Recently, while catching up with one of my male friends on the phone, I teased him about how much he's been going out to restaurants for lunch, being that there's a pandemic 'n all (because Google links alert us to where it's easier to catch COVID-19. Two places are restaurants and, well, church; you're a whopping 16 times more likely to get it there!). Since I'm well aware of the fact that he and his wife have been working at home, pretty much since quarantine began, the marriage life coach in me just had to ask—"Are you out so much because you're sick of being at home with your wife all day?" He didn't even hesitate when he said, "ABSOLUTELY!". And shoot, they have a pretty healthy relationship. Imagine how all of the couples who don't have one are feeling right about now.
Actually—and on some levels, unfortunately—you don't have to wonder. According to a lot of data that I've checked out, even since the pandemic hit, the uptick on divorces has jumped—catch it—34 freakin' percent since March, with 31 percent of the couples directly citing COVID-19 (and quarantining because of it) as the cause.
To be fair, even though the pandemic has tap danced on the very last nerve of basically all of us, at one point or another, I've been in the marriage counseling game long enough to know that just one thing doesn't attribute to a marriage falling apart. Even if infidelity comes into play, oftentimes the cheating happens because a whole lot of other "snowflakes" were ignored before that "avalanche" occurred.
So, why is it that so many folks are jumping the Love Boat ship right now? And, more importantly, what are some steps that you can take to ensure that you and yours can avoid becoming a pandemic divorce statistic? I'm so glad you asked. Here are eight safeguarding tips that I hope can help you out.
1. What Was the State of Your Marriage Prior to COVID-19?
Trial by fire. I'm pretty sure that a lot of you have heard that phrase before. If there's one thing that something like this pandemic does is, it tends to bring things to the surface that might have been ignored or even overlooked before. For instance, did you know that, on average, a lot of couples only spend two hours a day together? And that includes the weekends! This means that, whatever pet peeves, communication issues or straight-up incompatibilities that two people may have, for the most part, they can avoid it getting too much to them if they are only dealing with their spouse, about as long as their favorite movie lasts, once a day.
Oh, but then came along COVID-19 to blow all of that selective avoidance totally out of the water! Now husbands and wives have to directly deal on a whole 'nother level—and many aren't hanging in very well. While it's easy to simply chalk it up to the pandemic, it's important to be more realistic than that.
Take a moment to ask yourself how your marriage was before January (when we found out that COVID-19 was headed our way) and March (when we started quarantining due to the pandemic). Were there issues that you were having way before then that you just weren't dealing with? Because I'm willing to bet that if things were good prior to this pandemic, while stress-filled at times, it would not be what suddenly made you want to call it quits.
2. Try Not to Unfairly Transfer Your Stress
One of the clear signs that we've matured into emotionally healthy and responsible individuals is when we know that we've mastered the art of not transferring stress onto people or situations that don't deserve it. What I mean by that is, say that your boss has become the absolute most (when it comes to making demands), ever since the pandemic started and that has added some additional stress and anxiety into your world. If you're working from home and your spouse is too, it can be easy to take out your irritation or frustration on them (after all, they don't sign your paycheck, so you tend to be more "reckless" with them). Be careful. If you do that long enough, it can be easy for them to start getting pissed because they're sick and tired of being your emotional punching bag. Now, all of a sudden, the two of you are thinking that your marriage is the problem when really, it's your sucky boss.
If there was ever a time when people need to learn how to make self-care a top priority, this would be it. Meditating. Praying. Going for walks. Turning off your devices after a certain time. Vegging out and watching something totally stupid on television. Video chatting with some of your friends. Having wine on your back deck. Having sex with your spouse. These are all things that can help to decrease the mental tension that you've got going on. Plus, as an added benefit, the less stressed you are, the easier it is to get to the root of what is truly bothering you, so that you can put the energy towards where it needs to actually go, rather than the closest source in your space—which could very well be your partner.
3. Remember Why You Married Your Spouse in the First Place
Listen, if y'all didn't catch a peak of Lenny Kravitz in Men's Health magazine, do yourself a big ole' favor and click right here. Anyway, one of the things that he talks about in his interview is his endearing bromance with his ex-wife Lisa Bonet's current husband Jason Momoa. Well, as I was reading another article about Jason's take on how he and Lisa are handling this time of quarantine, after 14 years of marriage, I like that he said that it's given them time to really work on them as a couple.
What's interesting about that is, the married couples I personally know who have always, for the most part, been in sync, this pandemic has caused them to come to a similar conclusion as Jason. It's not that this season hasn't come with its challenges—but divorcing? That has been the last thing on their mind. If anything, they've been trying to figure out how to make their union stronger.
If you just read that and were like, "That's sweet but I am nowhere close to feeling that way right now," take a moment to reflect on why you married your spouse in the first place. Sometimes, in order to get a grasp on how to handle the hard times, it's beneficial to reflect on some happy memories. By the way, this tip isn't just so that you can "feel better". Sometimes, after some years have passed, the very thing that once attracted you to your partner can be the very thing that makes you want to totally lose it. But if you put that "thing" into perspective, it might be just what you need to balance you out and help you grow.
So if your spouse is so much on your nerves right now that you can't see one good thing about them or staying with them, reflect on back when you were dating and what made you agree to marry them in the first place. If they're still that person, be intentional about focusing on the good. It'll pay off in the long run.
