When the first national lockdown started, a friend said she was praying for couples she thought were going to have it rough during lockdown. My first thought was, “This one is Miss Goodie Two-shoes vele. Of course, she’s praying.” I thought nothing more of it. It’s just over a year since that first lockdown and I look back with terror over the things we’ve had to survive. If Covid caught you in a relationship, especially one where you live together and have kids, there are multiple ways that you, your bundles, and your bae could’ve driven each other insane. If you survived, take a moment to pat yourself on the back, take a deep breath and get ready for the next phase. I think you’ve graduated to the next level! Congrats!
Firstly, Covid really messed with our money. A simple google search, a news broadcast, or a debate with your “woke” friend would quickly let you know the unemployment stats, the devastation to small businesses, the job losses, and the halted industries. I had just started my journey as an entrepreneur when the first lockdown happened. It was more out of necessity than good planning that I was now part of the “Mogul in the making” crowd. A work contract had just ended. My wife and I had moved out of our way too expensive apartment and moved in with my sister (a story for another day). Needless to say, it was not a “Love lives here” time for us. Money and the lack of it can twist a relationship out of shape. With growing debt, scrambling to cover monthly expenses, and going without your usual comforts, each of you starts to battle with your relationship with money. If you were born into a struggling family, the fears and the poverty mindset start creeping in, cracking the foundation of your self-esteem and starting a cruel cycle of self-doubt. If you were born into a well-off family, you probably start doubting your decisions and maybe your choice of partner. A relationship with money problems is a minefield to navigate.
Secondly, if you have kids, Covid made available to us new levels of frustration as we juggled the home office (assuming you didn’t lose your job) and the homeschooling. The home office, I kind of like. The homeschooling! God Bless all Teachers! Between trying to explain subtraction to a 6-year-old and managing the impending tantrum, you quickly discover how little your parenting skills have developed, thanks, in part, to the five or six hours a day that your children belong to teachers and principals. The challenge with homeschooling is that you’re not a trained teacher and you lack the patience to endure the counting, the ABC’s and the songs that have always magically existed in schools to help kids grasp numbers, letters, and words. The bundles of joy can also be bundles of terror and tantrums! To add a little more spice to your flavour of home chaos, many of us don’t think of parenting as a skill set to develop. As far as we understood, being a parent is this intuitive thing that you get from God knows where, once you and bae realise, she’s missed her monthlies. At most, parenting is the not so fine art of making your children do what you want them to do. Homeschooling taught us that “The Unspankables” have other ideas about what they want to do. We may just be raising small humans with feelings and ideas of their own after all.
Finally, Covid has revealed to some couples that they can’t stand each other! It was all good when we could get a break and hang with the boys or the girls. Small doses of your partner, a date night here and there, and the tense month-end grocery shopping trip were more than enough. During lockdown, there was no escape. If everyone in your household, bae, and bundles included, did not like each other, potential explosions of emotion lay waiting to be triggered everywhere. Some emotions don’t explode. They implode into a passive-aggressive, one-word answer, speak only when you have to type of relationship. There are many routes to a doomed relationship. One of them is pretending to be something you’re not. It’s really hard, unless you’re a psychopath, to pretend to be something you’re not when you’re stuck together in the house all day and night. All that’s hidden inside, like the proverbial toothpaste, comes leaking out with a bit of pressure. A friend once pointed out that what we call the seven-year itch that leads to break-ups and divorces is actually the seven-year limit to pretending you’re someone you’re not. It’s the point where the real “you” starts to show up in your relationship more often than the charming, well-groomed, and romantic “you”. Covid was like an acceleration program for relationships. The conflict was so easily available that the intimate partner violence incidences spiked significantly during lockdown. After all, conflict resolution is now that annoying workshop your HR department wants you to attend for 2 days when you have more pressing things to do. Lockdown showed couples that it is not. It’s the daily grind of a relationship. The effort to align your goals, backgrounds, ideas, and approaches to acting in a way that achieves the highest good for everyone involved in your relationship.
I feel very lucky that my wife suffers from anxiety. I feel really privileged that feeling anxious quickly descends into a panic attack for her. It’s a strange thing to say but it shifted the way in which we argue. It changed how I assigned blame and didn’t assign blame in a fight. It changed the rules of engagement in our relationship from targeting each other in a fight to addressing a problem in a way that best affirms each other despite someone being at fault. She could have acted selfishly but she wasn’t a selfish person. In short, anxiety made us ditch labeling each other and focus on affirming each other in a fight. If you have a flair for the dramatic, if banging doors and loud screaming creates the kind of sexual tension you and your partner enjoy releasing with make-up sex, then what I’m saying may sound boring but anxiety and panic attacks are no fun either. We used to have the typical 1 am couple arguments. They all ended in a panic attack. There are times when an argument won’t end well. It’s not really the time. It’s your state of mind. What kind of person are you at 1 am after a full day of work, homeschooling, and maybe a few drinks? It’s better to remind each other you’re in this together, set another time for the discussion when you’re a better you, and go to bed.