A month ago, few of us knew of the mammoth turn of events as they were shaping up. Yes, a new virus had been discovered wreaking havoc on one of our neighbouring countries but we were still going to work, schools and colleges, shopping and travelling as usual. Fast forward to couple of weeks on, enters COVID-19 and we are facing the biggest pandemic the modern world has seen in over a hundred years. Yes, we are technologically sound and our healthcare systems are decent if not robust but nothing prepared us for an outbreak of such proportions. The world is crumbling and I look around and see panic, anger, confusion and sometimes even hopelessness. It’s merely human to feel so. So, while we continue washing our hands, covering our sneezes and self-isolating when symptoms arise, there is something very intricate we are missing in all these conversations, mental health of people and the questionable strength of relationships in the time of crisis.
I understand that we haven’t seen anything like this in our lifetime and as much as being together 24X7 can be daunting, isolating within the confines of the same house and not being able to reach out to each other can be extremely troubling too. Above all, it also brings ardent panic to protect each other and everyone we love. The brain’s all mush, jumbled with questions about medicines, vaccines, symptoms and the horror or hope that awaits. I am no different and neither is my family. We all have hit the panic button so hard that it’s broken. But to survive this, we all need to survive it together. Your relationship, your marriage is a unit and you need to battle this out together. Here, I am jotting down some very important points that have come to me from hours of research, conversations, pondering and experience.
Coronavirus has got most of us working from home and the lockdowns in various cities are going to push us all to the brink. Many of us aren’t used to this extensive sharing of both waking and sleep hours. Take a deep breath and relax. Just because you are in the same house, you don’t have to do everything together. Carve out your individual experiences like you would on a normal day outside. Stay indoors but make a world where you do your own things before spending a portion of it with your partner. Do not enforce rules or obligations to spend each moment together. Give each other ample space and take a break.
Many of us may have symptoms from travel or contact and while taking precautions, we choose to self-quarantine. This period of isolation can be tough. Homo sapiens are used to the emotion of touch and intimacy, right from the comforting embraces to the formal handshakes. But precautions mean ample distance. Tell each other that you can get through this. Spend time with conversations while you also maintain distance. If you are away in an isolation centre or hospital, consider this a short period of long-distance relationship. Write each other text notes, do video calls and spend good time discussing things which are not just about COVID-19.
I am hopeful that we will fight this stubborn virus irrespective of how long it takes and that’s how nature works. But I also believe that this will take time. Hence, it’s important as a family and as partners to be wary of the change that’s coming. From economy to emotional wellness, the upheaval is going to be massive. While nothing may prepare us for the eventualities, discussing it with each other without being overwhelming is a great tool in both individual and relationship survival. Talk about your inhibitions, converse about fears, for the moment let differences be set away.
In our country the panic buying phenomenon hasn’t set in as yet. But grocery stores and supermarkets have started exhibiting empty shelves. The cabs may stop running during lockdowns and other means of transport will be scant too. Our finances may shrink and dependency on many aspects for a smooth daily routine may be crippled in the days to come. I can feel the turbulence and confusion and you may too. The time is ripe to make our homes the safe space for each other, emotionally and physically.
Adapt yourself to the new normal, together. Understand each other better and use this literal ‘all the time in the world’ for the same. Showcase immense compassion, use ‘we’ instead of ‘I’. Be open and curious about each other’s needs. There will be times where split-second decisions will need to be made and others when the usual options may be unavailable. Make yourself into a team.
While the churn continues, I firmly believe that we need to carry out all important precautionary measures. Social distancing, hygiene and genuine information dissemination. But what we also need to do is tell ourselves that it’s OK. It’s OK to do the mundane things, to feel overwhelmed and to seek each other’s support. Essentially, the survival kit for relationships lie in our own very hands.