Marriage Wasn’t Built to Survive Quarantine
April 19, 2020 6:35 AM   Subscribe

My husband is the only person I can stand to be around for long periods of time so being "stuck" at home with him and not having to interact with anyone else has been delightful.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:23 AM on April 19 [79 favorites]

Seems weird to me to think of any relationship, but particularly one as high-stakes and high-investment as marriage, as something you just have or don’t have, rather than something you build together. How could you not have changed after an experience like this? How could she not? Of course your marriage isn’t going to be the same marriage in a year. But that was going to be true regardless, if for less dramatic reasons.
posted by mhoye at 7:36 AM on April 19 [16 favorites]

Really appreciate this article, thank you. Yes, even those of us who think of being stuck at home with our spouse as wonderful, even for those of us for whom it has been wonderful so far, could likely benefit from accepting that this crisis will strain everything, even our wonderful marriages, and that’s not a reflection of a failing with us but the reality of a terrifying time.
posted by lazaruslong at 7:41 AM on April 19 [19 favorites]

I can’t go to a bar when she gets on my nerves. She can’t go shopping when she needs to get away. We can’t go see our friends to vent.

Uh oh.
posted by mhoye at 7:41 AM on April 19 [39 favorites]

Honestly, the bar/shopping line made me think the writer's marriage isn't in quite as good a condition as they think it is.
posted by Mauve at 7:44 AM on April 19 [50 favorites]

Oh give me a break. Yes, married people can get on each other’s nerves and need to get away from one another. There’s nothing weird or troubling about that at all. Married people are still people.
posted by lazaruslong at 7:49 AM on April 19 [85 favorites]

The funny thing is because this a Medium article it fades away after 3 or 4 lines of text....just like my covid-19 brain's attention span.
posted by srboisvert at 7:56 AM on April 19 [10 favorites]

I personally think some of the problem is kids. Children put undue societal pressure on a relationship to remain together in a bad situation which can make something salvageable into a situation that needs to be left. Also, kids are a huge amount of physical and emotional labor. Once that's used it becomes increasingly hard to be empathetic or even logical about minor issues. If one parent has been dealing with the kids all day while the other partner has been intensely WFH and all you want is said partner to pick up their stupid socks it's a lot harder to remain in control when all your spoons are gone.

My wife and I have basically been 24/7 around each other whenever she's work from home. We make it work because we're independent people and we're empathetic to each other because of our respective issues. We're also two independent people who are very good at parallel play which makes it a lot easier. I can be playing a game on the TV, she'll read a book on her iPad. She'll watch a CW show on the TV, I'll head to my PC and play a game. You just work around each other and everyone is happy.

Sometimes it might just be a bad pairing based on a shaky foundation. It might finally be the catalyst that lets both parties cut their losses and move onto other relationships that could make them much happier.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 8:11 AM on April 19 [8 favorites]

Some of what's going on here (In this very discussion!) is that not all happy relationships are structured the same way. Some relationships are the "ride-or-die, your friend is my friend, every thought I have is a new thing to tell you, literally cannot get enough of you" sort. And then others are, "i do me, you do you, you have your friends and I have mine, we've worked out how we fit in to each other's lives" sort.

The former spend a LOT of time together, because that's their preferred state. More time together? This is heaven! Maybe we can work from home permanently! The latter, though, maybe they see each other just enough that they've got their preferred level, but more than that is too much. Normally, it's not a problem! You see your friends, I see mine, we hang out and stream TV together later. But in this situation?

I suspect some people think they had the former structure, but really have maintained the latter. There is nothing wrong with that! But that doesn't make it feel any better, especially for months.

I expect a *lot* of relationships to fail out of this.
posted by erinfern at 8:33 AM on April 19 [52 favorites]

What erinfern said, but even more that it's useful to conceptualize that as a dichotomy but it's in practice more a spectrum (or a cluster of related spectra) that relationship dynamics will fall all sorts of places along, and different folks will have different envelopes of comfort about how much that can shift and how quickly.

