These are indeed strange times. We have been ordered to Shelter in Place. This can be an opportunity for your relationship. If you already practice emotional, physical, spiritual, intellectual and loving sheltering, you can increase your capacity of these while you have more time in proximity.
If you do some of this sheltering, some of the time, you have the chance to further shift into these behaviors.
If your relationship is in trouble, this time can be an opening for a sea change between you; a choice to see your partner, to hear him/her, to understand deeply. Please read my previous blogs and put ideas into experiments while you’re sheltering. Just know you’re practicing and learning new things. It’s likely you might not be very good at it right away. That’s okay. Hang in there and keep going. Don’t hold it against your beloved if they’re not very good at it right now. Give appreciation for effort.
Misunderstandings are so easy to fall into. That’s why being explicit, slowing down, asking what is meant by a word or phrase, getting curious, acknowledging the emotional content in your discussions is so critical. Recognizing intention vs. impact is another important tool. Your partner (most likely) has a good intention when s/he says or does something. The impact on you may differ significantly from that intention. You can say that: “I believe you had a good intention here. The impact on me is ____________. What was your intention?”
Maybe you’re already lonely in your marriage or relationship. Anyone can be lonely in a house full of people. Would you have regrets if something happened to your partner and you haven’t tried to bridge the gap? You can get your ships sailing together again. Yes, it’s work. No, it’s not easy. And especially now, with stress levels elevated, it may be harder than ever. Or it could be just the opening you need: “I still love you, and I feel we’re off course in relation to each other. Will you join me in restoring our relationship?”
How “Sheltering” Makes you Feel
Some of you may feel that “sheltered” connotes being limited, shut in or dismissed in some way. I see it differently: Do you feel protected, cherished, honored? Loved? Valued? As I was writing this, it reminded me of wedding vows: “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part; and thereto I pledge myself to you," (or, your own chosen vows).
Do you ever look at your wedding vows? Do you keep them? Hold them close?
Adjusting to Sheltering at Home
Then, there’s all the practical stuff: having kids at home while you’re home (while you’re possibly working from home). By the way, I encourage you to spend time individually with each of your children. If your kids are old enough, make time for a weekly date. If they're little, get them to bed and then have your date. You need and deserve it.
Go for a walk together, or get a take-out meal or cook together and set a nice table with a tablecloth, nice dishes, candles, etc. Find a way to make it special.
You may have financial and economic concerns as well as health concerns. If you can’t work, apply for unemployment. Do whatever you can to diminish the stresses in your lives right now.
It’s most likely a huge change to be in proximity nearly 24/7 when you’re used to getting out and away from one another, kids, etc. One of you may be an introvert, the other an extrovert. You’ll figure it out--together. The goal of marriage is not to think alike, but to think together.
Some of you are closer to retirement than others, yet eventually you will retire. Everyone has to figure out what that will look and be like for each of you, and as a couple. It takes a couple of years to adjust to retirement at the best of times. Obviously you can’t go do things you might in retirement due to sheltering at home and Social Distancing (which is a weird term in and of itself); we’re physical distancing.
You can use this time to brainstorm what you’d like to do in retirement (time with others, time alone, travel, hobbies, volunteering, mentoring, etc.) This is very personal based on your life and what you’ve done so far. You may want to branch out from what you’ve done already, or build on your past. My husband wants to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity (he’s been in the building business for 41 years); he also is considering several new things he’s never done before.
Have fun brainstorming. You’re in this together.
Social Connection and Physical Distancing
You need social interactions. Human brains are wired for connection. I much prefer the term Physical Distancing since that’s what we need to do. But we do not need to “socially” distance.
Scientific American has a good, brief article on community and preventing loneliness.
One Last, Yet Important Thought
Sheltering as a haven; one of the tenets of secure attachment. A haven.