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When the pandemic was gaining speed and quarantine was approaching I was overly optimistic for the forced quality time my husband and I would share. He had no other choice but to be stuck inside with me, after all, state orders requested as much. My husband works two jobs and is enrolled in graduate school so it would take an act of God, truly, for him to slow down and focus on togetherness, and that’s just what we got.

Snuggles, 1000 piece puzzles, cooking new meals, and binge-watching lasted about as long as the Netflix Tiger King hype. It was all fun and games and resembled a stay-cation until we grew tired of each other. Days 1-7 were enjoyable. We had much-needed family time, cared for the lawn, made time-consuming dinners, and were cute with one another.

Weeks 2-3 were tolerable and slow.

Weeks 3-4 were mundane.

But…day 30 hit and Houston, this is Jennifer, and we have a problem.

Just as I need the occasional break from constant togetherness with my toddler, I needed my handsome partner out of sight.

He was irritating me, being sloppy, growing distant, and we started to say rather ugly things to one another. I’m not sure if it was the boredom, but even our subconscious was picking fights. Big and small fights. Fights lasting longer than ever before. Who got to go to the grocery store or pick up drive-thru dinner was a disagreement-turned-explosive fight about who gets what they want more in our marriage. Who was online shopping too much (raises hand), and who was hogging the evening TV (me again!) created some hot button issues.

The arguing didn’t end there. But it wasn’t ever really about financial uncertainty, lack of sex, or the mess (oh the mess in the house!) . . . it was about the stress.

The daily unnoticed was now blaring right into my husband’s face. The tantrums, the time-outs, the ouchies, the never-ending dishes, the multiple loads of laundry a day were staring right back at my husband anywhere he roamed the home. It’s no wonder he hid away in his office (and bathroom) so much—this was all new to him. And it’s a lot to integrate into at full speed.

I’ll be honest: COVID didn’t strengthen our marriage, it strained it.

I’m not selling our marriage short; we’ve weathered many trying times together, but we openly told each other, “Go away,” “I can’t stand you,” and some even worse lines. I’m not proud of it. Whoever said, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” undeniably quarantined with a loved one.

The fairytale marriage has become less and less idealistic. Seasoned marriages will tell you that quarantining with your spouse requires adapting to the truth that yes, you will want him less, and he may ask you for space, too. It requires immense forgiveness and understanding. It takes creativity and a sense of humor for a relationship to survive a pandemic.

I’d wager a guess if traditional wedding vows added, “I vow to enjoy all 180 days locked in a house with you,” many would bow out entirely or omit that particular promise. God knows I haven’t held up my end of the bargain with wedding vows this year—and they are framed on our bedroom wall as a daily reminder to live by.

Sadly, I’ve watched marriages struggle and come to an end since the beginning of the pandemic. Friends have opened up and told me about their weekly blow-ups with their spouses over similar issues we’re arguing about in our home. My heart goes out to the marriages that otherwise would have been able to work things out if it weren’t for the stress of COVID. It’s an unfair hand and trial.

Quarantining while married is an exercise in patience.

It’s a crucible to new relationships, and even to those pushing 30 years together. My husband and I are emerging from quarantine a united front, but I tell you this—love on a lockdown was hard. We barely made it. And it’s OK if your marriage is in a different place than it was a year ago—ours is too.

Here’s how two broken people kept their marriage from breaking.

Marriage takes work. Thankfully, there’s an app that can help! Lasting—the nation’s #1 relationship counseling app—provides accessible sessions designed to help you build a healthy marriage. Download and take Lasting’s free Relationship Health Assessment. 

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Jennifer Bailey

Stay at home mom enjoying one little boy and navigating parenting one trip to Target at a time.

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