stuck in a work conference call that coincides with the children’s mealtimes, the other person should be able to step in and take charge. After all, making things work in a marriage and the family requires the effort and understanding of everyone to give and take.
4. Dedicate “Me-Time”
Experts suggest that being together under one roof 24/7 could put a strain on marriage during COVID-19 and that taking a short “break” from each other when needed could have its benefits.
It is also important to practice good self-care as each of you are fully responsible for your own well-being – both physically and emotionally. This then allows you and your spouse to recharge so that you can both take better care of the family’s needs.
Do note though that this does not involve giving your better half the silent treatment. Instead, it’s about both parties communicating the time of the day and the kind of activities that each of you would like to do alone in order to recharge.
For example, you might find that having an uninterrupted hour of catching up on TV shows and your favourite books work for you while your spouse appreciates time alone to spend on computer games. Honour one another’s wish list for “me-time” and agree on an arrangement that works.
5. Create a safe home environment
Counsellors and relationship experts have advised that when people feel safe with each other, they will be more willing to open up and deeper connections happen. However, the reverse is also true – when they don’t feel secure, they tend to close up and disconnect.
You can create that safe home environment for yourselves and your children.
Talk to your spouse about creating a home that feels safe. Find out what each person need to see in order for him/her to feel safe. What does each of you expect from the other in order to achieve this?
Tackle this with an open mind and listen to the needs and opinions of your spouse as this will help you understand what makes him/her feel safe. Above all, practise kindness and respect towards each other, count your blessings and show gratitude towards each other.
6. Keep in touch with extended family and friends
Apart from maintaining your relationship and marriage during COVID-19, it is good to connect with the other people in your life who matter too. You can also take this opportunity to reconnect with people whom you’ve lost touch with by checking in on how they are doing.
You might not be able to meet up with them as you’d usually do, but technology has opened up a world of possibilities to make this happen. In our team, most of us have been tapping on Zoom and WhatApp for video calls with family members who do not stay with us, or for our weekly “Mummies Only” hangout.
We might not know how long more this extended stay home period will last. While being confined at home with your spouse and children may not be a walk in the park, know that like all things in life, this too will pass.
All of us here at Wonder Years hope that the tips and advice from the experts would go a long way in helping you and your spouse rediscover and rebuild the connections that you share with each other as you make room for love and joy to prevail in your relationship.
In the meantime, do stay safe, happy and healthy together!