If you are stuck in an unhappy marriage during the pandemic, you are in a very tricky place. The slog from one day to the next is almost unbearably hard, but you have no choice but to keep going. You need to be functional for work, your kids and yourself.
The emotional exhaustion from living a life turned upside down leaves you with scant energy for working on your marriage. You can figure out how to save your marriage – or whether to leave it – later. So, focus this time on you, and what you need to cope.
Choose radical self-care
Everyone is home. All. The. Time. There’s very little escape from the usual chaos of life, let alone a break from an unhappy marriage that isn’t working.
Tell your husband you need one or two hours of undisturbed time every day. Do whatever you want during that time.
Want to read trashy novels? Binge-watch “The Bachelor”? Get back into watercolor painting? Write in your journal? Go trail running? Wrap yourself in a burrito blanket and just lie in bed?
Do what you need to do to take care of your sanity. Whatever brings you some peace is what you should do.
And while I realize you might not be happy with your husband right now, give him that same break from the kids, chores and life. He needs his sanity during the pandemic, too. (Plus, you’ll get more time away from him.)
Let go of control
You can only control one person – you. Even during “normal” times, you cannot control what anyone else does, says or feels. You can only control your own behavior and thoughts.
When your husband is getting on your nerves and you feel like you’re about to scream, hit pause. Take a deep breath before you respond. Ask yourself why his behavior is driving you nuts. Then decide on the best way to respond.
If he’s snapping gum, ask him to please stop. He might not even know he’s doing it. If he’s ranting for the millionth time about people who are not social distancing, ignore him or leave the room.
And by the way, I know how hard it is to relinquish control. I struggle with it to the point that I take Zoloft every day to help control my anxiety.
Respond to reality – not the pandemic
Now let’s look at control from another viewpoint, because you can control more in your life right now than you might think. I found this passage from a New York Times article very helpful:
“Instead of feeling powerless, evaluate what you know to be true in this moment — and don’t exaggerate — to help ground you. Think: I have my health, I have my family, I can still make delicious meals.
“Take stock of your reality by asking yourself straightforward questions, like, ‘What are my responsibilities to myself, my family and the larger community?’ and ‘What reality-based problems do I need to solve today?’”
If you look at your life from this angle, you just regained a lot of control. You control what and when you eat, how long you brush your teeth, how much time you spend watching the news, whether or not you blow out your hair. Those pieces of your life are your reality. Respond accordingly.
Be compassionate to yourself
If you start beating yourself up about something, think about how you would respond to your best friend if she was in the same situation. Would you say, “Oh yeah, you made a big mistake. What’s wrong with you? You’re so stupid!”
No, absolutely not.
Give yourself a break. Acknowledge the mistake and leave the past in the past. Focus your energy on learning and growing from your mistake.
If that feels like too much work right now, forgive yourself and let go of the angst.
Also, if you are not feeling grateful today, don’t! Feel your feels – all of them. Feel your anger, sadness, resentment, frustration. I spent a good month grieving the collapse of our pre-pandemic lives. I rode the wave as best as I could. It’s ok for you to do the same – and struggle through it.
As I write this, it feels like the pandemic will never end. It will … one day. Our lives will be different. Any coping skills you gain today will benefit you tomorrow.