We have been married for twelve years and we have two young children. I think lockdown has forced us to be open with one another about how we are feeling.
There have been some difficult times in the last year. I lost my Nana to cancer and my husband, Tom, was the only person I could share my grief with fully in person. I couldn’t visit my Nana as she was dying and because of covid; it was difficult to even contact her whilst she was in hospital. Tom was only person I could legally hug and share my grief with… and it drew us closer. He even drove me across the country on a whim one day so I could go and say goodbye to my Nana. He waited in the car with our kids while I spent 30 minutes by my Nana’s bedside. Tom went on to lose his Grandmother later in the year and we lost several friends as well.
I think lockdown has also made me recognise how as a couple we also need space from each other and this has been hard to get in this time. It has involved taking shifts with the children to take time away and perhaps meet with other friends (within restrictions). I think it’s made me realise how we both need time together, but also time apart. Other friendships we have play a part in supporting our marriage too. I think knowing what other people have going on can make you appreciate your own relationship and family all the more.
It’s also made me aware of how much the little things matter. Life is quite monotonous at the moment. We can’t go away together, or be spontaneous. Life happens within our four walls so actually what happens within those four walls is important. When we make an effort to do something for each other that is kind or thoughtful it makes a real difference. For me, times in the last year when my hubby has encouraged me out of the house for a socially distanced walk with a pal has really increased my spirits and then I come home to find he’s tidied the kitchen; or for him when he walks through the door on a night when he’s been out of the house teaching all day and I make an effort to use my words to greet him warmly, or give him a hug, even if I’m frazzled from the multitasking of homeschooling and working. These things have mattered so much.
What we’ve learned — our top tips
I think the crisis has just generally made me be more aware of the fragility of life and how we shouldn’t take those relationships that matter for us for granted either. Having time as a family with no agenda has had it’s perks too, we’ve definitely just spent more time together and have mostly enjoyed a slower pace of life—we’ve had little option not too! Take it in turns to plan a ‘date’ night or ‘us’ time with your partner. We’ve tried to do this and found that when one of us takes responsibility for the evening it: a) generally happens; and b) we enjoy it more because someone has taken effort to think about it and organise it, especially in a time that is quite monotonous with limited options. Being the one responsible has encouraged us to try to be creative with it!
Give your partner time to do something alone/carry out a project or see a friend. For us, we have had two young children to look after pretty much constantly during this time and they are of an age where they need us all the time. In normal times we’d have some natural breaks, like when our kids spend time with their grandparents or friends. We found sometimes, despite being deeply grateful for each other’s company, we just desired some space, whether that be in the company of a friend we missed seeing, or completing something on our ‘to do’ list that we were just not getting round to. We have really appreciated receiving some sacrificial time from each other and it has helped us keep going.
Keep making intentional efforts to show appreciation and love in the way your partner feels it most, even though life is pretty monotonous! I think when we spend so much time together it is so easy to take each other for granted. I think expressing thanks and appreciation is important at the best of times but even more so when your partner is one of the few people you spend significant amounts of in person time with. We had a chat partway through the first lockdown about what our emotional needs looked like at that moment and how we could best show love to each other. We wrote them on post it notes and stuck them on the fridge door to remind us!
Emma Marshall, Family Matters York