One of the tricky things about relationships is separating out the idea that the conditions of the relationship might be brittle from the idea that the people in the relationship are brittle; you might be two reasonably flexible people who have already pushed your respective envelopes to find a happy, functioning compromise point for your relationship, and then something big shifts and one or both of you ends up being stretched too far too quickly. I think a lot of new stress folks are going to be feeling in their relationships will be things like that, where it's less that the relationship is struggling because one or both people can't be flexible but because the circumstances are requiring people already doing a fair amount of flexing to suddenly flex more, and that's hard and it can end up being too much.
posted by cortex at 8:44 AM on April 19 [25 favorites]

This vignette from an article written by Fan Yiying about China's post-quarantine divorce rate feels like it could be representative of a lot of marriages in which home responsibilities were largely on women pre-Covid19.
Xiao Mei, a 32-year-old from Beijing, moved out of the apartment she used to share with her husband and filed for divorce soon after life in the city started to return to normal. She tells Sixth Tone the crisis revealed her husband’s “true face.”

According to Xiao, her husband always used to tell her he was too busy with work to help with housework and child care. “But this time (during the lockdown) he had plenty of time, yet he still did nothing,” says Xiao. “I finally realized my husband is a giant baby, and I don’t want to carry on with this widow-like existence anymore.”
posted by spamandkimchi at 8:51 AM on April 19 [115 favorites]

I agree that this situation is stressful and will stress all relationships (romantic, familial, platonic etc), regardless of how healthy.

But I also think having to work from home, homeschooling, having the absence of home health care aides, all of that also spotlights unbalanced responsibilities and assumptions. From an admittedly unscientific sampling of my students, it is largely women who are being asked to shoulder the additional eldercare and childcare or sibling care. Women already are more likely to have very little free time (see Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte). What happens when there is no separation between work and home? So many working parents in my circle expressed what a relief it was to go back to work after having a baby and getting to be their whole selves, and not just (as one friend put it memorably) a "milk dispenser."
posted by spamandkimchi at 8:58 AM on April 19 [30 favorites]

She tells Sixth Tone the crisis revealed her husband’s “true face.”

This is primarily the reason IMO. How people react during stress or a potentially dangerous situation, particularly in relation to those they claim to love, really speaks volumes of who they are IMO. In fact, the movie The Loneliest Planet tackles it beautifully.
posted by Young Kullervo at 9:01 AM on April 19 [10 favorites]

That there might be a wave of separations following such a stressful situation doesn't seem surprising. Even if you are a couple that likes spending all your time together, there are a bunch of stressors happening all at once, including job losses, health fears, political dysfunction, home schooling, and so on, that all make day to day life more difficult. A relationship that was solid and good before might not feel that way during or after.

And, like spamandkimchi says just above, the burdens are not falling on people equally, which is going to play a significant role, too.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:02 AM on April 19

Honestly, the bar/shopping line made me think the writer's marriage isn't in quite as good a condition as they think it is.

Agreed. I think the issue, contrary to what other commenters are saying about relationship styles (which I also agree with) is that it sounds like they may have been relying on a bunch of inherited assumptions, eg. about gender roles, to make their marriage work, rather than building their own relationship foundation specific to the two of them (which may, in practice, have included the bar/shopping dichotomy, but I suspect would have been described differently by the author, rather than using kind of sexist trope shorthand?). Inherited assumptions of course being quite brittle when the external situation changes rapidly and drastically.

'Course, it probably doesn't help anything to have random people on the internet opine on their relationship dynamics with no personal knowledge of the situation whatsoever.
posted by eviemath at 9:05 AM on April 19 [4 favorites]

Seems to me that quarantine will show couples how resilient their relationship is in the face of a serious life challenge. Resilience and grit go a long way in a marriage. However, existing, yet ignored, issues in a relationship may come to the forefront during this time.

I disagree with the author in that there is no outlet for couples to get away from each other now. How about a video happy hour with friends? Granted, it might be harder if you are in a small space, but you figure it out.
posted by socrateaser at 9:07 AM on April 19 [3 favorites]

^ The space does make a difference. If you're sharing a one-room studio apartment, or were already just renting a room as a couple in a shared apartment or something, then you probably can't afford good noise cancelling headphones or other tools that would help with creating "away space" more effectively in those circumstances. But yeah, there are other at-home options for many people.
posted by eviemath at 9:16 AM on April 19 [13 favorites]

But I also think having to work from home, homeschooling, having the absence of home health care aides, all of that also spotlights unbalanced responsibilities and assumptions.

