Marriage is hard. No one prepares you for all the ups and downs. The good days and bad days are as cyclical as the weather. Being married to a healthcare worker during the pandemic adds an extra layer of stress to the already fragile institution of marriage.

My husband has a passion for healthcare. It is always great to do what you love. I admire his enthusiasm, friends sit and listen to him talk for hours, and family members always give him praise for his work ethic. I listen to it all and take it in. I am always proud of him.

My role as the benevolent wife changed during the pandemic.

I still was supportive, but as the days grew long and COVID cases increased, I found myself getting bitter.

I found myself competing for his time with his patients. I think I am a rational person (most of the time), but the pandemic brought out the worst in me. I found myself juggling everything at home. I realize I am privileged to even be at home with my kids, but I missed my husband. He was stretched thin already, and I felt he did not have time for the kids or me.

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One day, I was at my wit’s end and called him at work. He had been working seven days straight, and I missed having an adult conversation. My pride did not let me open up to him until now. I was on hold forever, adding flames to the fire of anger I possessed. Finally, I hung up. His voice mail was full on his cell phone. I knew I had to wait until he got home to share my feelings.

When my husband pulled into the garage, the kids were already getting ready for bed. I was reheating his dinner. He walked in and I saw that his body was slouching.

Something in me stopped me from raising my voice and yelling.

He was walking slowly, and he told me about all the patients he lost due to COVID. He said he knew he was not at home as much as I needed him to be, but he could not let the pandemic take any more people.

My husband works in a rural city. He loves his patients, and they love him. It is a community that already suffers from other health ailments and the pandemic has taken a toll on them. My husband visits his patients’ houses to test them for COVID, does medication deliveries, and provides sanitizers when the stores are out of them. As vaccinations are rolling out, he makes sure to be equitable and provide ample opportunity for patients to get vaccinated. I know all he does is for them, and I know I need to be a stronger person to support him.

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He stood in the kitchen where I could see his eyes were filled with sadness. I know he tries so hard to do the right thing for the community. Everything I wanted to say dissipated when I looked at him. I saw the torment he felt when he walked in, knowing I would be angry.

I know he anticipated a fight and did not have the strength to argue. He said he was sorry, and we left it at that.

Sorry does not make the days any easier for either of us, but the acknowledgment that he understood that for him to help others I had to take care of the home front was a good start.

Marriage is a sacrifice. Rarely do you find a perfect partnership where everyone is always happy.

There are times one person will always feel neglected, misunderstood, or hurt. Marriage during a pandemic is even more difficult. But I realize that to do the greater good, we all must chip in.

For me, that meant not seeing friends and staying safe, not just for our sake but for my husband’s patients’ safety. It also means I take care of things at home and that will have to be our new normal. I understand my anger stems from loneliness and it is justified. But I also know the character of the man I married. He is an Army veteran who took an oath to always protect this country. I loved him for his service then, and I continue to love him for his service now.

Zeel Patel

Zeel Patel lives in North Carolina with her family and sweet puppy, Theodore Roosevelt. She works in healthcare but her passion is writing. When not working, you can find her volunteering at her kids' schools, typing away on her laptop, or reading well into the night. Her motivation comes from those who were not granted enough time to finish their story. Follow her on Twitter @zpatel24