You know when you first start dating someone and you get that desire to be around them 24/7, it’s a constant feeling. If you’re not with that person you’re wondering what they are up to – did they have a good day at work? What did they do today? Are they thinking about me too? If you aren’t together you’re probably texting, and then eventually comes the time when you wonder a little less about that not-so-new person and things go from a raging boil to a gentle simmer.
Over time life takes over. You might get married or you might move in together, but you become a part of one another’s life in a more permanent sense and whilst the love might still be there, there’s now also work, bills, kids and your relationship become a bit of a footnote in the story of your life. You’re comfortable and happy but you’re crossing paths briefly somewhere between dinner and bedtime and that 45min period where both of you are awake on the sofas, ignoring each other for your phones. Sound familiar?
I’d say that’s a fair and accurate description of most long term relationships, life has a funny way of getting in the way of them.
With the current pandemic that is cruising it’s way around the world, casually locking down country after country and forcing spouses who have been used to seeing each other for a maximum of 2.5hrs a day into confined quarters 24/7, is it really any wonder that divorce rates are expected to soar? Whilst a baby boom is predicted (consisting entirely of first borns and oopsies because since schools closed, I dare you to tell me you’re broody), divorce rates are also expected to increase – and have already started to increase in China who got a head start on this shitshow and appear to be rocking out the other side.
Look, I get it, it’s hard. There are days when I can see in Adam’s eyes that I’m annoying him, that every little thing I do is making him think “coullldddd you *just* fuck off” but I think it’s fair to say that I recognise these moments because he’s not the only one that feels that way, and I’m frequently seeing a reflection of my own feelings. When you’re suddenly confronted with 24/7 with a partner that you are used to in small doses, I think it’s daunting and it’s easy to step back and think “shit, we’ve really drifted apart here, and I don’t think I want this anymore.” If the only conversations that you can have are about the kids or the house, what is the point? If there is no joy, is it time to Marie Kondo your relationship?
We’ve been working from home together now for two years, Adam as a stay at home parent and me as a digital content creator. We spend a lot of time together and yet we frequently don’t really notice one another at this point. I might make him a coffee (lol, it’s always the other way around) and he might come and tell me about something he’s just read on twitter, but for the most part we’re in our own zones. If I’m honest, it took a while to find those zones, and I think that was a fairly rocky road that is still developing and ever changing as Adam become more involved in content creation and we’re working together more. What we have now feels like a much stronger and more involved relationship – and don’t mistake this for “we’re ridiculously happy all the time” or “we never argue”, but we seem to have found a blend where we’re both co-worker and spouse within the four walls we call home.
So how did we make it work?
Get your own space
We each have our own spaces, mine is my office and bizarrely Adam’s has become the toilet (it’s always been the toilet). He will go in there and scroll twitter or read articles that he wants to and I don’t disturb him. If I’m in the office, he doesn’t disturb me. It was the same before we had the extension but my space was a corner of the living room and I was left alone when I was at my desk.
Share a space
For us it’s the kitchen. If we’re in the kitchen, we’re chatting or we’re enjoying each other’s company quietly. I will occasionally film in there and that is a time when Adam will step away and we adjust our spaces, but mostly, it’s a joint space.
Try to have lunch together (if you can)
We aren’t able to do this all the time, but we make it work I would say once or twice a week. It’s just a time to sit down, face to face and eat something. Obviously now the kids are at home 24/7 that has become a lot more difficult but we’re trying to be as fluid as we can. Sometimes it’s just a coffee… and sometimes it’s a shitshow and we bicker because I’m not listening to him at all when he’s trying to chat to me, or vice versa. It’s normal.
Block off a room
This actually works quite well for us. We tend not to go in the living room at all because it’s our relaxing space, so we will stay away and save that for when we’re relaxing together or as a family later on. It’s a “weekend and evening room” I guess!
Keep communication going
As much as we don’t disturb each other, and we don’t sit on top of one another (behave) we try to keep communication up. Having worked from home for 5 years now, I think I can attest to the fact that it is LONELY at times, and having someone else to bounce ideas off, chat about the latest news or something funny you have seen is a blessing. We also know when to say to the other “I’m just doing this, let me finish up and I’ll come over”.
Do little things for each other – AND ACKNOWLEDGE IT.
I get *really* arsey when I feel under appreciated, and to be fair I think everyone does. If your spouse does something for you, like makes you a cuppa or whatever, it’s great but it’s important to acknowledge that they have done that for you. I’m a firm believer that it’s not a one sided thing and it doesn’t have to be about retaliating to their kindness or love, but about acknowledging it and being grateful that someone took the time to think of you.
Talk out your grievances.
I’m having a little chuckle at myself writing this. We. Are. Terrible. at this. So bad. We (both) frequently let things build up and build up until we explode and then it becomes a huge thing. If that’s you, and you have got the “don’t let it build up, talk about it” thing in your head but you can’t always do it, then perhaps it’s better to let you know that if you do explode, stop, don’t follow the other person and when you both calm down, try to talk it out and listen. Drop the snide comments (me) and drop the rage (him). They don’t get you anywhere. Toxic vibes breed toxic lives and all that jazz.