Early in the quarantine, a woman tweeted something to the effect of “How many of you moms have discovered that you had one more child than you thought you did?”

Most women replied with gifs of resigned nodding. Most men replied with “How did you forget how many kids you had? 🤣”
posted by Etrigan at 9:20 AM on April 19 [81 favorites]

Title is circular logic ... if you think on it, marriage IS a kind of quarantine.
posted by Twang at 9:23 AM on April 19 [3 favorites]

it's in practice more a spectrum (or a cluster of related spectra)

Yeah. So like - my spouse is one of those that wants to be by my side constantly. I am okay with a lot of together time, but it requires me to be “on” a lot. I usually get my time to decompress and not talk to anyone while my spouse is at work. Now they are at home, all the time. They take breaks all the time to come see me. I have to wake up early just to have an hour to myself. It’s genuinely hard, but also hard to explain why you need to be away from even the best loved person.
posted by corb at 9:28 AM on April 19 [22 favorites]

I am so happy for whoever I am not in a relationship with right now.
posted by j_curiouser at 9:29 AM on April 19 [45 favorites]

How people react during stress or a potentially dangerous situation, particularly in relation to those they claim to love, really speaks volumes of who they are IMO

I have a family member who puts zero effort into staying in touch and is inattentive and distant in person. In emergency situations they are 100% present, will move mountains if needed, then go back to disinterest when the disaster is averted. Another is supportive, warm, affectionate every day, but in hard times gets so wrapped up in their own fears that they basically shut down emotionally. I don't think people "show who they really are" during dangerous times, I think they "show how they deal with danger" - important info, but doesn't cancel out how they act when they do NOT feel in danger/peril.
posted by rogerroger at 9:38 AM on April 19 [104 favorites]

My grandmother always used to say "For better or worse, but never for lunch."
posted by lohmannn at 9:40 AM on April 19 [20 favorites]

As one anecdote among many: the relationships I see struggling the most are those where the couple have somewhat idealized views of each other.

My friends who generally talk about their spouse as being inherently and always wonderful, are also those who are texting me now to say they are being driven up the wall by bad habits or weird reactions. Whereas those who accepted (and occasionally ranted about) their spouse’s fallibility are mostly saying “yep, quarantine is mostly the same”.

Which makes me wonder if the couples most likely to divorce after quarantine, are those who are earlier in their marriages? On the basis that longer-term couples are more likely to have experienced some other stressor that forced them to acknowledge their failings, and already found their coping mechanisms.

(Acknowledging my own biases, because my partner and I have been together about 10 years and have had long conversations about our mutual annoyances over that time. We seem to be doing fine with quarantine, but we also already knew things like “Device loses his sense of humor when over-stressed, at the same time as Ms. Device can’t stop making jokes, so maybe it’s time to read in separate rooms”.)
posted by a device for making your enemy change his mind at 11:17 AM on April 19 [14 favorites]

mx. sciatrix and I have weathered so many high-stress events since getting married six years ago, sometimes I wonder how we'll react to a time when both of us can just relax and not have some sort of crisis to endure. I wonder if that isn't part of what you're getting at, a device for making your enemy change his mind; my partner and I are getting really practiced at managing our own mutual stress reactions and trying not to dump them on one another or set each other off by now. It's not even just accepting and ranting about our mutual falliabilities, but also stuff like... negotiating how to handle it if someone gets overwhelmed and melts down into an explosion, figuring out how our mutual responses to stress set one another on edge, and providing support to each other as we try to figure out how to handle yet another disaster.

But. I guess if you haven't already been exposed to prolonged stressors like, say, "our house flooded and we will now be spending two months sleeping on the living room floor with two other adults" or "we have no HVAC for two months in a Texas summer and also our kitchen does not have any working appliances", it's harder to work out how you respond to that and what you need and how to articulate and communicate that shit.

