You promised in sickness and health and ‘till death, but nowhere did it mention in your marriage contract that you would ever have to be stuck with each other in an enclosed space 24/7. Yet that is exactly what many couples were faced with since early 2020. No matter how much you love your other half, to many going to work is a welcome break. But most businesses have been forced to let their workers work remotely and many have decided to make this a permanent employment arrangement since the global pandemic. Being married at the best of times can be challenging. When you are forced to live and work together in close proximity 24/7… Well… let’s say online marriage counseling has never been needed more.
The reason why couples struggle with living and working together is actually not much different to some situations where couples were already working together pre-lockdown, but where they were just going to a second location when going to work. So why is it that these situations can cause so much stress and strife between spouses and how do we try to navigate these relationship perilous pitfalls?
Who does what?
This is one of the things that causes a lot of strain in most marriages whether when couples are not even working together, so it comes as no surprise that this adds tension. Couples need roles within the relationship. This has nothing to do with archaic gender-stereotypes. Rather the division of the various responsibilities that come with a household as well as working together.
When a couple is in a partnership at work there needs to be clearly defined roles. They need to decide who’s responsible for what. This is to avoid any conflict regarding one doing more than the other. Or one having more say than the other etc. When a couple does not work for the same company, but is now forced to work together from home, this will inevitably impact the household. Who does the dishes and when? Who makes the lunch? When kids are in the mix it becomes even trickier. Who picks up the kids from school? Which of you home-schools the kids? Who ensures that the kids do not come close to the bedroom when there’s a Zoom meeting happening?
All and any of the mundane routine tasks and other responsibilities need to be discussed and divided as mutually agreed upon. That way couples can avoid any unnecessary conflict. If couples have trouble negotiating these, this is something that professionals are trained to deal with in online marriage counseling. One couple managed to handle the lockdown and working remotely stress quite well. They did not attack each other with accusations. Instead they jokingly “created“ another colleague they could complain (and laugh) about together.
There were numerous times when their “colleague” left coffee mugs all over the apartment. Or unplugged one of their computers and so forth. This was an easy way of making the other person aware of issues without making them feel personally attacked. And it became a fun way of bringing some humour into the situation as well as (strangely) uniting them against a common enemy; the horrid colleague.
Everybody needs some space
Nobody rented or bought a home thinking that they should accommodate two working professionals during a global pandemic. All of a sudden you have people trying to share a couch or a dining room table and working out schedules for the private boardroom a.k.a the bedroom. It’s one thing to try and navigate a working from home situation with your spouse when living on farmland or a big house in the suburb. It’s anoter when it’s a one bedroom apartment in the city or small townhouse. And to make matters worse, partners can have very different working styles.
Some find method in the mayhem. In order to be truly productive others need everything neatly organised. Dedicating certain areas within a communal space can resolve these issues. Or actually creating a schedule for a private room within the home. If even arrangements such as these cause some tension and a couple is lucky enough to work in a home with multiple rooms it can also be a solution to create a room rotating schedule. This also helps to alleviate some of the cabin fever and fatigue of feeling stuck in the same place (very similar to what most professionals experience at the office).
The issue as well as the solution
One of the biggest problems within any relationship is communication. This does not just pertain to romantic partnerships, but to relationships with family, friends and colleagues – the latter of which is our focus. When a colleague is also a spouse things can become tricky. It is important to communicate and resolve any issues before they start to simmer beneath the surface ’till one of you blows up. You both need to develop your conflict resolution skills. And when working together there is a good way of measuring whether you’re on the right track. Ask yourself whether you would’ve treated another colleague within a professional capacity the same way.
Everybody needs to be treated with respect and courtesy. And sometimes those lines become blurry due to familiarity. It’s also important to remember that communication does not begin and end with how you speak to someone else. Half of the communication (and some would go so far as to say that it’s the most important part of communication), is listening. If you are a couple who naturally struggles with communication, you are not alone, and this can easily be addressed during online marriage counseling.
Work, work, work…
Many couples complain that their partner doesn’t stop talking about work. This becomes an especially big issue when a couple is in an actual business partnership together. Suddenly breakfast coffees are spent discussing business. And date nights are consumed by work chit-chat. Sooner or later the romantic partnership starts to get lost within the business partnership. When a couple is not in a business partnership, but they’re working in close proximity of one another, the same danger applies.
Instead of chatting about all the other positive and interesting thoughts and things happening, one can get wrapped up. Moaning about going into work. Complaining about a colleague at tea time. Letting off steam after every annoying email. Giving a play-by-play of every meeting. And still complain about the boss at the end of the day like you used to when going into the office. There’s so much more to you and your relationship than just work. And it’s incredibly important that you keep that balance.
So you thought constantly living and working together might just be annoying, right? But the opposite is also true. Constantly spending time together can also breed co-dependency. If you are living and working together 24/7 there are no opportunities where your identities can develop outside of each other. Everybody needs personal growth and places where they can express themselves as an individual. Even when we are pretty much “stuck” with each other in the same place we still need to do and have our own separate things. We need things that enrich us as entities separate from each other.
If you once enjoyed going to art class, but it’s not currently possible, then start arts & crafting at home. Maybe you once playing football, but it’s not currently possible, then you might have to settle for online gaming equivalents. If you can’t go out to restaurants, why not take an online cooking class? If you can’t go to the theatre or live concerts, why not learn how to play an instrument like you’ve always wanted to? Just because you suddenly find yourself constantly in each other’s company, doesn’t mean that you should constantly be each other’s company.
Conflict, irritation, frustration, annoyance… these and so many other emotions need time and processing to simmer down. If you have been used to working outside of the home, you would’ve had time to calm down after major work upsets before heading home and probably venting a bit to your partner. Now your partner is in the midst of it. They’re there when you barged out of the room after a meeting and start banging cutlery and cupboards whilst muttering to yourself.
They probably have to take the brunt of your annoyance when they didn’t replace the toilet roll and Susan just sent out an e-mail cutting budget. They will probably end up being the shoulder to cry on or the punching bag almost immediately after a situation has occurred. To say that this is an unfair position to put your partner in is the understatement of the year. The wise words apply; “check yourself, before you wreck yourself”. If you need time and space, communicate that to your spouse. If you need to talk, do so in a calm and respectful manner. And in such a way that doesn’t make your spouse feel like they’re also in the crossfire.
No matter which way you slice it, working together is tough. But working together in the current global circumstances are even tougher. If you and your spouse are currently struggling to manage the slippery slopes of working together, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, alternatively, complete the form below and we’ll reach out to you.