The first session of 417 Magazine and Burrell Behavioral Health’s Life Interrupted virtual series, Marriage Interrupted, discussed what couples can do to stay connected and emotionally healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. We heard from Dana and Christina Ford about their unique experience as a married couple, and Dr. Shelly Farnan who weighed in on the mental health aspects.
1. Take care of your basic needs first
Through science, we know that our brains are wired first and foremost for survival. Our survival systems are always in play, constantly assessing our surroundings—which right now, contain a valid, unseen threat. In order to remain mentally healthy, we must take care of our basic human needs—including diet, sleep and breathing—which are crucial to our survival response, and give our brains the best chance to take care of ourselves.
2. Learn from each other
The shifting of family dynamics during the COVID-19 crisis can be an opportunity for married couples to learn about each other and how they operate on a day to day basis. It’s given Dana a chance to help his wife carry the burden of caring for the household. “I’m learning a lot about who I’m actually married to,” Dana says. “Focusing on her and who she is, and that’s one of the best things that has come out of this.”
For Christina, she’s noticed that Dana is capable of more than she’s given him credit for. “At this point I’m pushing the envelope,” Christina says of the many favors she’s asked while Dana has been home more. “He is capable of all of these things, and he might be more patient than I am!”
3. Normalize your feelings
As we navigate the pandemic and the losses associated with it—jobs, home, routines, events, moments—It’s important to check in with our feelings and those of our loved ones. Many families are separated and/or have been supremely disrupted. When adding in the loss of connection and consistency, it becomes clear why many of us are feeling the way we are.
4. Find alone time as a couple
Marriage/partnership should be a safe place to share realities, express feelings and name anxieties. While dealing with the various uncertainties around COVID-19, it’s especially crucial for married couples to find alone time for this with no distractions. This might mean taking adult-time away from the kids by taking a walk or taking a drive to check-in with each other, which is strongly suggested.
5. Use Humor
The Fords use humor to diffuse high-pressure situations, which has long been a part of Dana’s coaching job. “It can really consume you, and one of the great balancers is humor… we’ve learned to laugh at ourselves,” Christina Ford says. “While we take this seriously, we’re finding a way to cope.” The Fords focus on finding the silver lining, which for them, is time spent with their kids. “They’ve always been that silver lining that brings us joy and a whole understanding of why we’re doing what we’re doing. If you don’t have a plan, this thing will really consume you.”