And at the same time, stress and trauma does make relationships brittle. No one is being their best selves right now. Our friend networks are not being their best selves right now, either, and so we are pouring more energy into maintaining those relationships as well. Everyone is trying, both in the sense of the verb and the sense of the adjective, and we are all a little rough-edged in our fear.

I wonder how pre-existing levels of external stress and trauma affecting relationships will interact with the additional factor of COVID isolation. Will stressed-out people who are experienced with disasters cling tighter together while people who haven't encountered a stressor like this flounder, or will the additional burden on top of so many more shatter foundations while people who have been more secure to this point bear the weight more easily?
posted by sciatrix at 11:32 AM on April 19 [14 favorites]

I'm glad this article exists, and I'd love to see another one that addresses the role of children in the quarantine scenario. What the author's marriage is like right now seems absolutely blissful compared to my household with three teenagers, each of whom are going through their own personal emotional difficulties (two of them are seniors and there is a lot of crying about missing graduation, prom, spring break, all the things that make high school seem "worth it"; I genuinely hate it for them and I hate that I can't fix it).

I do daydream regularly about getting a divorce, and I think the fact of being furloughed at the same time makes that feel more possible--if one of the handful of things that keeps me tethered to my current place is my job, and that's not happening, why not cut the other string and move away from my difficult marriage? I imagine thousands if not millions of people are in a similar boat. And it's equally easy to imagine sticking together through this--we've been though hard times before; we'll go through them again--and that it'll end up being a valuable bonding time with my stepkids. It really seems 50/50 most days.

And: it's hilarious that anyone is forecasting a post-quarantine baby boom.
posted by witchen at 11:36 AM on April 19 [15 favorites]

the relationships I see struggling the most are those where the couple have somewhat idealized views of each other.

I read this with interest. I'm in a somewhat different situation in that I'm in a long term committed LDR which is mostly fine but, for now, means we don't see each other in person. And part of this is what erinfern discusses above. I want to be in a relationship but I know myself and know I can't commit to being a decent person all the time when there is someone else living in my home.

And I think many people have versions of a "low residency relationship" where maybe you share a space but you share it differently (he's in the shop, she's in the kitchen; or she's in the garage and he's painting the living room; or she's in the yard and she's in bed with Netflix; or he's at his job and he's at the gym) but it kind of depends on not totally sharing the same space at all times. This is different from that. And some people adjust well and some people adjust less well and maybe you knew this about your partner, how they'd adjust, but maybe you didn't.

Your home is likewise different when you're in it all the time. WFH people knew this but everyone's learning it now. You go through food and supplies at an alarming rate. Things get dirty so fast. The dishes! The neighbors are home all the time too!

I've been super lucky that the bulk of our New Normal disagreements are "Can you PLEASE move your giant jar of Metamucil out of our video chat?" "Can you PLEASE stop telling me how hard it is to teach your landlady how to use her computer?" but there have been new awarenesses like he can't totally keep up with changing CDC advice/news, and I basically don't get dressed or hardly shower anymore compared to normal times (IF U CAN SMELL ME U R TOO CLOSE). I'm surprised how much more married I feel weathering this at a distance.Thanks for making this post.
posted by jessamyn at 12:01 PM on April 19 [22 favorites]

And: it's hilarious that anyone is forecasting a post-quarantine baby boom.

I think a baby boom's much more likely due to the inevitable bacchanal when the quarantine ends. Single people will be extra down to clown and some married/coupled people will be extra tempted to try some strange.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:07 PM on April 19 [11 favorites]

I'd love to be stuck at home with just my spouse. Alas, we have this seven-year-old human here as well and he won't shuuuut uuuuuuup.
posted by soren_lorensen at 12:09 PM on April 19 [37 favorites]

My wife and I already spent a tremendous amount of time together. We often work together. We've ridden out a huge amount of stress together. Family tragedies early in the relationship. Financial stresses. Death. Illnesses. We've seen that shit. This? This is nothing.

However, I reject the trope that trauma and stress reveal your "true self." Anybody can break. Anybody. If there was a true self to uncover then the stress of torture would uncover the truth. It doesn't. Plus we're alway more than one self.

While we all have dominant personality traits we all also wear social masks. And that doesn't make us phony. It means we actually care about other people or carry anxieties we don't want to show.

