With couples hunkered down in their homes during the Covid-19 outbreak and the “Stay at Home” order in full swing, Steve Mindel, managing partner and Certified Family Law Specialist, offers 8 tips to keep your marriage intact.

“Many couples are both breadwinners. As such, those who are now working from home together may find the proximity to one another throughout the day and night a bit too much. Now, the only time for creating some distance is if one travels for “essentials” such as the grocery store or pharmacy. So, what to do to create some household distancing? Mindel offers the eight tips below to keep a healthy balance between togetherness and personal “space,” and how to take advantage of time you normally don’t have with one another to do things together that strengthen the marriage.

Mindel says that in the age when both partners are used to heading to an office space where they spend a likely eight-hour day outside the home, and likely spend four or five hours together (not counting sleep), it is going to be hard not to get on one another’s nerves. Yet, It also can be a time when couples can take advantage of the abundance of time they spend together.

If you haven’t tried these before, below are some practical suggestions to keep “socially distancing” from one another so that they don’t compromise or strain a marriage:

  1. Map out a new routine and a daily schedule:  There is nothing more important during these troubled times than to stay as normal as possible in your daily routine with one another. Rise at the same time, prepare to “go” to work at the same time, shut your work computer down at the same time, even though you’re probably going to do all of your work at home. Do your regular tasks. Eat meals at the same time you’re used to everyday, exercise on schedule as well. To suddenly throw your routine out of balance is a great way to disorient the marriage.  The success of your partnership depends on keeping things as normal as possible
  2. Divide up responsibilities Sit down together and plan out a reasonable schedule to address the needs of your day. This is especially important in deciding who’s taking care of the kids throughout the day and at what times. And though we still may have weeks to go, this tip is one everyone should heed and keep to in order to preserve your sanity.
  3. Rearrange the at-home work quarters:  If both of you worked out of the home at an office building, your lives have now changed drastically. To keep from staying on top of one another, if you haven’t already, I suggest you pick two different locations in your house to maintain separate offices. Maybe one of you will office in the basement, while the other camps in the corner of the dining room. Maybe you had one single office space in the house (converted a bedroom or den) ands are still using that arrangement, but best to change it. In the past, you were probably only together in that space a couple of hours in the evening. None of us can be with another 24/7. Consider then, redoing your stay-at-home office quarters and set up office spaces in opposite rooms in the house. If you do, you can hunker down for the workday without running into your significant other frequently. 
  4. .Agree on time outs:  Take a walk around the block, stretch out on the sofa and watch a movie, tone up in your exercise room…you may already have these in place together, but my recommendation is that you do these time outs solo. This also gives you a break from the new routine and help you set a refresh button with your partner. Don’t slack on this everyday plan. You need time apart to keep your relationship healthy. Make sure these “outings” last for at least an hour.
  5. Respect one another’s space:  No matter how tempting, don’t keep stopping by your significant other’s new office space, following him or her around the house, popping up in the laundry room as he/she is folding the clothes or texting them to death. We all need to know our “office space,” our new man or woman “cave,” is our go-to space. One that is respected at all times. We shouldn’t enter it without permission.  As the days tick by,  as we continue to be sequestered, we will better keep our sanity if we each have a place to go to take a mental deep breath—and one that no one else can enter, not even the children. Try the garage, attic or laundry room if you have one.
  6. Set boundaries:  During that initial sit-down meeting as you planned your new normal, you may have been shy about sharing your boundaries with one another. If so,k don’t wait any longer. If one of you asks that you not bother him/her from noon to 5 p.m. (unless the house is burning down) honor that boundary. This is an excellent time to have a heart-to-heart as to what you can deal with and what you can’t. This can only strengthen your union. Include the child(ren) in this summit. You may learn things about each other that you didn’t know before.
  7. Take advantage of all the positives:  Without having to commute or spend time with other daily duties, set time aside to do some things you and your partner have ignored because of time restraints. Clean out the garage, tidy up those closets, go through the photos not on your phone and arrange them in a scrapbook according to year. Go online and take a Yoga class together (have the kids join you or not). Start that at-home hobby, like making the model of a plane; knitting that long-forgotten afghan, clean out the holiday ornaments or paint the dining room. There are those activities you and your partner can do together that are new and interesting.
  8. Enjoy the benefits of stepping up your Spirituality:  With many churches, synagogues and other meaningful places for worship going online, you can take advantage of having more time to meditate, listen, and watch spiritual messages that you normally engage in once a week.  Since we have many days to go in this new “normal” spending more time on a daily basis will help you to be more awake and conscious of your spiritual side.    

My final suggestion: Add up how many hours you spent away from your spouse or partner when times were considered normal. Now, try to schedule activities away from your spouse throughout the day and evening that add up to the same amount of time.  Now distance yourself for equal the time. It might be as easy as locking yourself in your newly constructed at-home office for that amount of time (don’t discount the idea of taking a brown bag lunch with you to “work.”)  If not the office, what else might you do to fill up your “time -card?”  Though counter-intuitive, additional “Partner Distancing” might be the answer to keeping your marriage or relationship intact. www.fmbklaw.com. [email protected]