Gabriel García Marquez gave us Love in the Time of Cholera. What couples are experiencing now could be termed Love in the Time of Covid 19. A few months ago, we could not have imagined how much our lives would change in the space of a few days, and how long-lasting those changes would be. We are spending more time together, and less time with other people, than probably at any other time in our relationship. From this “sheltering in place” with our partners have come new joys, some real challenges, and some learning. Several couples from across the U.S. and Canada wrote about their experiences for this newsletter.
Judith and Jonathan
We’ve been fortunate to be a part of an ongoing Couple’s group for about 20 years now. During the pandemic, we decided to go online, and continue to meet monthly. So we still have a community of 4-8 couples sharing our experiences of life and how we are in our relationship with our partner. There is a theme of more togetherness and changing patterns of behaviors.
Yes, the sharing between the two of us is a little different during the pandemic. My partner and I have lost some of our savings and were disappointed when our third son decided not to roost with us. We also have a sister and brother-in-law who have survived covid-19. We have had ups and downs, but in general, have definitely grown closer during the epidemic. There is more of an urgency to address issues (which seem to have more heat than in pre-covid days) and more space to say what we need. We also support one another more than before because thoughtful actions, touch, hearing words of encouragement, and receiving smiles are sustaining and prevent us from feeling overwhelmed by the bad news. We live in the moment, do what we can for others, and count our blessings, of which there are many.
Peter and Merry: It’s a good thing that we each get to shelter in place with someone we like a lot! Even so, the joy of being together 24/7 can wear thin at times. We are blessed to have a large enough house that we can each find solitude when we need it, inside or outside. While we are doing more read-aloud books and dialogues with each other, we are also doing more alone time: Merry in the bath or getting lost in a crossword puzzle, Peter on his walks or getting lost in his professional reading. Blessed quietness!
Mary Linda and Mark: Fertile Soil
We have worked from home together for the entirety of our 9 years together so in many ways, sheltering-in-place together doesn’t look much different from our normal routine. There have been stresses, of course, mostly involving how we can best support and care for our loved ones, friends, and community. We’ve found that sharing our fears about Covid-19 has been fertile soil for us to have deep conversations about our life together, end of life fears and preferences, and the eventuality of one of us dying and leaving the other a widow/er. Although these conversations have not been comfortable, they do bring comfort through a richer intimacy with one another. We have considered what we might regret should one of us succumb to the illness and are expressing those small things so that the only regret will be that we didn’t have a longer time together. One joy we have found during lock-down is keeping Sunday afternoons as a time for us to express our love through physical intimacy. An unstructured span of time when we’re not too tired, hungry, or distracted has allowed us to find a playfulness that we had lost touch with.
Kathy and Jeff: We are thankful for each other, that we have been able to shelter in place together. We have often commented how hard it would be to be alone at this time. We both work in the garden, take daily walks around the neighborhood as well as weekly hikes with another couple from our meeting, do online yoga classes together, cuddle on the couch to watch movies, and participate in an online Quaker Bible study with other Friends. It is a good thing that we still enjoy being together after nearly forty years!
The global pandemic halted our plans to travel across the country to co-lead a couples workshop and visit our daughter’s family in March. We both had to deal with the disappointment of not seeing our grandchildren. It has been a challenge to have so much of our life scheduled around Zoom meetings, some together, some separately. It is easy to spend too much time in front of the computer when we are home most of the time; we make sure make time to walk together daily; we find that an important time to express appreciation for each other, talk over problems, and reconnect.
Marsha and Mike: At first, stay-at-home orders in NC didn’t appear to change our routine all that much. As a retired couple, we already spend a lot of time together in the house. But after a few weeks, we started to rethink how to reconnect during the day. Before COVID-19 hit, we had rituals when we left or returned to the house. There was the ‘goodbye, see you later’ kiss. The text that said ‘Heading home now, put the kettle on.’ The ‘who was at the meeting’ or ‘what did you find at the store’ questions that were an invitation to share news about what had just transpired. Small moments, but moments that allowed us to acknowledge each other.
But stay-at-home orders limit how much we leave the house. So we are re-imagining our rituals. Instead of kissing hello or goodbye, we occasionally hug each other spontaneously as we pass in the hallway. We take a moment to reconnect after zoom calls have kept us in separate parts of the house. We lean into each other on the couch while jointly attending a zoom worship session. Most importantly, we continue to have a deliberate time at the beginning and end of each day when we can sit together without our computers or phones, and simply enjoy each other’s company.
In conclusion, those of us who wrote share a gratitude that we are going through this experience with our beloveds. There is no road map or reader’s guide for Love in the Time of Covid. Despite the difficulties, worries, and uncertainties of this time, we stand beside each other to face these challenges. We have found a new closeness in all of the opportunities we have for conversation and ways of expressing our love.