In fact your "true self" is entirely situational and is under constant change in the first place. Second, what stress may reveal is that some people either never learned certain coping mechanisms or have a neurology that operates in a certain context. But not all stress is equal. People react differently to different stresses.

My childhood was often under an unreasonable amount of stress. For instance I'm pretty good when facing violence, life threatening emergencies, and dealing with death. Because my old man, carrier military, was always on the verge of being blown up or shot during my youth. And on Army bases during a war you see lots of people dealing with death all the time. I expected him to die. Also, for a while he had a very volatile temper and had PTSD. I learned to remain calm. I grew up getting in constant fist fights being the new kid or the foreign kid or the small nerdy kid and then channeling that into boxing for years in my youth physical violence doesn't really phase me emotionally all that much. I learned to not hold grudges. And that my anger subsides very quickly.

But the downside is in my family we can't feel sadness and anger is a default when dealing with minor set backs. My father yelled at inanimate objects. I sometimes yell at inanimate objects. Like a stubborn washer door that won't shut. I will beat that shit senseless. I have to really calm myself. I am shit at certain mundane day to day stress. I'm sometimes needlessly confrontational with strangers in public that I perceive as bullies. I wear masks to cover all that. If you met me you'd think I was a very mellow person.

My wife grew up with a gentle soft spoken Kentuckian. But she was also raised under a pall of death given her sister had fatal congenital disease. She is nearly always good spirited, immensely kind, calm, and very forthright about her emotions. She is insanely conscientious and helps people to a fault. She learned that sadness is okay. Where I substitute sadness for anger or displaced anxiety at the washer.

But man. If you cross that woman? The other side of Kentucky comes out. Under stress? She holds grudges like nobodies business. And you'd never know. She'd smile at you but never ever forget you fucked her over. She will wait years for an opportunity to get back at somebody. It's cold as hell.

But which one is really her or me? All of it. It's all you.
posted by Everyone Expects The Spanish Influenza at 12:12 PM on April 19 [60 favorites]

> Honestly, the bar/shopping line made me think the writer's marriage isn't in quite as good a condition as they think it is.

Huh -- I didn't even notice it until it was pointed out here. I've known plenty of people who relax by going to a bar, and plenty who relax by going shopping. I've been both, myself, at various times in my life. I've even discussed my feelings towards Costco with my therapist.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:17 PM on April 19 [2 favorites]

Everyone Expects the Spanish Influenza I appreciate your perspective, thank you. And you’re not wrong. I suppose I meant in terms of whether or not we have our partner’s best interest in mind above all else, not necessarily small micro-aggressions or personality traits or what have you. You may yell at the washer but I doubt you would abandon your spouse to save your own skin or let them struggle while you hid or refused to help them out because you are just lazy or feel it’s not your obligation or role. This is what I meant. I think the realization that their partners don’t give a shit about them or the relationship over themselves is what is driving people apart, not having to deal with them as complex people more frequently.

Also I am a combo of you and your partner (also Kentuckian here) so that made me laugh.
posted by Young Kullervo at 1:34 PM on April 19 [3 favorites]

MetaFilter: down to clown
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:37 PM on April 19 [10 favorites]

And: it's hilarious that anyone is forecasting a post-quarantine baby boom.

yeah it's incomprehensible to me that anyone trapped at home with a small child right now would potentially be like "how can we make this twice as bad"
posted by poffin boffin at 2:15 PM on April 19 [22 favorites]

also considering how many red states' leaderships are feverishly jerkin the gherkin over deliberately harming women by trying to ban abortions, a good portion of any potential baby booms could end up being forced births.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:19 PM on April 19 [11 favorites]

Flip side is a significant percentage of unplanned births are to teenagers with poor access to birth control and information. That hasn't changed but I'm guessing the amount of sex in this cohort has been reduced.

Rearding marriage conflict and quarantine: it's not like I stopped being an introvert when I got married. My spouse is the person I can spend the most time with but I still need time alone. We luckily have lots of space at home and we're allowed to leave the house for exercise but still the whole situation has been a stressor.
posted by Mitheral at 2:30 PM on April 19 [6 favorites]

Put me down as another who has an effortless time being with my spouse during this crisis. After traveling the world 3 months straight and dealing with jet lag and an ever changing set of inconveniences like sickness and bad food, this is a breeze.

