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Close But Not Connected:
The COVID-19 Marriage Paradox

COVID-19 has brought most married couples closer, but not in the way you might think.

We now live our lives closer together: traveling less, leaving the house less, and working nearer to each other during the day. We also do more of the daily activities of life together (parenting, cooking, cleaning, etc.).

We're close. But we are often not connected.

Here’s what this marriage paradox looks like for us. We get to the end of the day and realize that -- even though neither of us has left the house all day -- we haven’t had a single real conversation with each other.

We can start to feel like our spouse is less a lover and soulmate, more like a coworker in the business of our life. Sure, we might say "hi" every now and then. But for many couples, this stay-at-home situation makes it increasingly difficult to cut beneath the hum-drum surface of ordinary life and connect with each other.

The real problem, of course, is that our spouse isn’t a coworker. And in the absence of connection, all sorts of marital drama emerges. We fight more. Our partner's tiniest flaws become totally annoying. We may even begin to experience an odd sense of loneliness, feeling alone even while jammed into the same house together.

How can you break the pattern of feeling close but not connected?

 

Tools

 

1. Notice when you are losing connection.

Sometimes, life gets so crazy and hectic that we don’t even notice when connection fades away – that is, until we end up in a huge fight over something pointless like whether to play Uno or Monopoly during family game night (that may have actually happened in our house).

There are, however, telltale signs of connection fading away. And the sooner we recognize the signs, the sooner we can begin coming back into connection. For most couples, they include:

  • Laughing less
  • Arguing more
  • Criticizing your spouse more
  • Finding your partner's every action annoying
  • Feeling drawn to digital distractions in their presence: Instagram, email, texting, etc. 

By simply noticing these signs, you have the power to make a different choice, to come back into connection.

 

2. Create the space and intention for connection.

Space and intention are the two keys to reestablishing connection. Space gives you and your partner the time to have a conversation about something beyond coordinating distance learning logistics or what’s for dinner that night. So find a time each day when you can create this space to connect. It might be before bed, on a brief walk, or some other time during the day.

Space is important. But intention also matters. This time, after all, can easily get taken over by talk of logistics or questions like: "Should we do the Costco run on Saturday or Sunday this weekend?"

When, on the other hand, your intention is to connect, the content of your conversation shifts. You start asking questions like: “Tell me more about what’s really going on with you" or “Here’s what I appreciate about you today” or “How can we set up this weekend so we have a date night together?” The key shift here is from the intention to get stuff done (our ordinary mode of life) to the intention to connect.

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