4. Be Honest with Your Partner About How You’re Feeling
It's kinda crazy that, the two people who folks seem to be the least forthcoming with, are their spouse and their therapist (if they've got one). The reason why I say that is, I can't tell you how many times I've sat in a session and one of the spouses has said something that completely blindsided the other. That's why Luther Vandross' songs "A House Is Not a Home" and Tamia's "Stranger in My House" have so much truth to them. Sharing the same roof with someone doesn't mean you are actually connecting with them. Quality time, dates, pillow talk, conversations when all electronic devices are off—all of these moments are needed in order for two people to feel emotionally close to one another.
I can't tell you how many spouses (usually, it's husbands; I'm just gonna be real with y'all) are constantly penalized for not picking up on their partner's passive aggressive behavior or hints. When your partner said, "for better or for worse" on your wedding day, a part of what they were signing up for is being able to handle your feelings, your frustrations and your fears. It's not fair to you or your spouse to suppress your thoughts and emotions. While timing and delivery are important, you'd be amazed how much can be resolved by being transparent—and then allowing your partner to do the same.
5. Minimize Your Time with Debbie (or Donnie) Downers
Any time I hear someone say, "Never take marital advice from single people", like it's a blanket rule or something, the first thing that comes to my mind (other than the fact that, other than Moses, Christ and Paul spoke the most on marriage in the Bible and they weren't married) is that the divorce rate sits at around 50/50. This means that if you're married, you probably need to be more concerned about that 50 percent of folks who are divorced and what they've got to say; marital status does not automatically make someone a great example or teacher on the topic (just sayin'). The far better resolve is to listen to people who are advocates of marriage and, more specifically, YOUR MARRIAGE. Single people read. Single people have insights on love and relationships. Single people are capable of offering up perspectives that you may have never considered before. Don't miss out because you're currently subscribing to a saying that is nowhere close to being totally accurate or reliable.
That said, whether the person is single, married or divorced, definitely make sure that they speak positivity into your life. I've got a newly divorced friend who, honestly, is more peace-filled now than he was in his marriage. However, what I've had to do is encourage him to stop rolling up in his barbershop every week, on a mission to get single men to never marry. Just because his wife was totally off-the-chain (and she really was), that doesn't mean that no one else should jump the broom.
Marriage isn't ever the problem. Choosing the right (or not-so-right) person is what poses the challenges that so many couples have.
During the trying times of your relationship, the last thing you need is bitter people, bad energy or tainted advice being constantly spoken into your space. So, if you must talk about what's going on in your relationship, speak with those who are rallying for you to stay with your partner; not those who can't wait for you and yours to break-up. Especially if it's for no other reason than misery loves company. SMDH.
6. Apply Some Real Thought to the “It’s Cheaper to Keep” Saying
Listen, sometimes you really have to take the "How can I gas myself up until these feelings pass?" approach to honoring your commitment. And divorces? They ain't cheap, chile. I know some husbands who are pushing through because they don't wanna pay alimony and child support. I know some wives who are pushing through because their state says that whoever leaves first, they end up walking away from their property (like their house).
While staying with someone because you don't want the financial stress and strain of leaving might sound shallow or even unimaginable to some, to me, serves for two great points. If you're a single person reading this, remember that marriage is a business; one that comes with a contract known as a marriage license. A HUGE part of what makes divorces messy isn't so much the feelings as the finances. And two, if you are married, one way to make sure that you're not simply emotionally jumping the gun by threatening divorce is to think about how it will affect your livelihood once you actually do. A part of the reason why I wrote the article, "What Some People Regret About Their Divorce" for this platform is because there are A LOT of people who think that getting divorced is a simple solution to a marital problem when, oftentimes, it is anything but.
Divorces tend to take a real financial toll on people, even before COVID-19 hit. If you're thinking about leaving your spouse, simply because they are "getting on your nerves", you might wanna revisit that strategy. Being financially strapped, for who knows how long, could be what ends up stressing you TF out a helluva lot more.
7. Zoom with a Therapist (If Necessary)
While I'm sure that a part of the reason why I feel this way is because I am a marriage life coach, I continue to be floored by the amount of married couples who will separate and/or divorce without getting ANY kind of counseling beforehand. When your marriage is in trouble or turmoil, it can be difficult to see things from any perspective other than "I hate this" and "I'm out". Whether it's a reputable counselor, therapist or relationship coach, oftentimes, they are able to offer up angles, tips and tools that can help you to 1) more effectively communicate with your partner; 2) figure out how to stick it out and 3) improve your relationship so that, not only do you avoid getting a divorce but you can be better than you've ever been.
Divorce is serious. It's life-altering as well. Not only that, but on your wedding day, you and your spouse took vows and vows are promises. If you love your partner but you need some help either seeing why staying is worth it or how to make your relationship elevate out of the mere "survival mode" level of things, seek out a professional. There are plenty who are willing to have Zoom meetings. It could very well be the best investment that you've ever made, marriage wise.
8. Never Forget: Seasons Do Pass
Isn't it interesting that, we learn to accept seasons? Whether you hate winter and adore summer, winter is gonna come, like clockwork; the best thing that you can do is prepare and adjust. Same thing applies to marriage. Sometimes things are gonna be awesome. Other times, eh, not so much. Yet if you know this and make peace with it, being thrilled during the good times and patient during the challenging ones can also be a real key to your marriage's longevity.
And if it's the season of COVID-19 that's testing you to no end, resolve to stay positive, knowing that this too shall pass. And if you and your spouse are committed to having each other's back rather than pushing each other away—you very well could come outta this thing with a stronger marriage rather than a pandemic divorce. Hang in there, y'all. More times than not, it's worth it if you do.
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