The only hardship is worrying about our loved ones and the collapse of the world and our republic.
posted by uraniumwilly at 3:21 PM on April 19 [4 favorites]

I don't think this article is particularly revelatory. I liked these stories better. But I do find people's comments and thoughts here to be worthwhile, better than the article. I'm always interested in reading what are essentially relationship case studies.
posted by limeonaire at 3:45 PM on April 19 [4 favorites]

Single people will be extra down to clown...

Yes. Absolutely yes. Months of solitude and lack of any human contact will do that.

I was in the budding phase of a relationship, with sex the next item on the agenda, just as we got the order to self-isolate. Growing a relationship without the crucial first steps of actual physical intimacy is disappointing and frustrating and weird. Sexting and FaceTime isn't cutting it in the absence of recollected memories, and thwarting some deep evolutionary drives. Finding other ways to connect is tough and not always successful. We're trying, but... yeah. Long distance dating is a silly concept.

So yeah. This is both the best and worst time to be single and isolated, probably as it's the best and worst time to be married and isolated.
posted by Capt. Renault at 4:33 PM on April 19 [5 favorites]

Most women replied with gifs of resigned nodding. Most men replied with “How did you forget how many kids you had? 🤣”

Lord, but I hope someone replied with, “Your dad jokes will not save you when the revolution comes.”

I’m also struck by how women commiserated and men took the opportunity to turn women’s stress and anger into a punchline.
posted by sobell at 6:02 PM on April 19 [16 favorites]

I'm struck by how many women continue to choose to live that way (obviously, many are in situations where choice is, at best, illusory), but then I'm always struck by it.
posted by praemunire at 8:06 PM on April 19 [4 favorites]

I'm struck by how many women continue to choose to live that way (obviously, many are in situations where choice is, at best, illusory), but then I'm always struck by it.

It is, unfortunately, a numbers game. If you are heterosexual, and you want someone reasonably close to your own age to raise children with, you have the choices that are out there. If only 10% of the men your age are not like this, and the rest are on a sliding scale of not-used-to-doing-things, that's a majority of women that are going to have to make some unpalatable choices.

And of course, it's impossible to separate economics from this: it's easier for men to be more egalitarian the more money they have and the more they can outsource the hard work that's usually in conflict. It doesn't mean they are possessed of some unique quality, it's all Maslow stuff.
posted by corb at 9:22 PM on April 19 [14 favorites]

Luckily spouse and I have had long periods before this where we were both out of work or working from home simultaneously so we’ve mostly learned how to not annoy each other to death. The novelty I just noticed i that now we’re taking turns having bad days. Yesterday was his turn. Today was my turn to be irritable and he managed me very nicely. The kids? A day is not the appropriate unit, it is too long. They have moods in chunks of about 2-3 hours.
posted by bq at 9:46 PM on April 19 [3 favorites]

“Your dad jokes will not save you when the revolution comes.”

"Hi Revolution, I'm Dad!"
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:48 PM on April 19 [13 favorites]

I’m not dating anyone at the moment, so I really don’t do you guys decide who eats who?
posted by sexyrobot at 1:30 AM on April 20 [3 favorites]

Well if you are into it you can both enjoy that at the same time by.....wait I may be misinterpreting your question somewhat.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 2:39 AM on April 20 [6 favorites]

Pffffft. This guy - I don't wanna brag but - pfffft. Then again we've been together a long time and... just - there's a point where it's not about the 'holy' 'marriage' its about I love this person and I want what's best for them and I hope that means me. Also, shit, we went through two kids, who are now teenagers. I think the quaranteen is more painful for them than for us - then again they have youTube and various other outlets we don't.
posted by From Bklyn at 4:41 AM on April 20 [1 favorite]

My wife and I have been together for almost 20 years. Neither of us have ever felt the need to raise our voice in anger against the other, and I doubt this fucking pandemic is up to the task of breaking that streak. We got 99 problems but s/he ain’t one.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:01 AM on April 20 [1 favorite]

My wife and I already spent a tremendous amount of time together. We often work together. We've ridden out a huge amount of stress together. Family tragedies early in the relationship. Financial stresses. Death. Illnesses.

