When my husband and I said those time-tested vows nearly 16 years ago, they felt right to us. Sure, they were a little cliché and maybe a little boring, but they seemed to cover all the bases. For better or worse? Check. For richer or poorer? Check. In good times and bad? Check.
What they didn’t include, however, was “in times of a global pandemic that will require our family to be stuck in the house for weeks on end.” And those vague and seemingly all-encompassing vows didn’t hold a candle to the shitshow that we’re dealing with right now.
Times of crisis have a way of bringing out the best and worst in people, and we are indeed in the midst of a crisis. Fortunately for me and our family, this crisis has brought out the absolute best in my husband. Not to get too sappy or anything, but I’m feeling pretty freaking good about my life choices. Because he is literally holding me together right now.
Maybe you feel the same about your spouse/partner right now. I sure hope you do.
I’ll admit, the past few weeks have not been my finest hours. Anxiety (and maybe even some functional depression) have made it challenging for me to get anything done. I feel lost and confused, sad and angry. I cry on the regular, and I seem to be intentionally mastering my ability to fret.
Yet, my husband has been there to catch me. He’s been the calm to my frantic, the humor to my sadness, the rationality to my anxiety. And as a result, he is quite simply saving our entire family.
Don’t get me wrong, our marriage has seen its fair share of challenges and difficult times. I firmly believe that anyone who hasn’t been through a “rough patch” in their relationship either hasn’t been together long enough, or they are lying. So I don’t mean to paint some kind of rosy picture of our marriage. We aren’t some unicorn couple who is immune to rough stretches and struggles.
But thankfully, that isn’t the case right now.
We’ve worked hard to get where we are, and we’ve learned a lot of coping mechanisms and tools along the way – and we’re pulling out all the stops to use those tools as needed.
There is no way to sugar-coat what is happening to the world right now. We are literally in the midst of a full-blown, five alarm pandemic. We’ve lost our sense of “normal.” We’re being asked to homeschool our kids while trying to hang on to a job (if we’re lucky enough to still have one). We have little to no privacy. We’re in each other’s business all the time now. Anxiety is in overdrive, and we’re stressed to the max.
These are not ideal conditions for a relationship to thrive. In fact, China is now seeing a spike in the number of divorces as the region emerges from its quarantine lockdown. Even the best relationships are being tested in ways that were unimaginable just a few months ago. We are being told to hunker down, stay home, and avoid other people in order to save lives. So we’re staying at home with our immediate family, shut off from the rest of the world. And I have to tell you, I have never been so happy that my husband is my world (along with my kids, but that should go without saying).
We are functioning under conditions that none of us planned for or could have anticipated – definitely not when we were starry-eyed lovers standing at the altar all those years ago. We had no idea that “for worse” might mean figuring out how to ration toilet paper or doing rock-paper-scissors before putting damn-near a hazmat suit on to go to the grocery store. We had no idea that “for better” would mean binge-watching Tiger King on Netflix on a Friday night because it’s the only reprieve you get from COVID-mania. We had no idea “for poorer” would mean a near-total economic shutdown, or that “in sickness” would mean a global pandemic that quarantines a nation. We had no idea.
Then again, does anyone ever know? Does anyone know what these vows really mean until they are staring down a dark tunnel you aren’t sure you’ll ever get out of? Does anyone know how your relationship will be tested until you are crawling up the biggest hill you’ve ever faced? Does anyone know how you’ll pull together (and sometimes push apart) until you’re clinging to your sanity in a lifeboat that consists of your tiny family and your feels-smaller-than-ever home? Does anyone ever know how fortunate they really are to genuinely like – not to mention love – the people they are stuck in that lifeboat with?
Maybe. But probably not.
So we take the leap and make promises. And if we’re lucky and work really hard sometimes we’re able to see those promises through.
These are scary, confusing, really fucked up times. Stay safe, be well, and love the hell out of the ones in your lifeboat with you right now.
Sure, we couldn’t have anticipated the challenges we’re currently facing, but I gotta tell you, if we ever renew our vows I’m totally including “in good times and in times of global pandemic” in them.