Having an A&E doctor living in our house, I know all too well how this thing is going to get a lot worse. But you have to laugh in the midst of what feels like living in a zombie movie.
This week I rang a friend for a chat. Yes, it doesn’t happen often I know! The first thing he asked was the Marriage Foundation view on how couples should deal with the two metre separation rule?
There is of course a serious point about how couples will cope in unusually close proximity for a protracted length of time. One of our patrons, the barrister Baroness Fiona Shackleton, was quoted in the press saying that divorce rates could spike.
‘Codiv-19’ is what I imagine it will be called.
Me, I’m not so sure. Some couples will struggle of course. But I suspect many more will thrive and flourish in this strange environment.
I think the biggest risk to relationships in the coming months – and it is months in case you haven’t been listening to the medics and scientists – is not knowing where you both stand in your own house or flat.
How to improve your odds of being in the ‘thrive and flourish’ camp? Just like marriage, I think it begins with being on the same page.
This week our entire family has gravitated to our home, students from university, workers without offices, teens from an increasingly precarious gap year overseas.
Amidst the worry, Kate and I are thrilled because we love big family.
For our first morning en masse, we held a big family meeting to establish a daily routine, our individual work priorities and needs, and to delegate responsibilities and set up a cooking and cleaning roster.
The result – at least for now – is that all of us know where we stand. I’m in charge of money and our farm animals. Kate is in charge of our food plan and supplies. Our children are variously in charge of entertainment, spirituality, fixing stuff, cleaning and rosters, etc. Being in charge doesn’t mean you have to do it. It just means you carry the burden of responsibility.
Most importantly, even when Kate and I are doing different things and not in the same room, we know we are on the same page.
We know where we are in terms of the structure of the day. We know our responsibilities. We know what we need to be doing and what everybody else needs to be doing.
Far from being restrictive, structure and clarity brings the freedom to do our thing and to relax. Just like marriage itself.
I think couples are going to row and struggle most over personal frustrations and blocked goals.
Why isn’t my spouse or partner doing what they should be doing?
The reason is that you haven’t established a plan! You are living in a state of ambiguity, just like when you first went out with one another. Until you have a plan, you don’t know where you stand.
So how to beat the risk of a corona-divorce, codiv-19?
Yes of course, be friends and be kind and all that stuff the usually angry and unkind people on twitter tell us to do. But start your covid confinement with a plan. A family plan.
Harry Benson is Research Director of the Marriage Foundation, a UK charity championing marriage for the good of society. This article is republished from the MF blog.