My husband and I have similar loads of experience under our belts. We have been together over 20 years, we spend a lot of time together, and we have survived all kinds of outside stressors including parents dying, jobs being terrible, surgeries, and terrible messy family situations.

I won't say adjusting to shelter-in-place has been perfect for us. Working from home is new to me, but not to my husband, and I find the distractions very hard to take. I was burned out and depressed by the end of 2019 from four long years of my dad being incredibly ill, and then my dad died in the middle of February. Making and eating 98% of our meals at home has been an adjustment. We don't have kids so we haven't had those woes.

My husband has taken very well to shelter-in-place and seems to be doing fine. I'm having a harder time adjusting and with my father's death, my anxiety has really sky-rocketed. We had a few arguments centered around some unexpected things that were triggering me - food shortage anxiety, feeling like I didn't get to mourn my dad, financial anxiety when my job announced furloughs. Some of the arguments were not great, but were followed by very good, productive conversations about our differing reactions.

I think we'll be fine. Honestly, I'm much more interested in going back to spending time in my office workplace to get away from my pack of noisy, needy little dogs, than to get away from my husband. Never ever find and adopt a homeless chihuahua puppy right before a global pandemic. The shrieking during Zoom calls will end your composure forever.
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 9:51 AM on April 20 [5 favorites]

The pandemic and the female academic (essay from April 17 2020 at Nature) written by Alessandra Minello who is a social demographer who studies how families manage household and paid work.
I often focus on academic and professional women, and now I feel as if I am my own subject. I am already working with colleagues to set up interviews and an online ethnography study.

This pandemic can teach some of us an important lesson: mothers and fathers together are facing a short-term reorganization of care and work time.

I’m curious what lockdown will reveal about the ‘maternal wall’ that can block faculty advancement.
posted by spamandkimchi at 11:23 AM on April 20 [4 favorites]

Every time we talk to friends, they're surprised that my spouse and I are continuing to live two thousand miles apart (as we have been for a few years) instead of moving to be together in isolation. I find the idea that they're confused, rather than jealous, baffling. (I realize not having kids and both having stable incomes at the moment is radically different from many people.)

I love my spouse. I love spending time with my spouse. More than a 25% waking duty cycle for more than a few weeks while on vacation sounds deeply frustrating. They feel the same. Maybe it's because we're both weird, introverted, career-focused, only-children. . . but, I'm really glad we aren't living together at the moment. I don't think there's anyone else in the world I could live with under these conditions, but, even so, it's really nice not to have to do so. I can pace the room in the middle of the afternoon for two hours while thinking about something, play podcasts while I brush my teeth, and stir fry at 3am without irritating anyone. We talk a lot more often now than we would have been doing otherwise. Once again, I managed to get very lucky in this situation.
posted by eotvos at 11:39 AM on April 20 [3 favorites]

Single people will be extra down to clown...

Hahaha. We've been having Zoom cocktail hours every day with different friends. I was rather surprised by a couple single lady pals, who are normally fairly private people, being rather... open... in expressing this.

One of them told us a funny story about that. In her condo building, which is centered around an open court yard, one night somebody yelled from a balcony "GOD! I am so bored!" So another neighbor began reading Trivial pursuit questions out loud and it sparked a an improved game night. A month or so later the same person one night yelled "GOD! I am so horny!" And there was this quiet.

Then someone else yelled - "You're on your own." Followed by somebody else yelling "Hold on! Check your email! Do you have FaceTime?"

Which I though was pretty funny. In my Jeff Goldblum voice I thought "Nature... uh... nature finds a... uh... way."
posted by Everyone Expects The Spanish Influenza at 12:09 PM on April 20 [17 favorites]

Husband and I have had so many deeply stressful times since we've been together, so many bizarre living situations and catastrophes, it's a wonder we've even gotten this far, and this is honestly no sweat compared to some of that. I guess if your relationship hasn't already been repeatedly and aggressively stress-tested, this'll serve that purpose.

I guess Elvis had it right.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 8:19 PM on April 20

If you are heterosexual, and you want someone reasonably close to your own age to raise children with, you have the choices that are out there.

And yet it quite predictably transpires over and over again that most of these men don't actually qualify as raising the child "with" you, as opposed to being in the same house where the raising happens, sometimes. I don't like the way that these jokes effectively normalize the situation, as if an adult man voluntarily incapable of taking care of himself and his children isn't a parasite and an oppressor and a disgrace.
posted by praemunire at 1:18 AM on April 21 [1 favorite]

How people react during stress or a potentially dangerous situation, particularly in relation to those they claim to love, really speaks volumes of who they are IMO.
posted by Young Kullervo at 12:01 PM on April 19 [10 favorites +] [!]

It's been two days since this comment and MeFi was down for me for most of those two days so I've had time to move past my initial impulse reply and sit with this.

Young Kullervo, I am assuming good faith on your part and I don't want you take this personally, so I'd like to abstract it away from being a Thought You Had because the sentiment here is something I've heard many many many times and is by no means new or uncommon. So I'm going to reply to that more widespread thing and not you specifically, again cause I don't want to offend.

The idea that the Real You comes out in times of stress is incredibly toxic. It's almost always used pejoratively, as if some mask drops and the awful person one was all along is finally revealed. But even when used to praise, it's incredibly toxic.

There are certainly people for whom times of great danger and stress can be a clarifying stimulus which produces great acts of heroism and whatnot, that's great. But for every one of those, there's like a million for whom times of great danger and stress produce reactions which range a massive spectrum. People have pasts, they have trauma, they have PTSD, they have OCD, they have a myriad other mental and physical health challenges which make times of stress and danger reveal their trauma, and that is not their True Self and implying that it is is incredibly hurtful.

Telling someone that suffers from major depressive disorder and has OCD behaviors surround germs that their true self is being revealed when they withdraw from loved ones during a global pandemic can not just be hurtful, but be fatal. That's not the message to give to someone who may be at risk for self-harm. It's just an awful thing to say. There's so many people for whom some variation of the above is true. Perpetuating a quasi-machismo myth of Stress and Danger show your True Colors is terrible, full stop. It really sucked to read it here.
posted by lazaruslong at 8:45 AM on April 21 [21 favorites]

As my wife explained her new whiteboard organization system to me I suddenly realized "Oh shit. I'm now the work husband as well as the actual husband"
posted by srboisvert at 7:35 PM on April 21 [10 favorites]

This isn’t how marriage is supposed to look. And it damn sure isn’t how marriages were made to work.

I mean, it is, actually how marriage is supposed to work -- in sorrow as well as joy, stress as well as calm. Most marriages will have many difficult times that you hopefully weather together and come out stronger for. The pandemic is unique, but being under stress isn't.
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:54 AM on April 22 [2 favorites]

I don't like the way that these jokes effectively normalize the situation, as if an adult man voluntarily incapable of taking care of himself and his children isn't a parasite and an oppressor and a disgrace.

I am so here for this analysis, my prime concern is making sure the focus is more on “why are men like this” and less “why do women choose them out of their abundance of choices”. Though I’ll also say: 1) oppressors and disgraces are effectively normal and 2) sometimes people make mild jokes because they don’t feel safe enough to come out and say “help me I am drowning”.
posted by corb at 9:57 AM on April 23 [6 favorites]

Yeah, what this author seems to kind of miss, or maybe just not touch on enough for my comfort, is that marriages come in such a wide variety of shapes and styles, between people of so many different temperaments and upbringings, who bring to the table so many different personal, familial, and social norms, baggage, and expectations around the institution, that it's kind of hard to make blanket statements about it, what it is designed to do, how it works, and what effects certain stressors will have on it. I haven't done a deep enough dive to be adequately familiar with David Dennis, Jr.'s age or socioeconomic/family/religious background to make a good guess about what's going through his head, but it's kind of coming off as though he thinks this "marriage" thing is and should be the same experience for everybody.

As always, adjust your grains of salt accordingly to anything written by this spinster with a cat.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:36 AM on April 26 [2 favorites]

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