2020 was quite the year? In the midst of great global upheaval and tragedy, my family, as many around the world were stripped of both the fripperies and the seeming necessities of our way of living & social calendars, for lockdown life.
It’s been quite the journey, and lockdown living was an interesting way to spend our tenth year of marriage. In all of our years we had never spent so much time together as a family with our two daughters.
Merging work life and home life was a challenge we threw ourselves into with gusto initially, but the novelty wore off very quickly! With all of our worlds colliding, it was important to strip our lives and agendas back to that which was most important in order to stay loving and liking each other. We are almost through our 3rd national lockdown and I’m pleased to say we do still love and like each other very much. Here are a few things that helped us through our stripped back year of life:
With so little variety when we are stripped back to the essentials of life and marriage, finding ways to have fun together is crucial. We tackled 2000-piece jigsaw puzzle, card games, movie marathon nights, water gun fights in the garden during the summer days. We found we needed to make these moments of fun together required activities a few times a week. When you’re working from home and homeschooling, and zooming, home can feel like the least fun place. Fun times together helped re-dress this imbalance by creating an invisible line in our home between work and play. It reminded us that we aren’t two people running a busy household together, but we are life partners who also enjoy each other’s company.
There’s something about confinement together with those you love that really helps to make it clear what makes your connection unique. Your in-jokes, your weekend rituals, your made-up words for everyday things etc. We made a point of downing tools, our tools being the computer and laptop in the middle of the day and taking a walk together. Even if it was just for ten minutes, it became a good way for us to stay connected. As a family every week or so, we’d look through old photos of us and our children and talk about fun memories. Traditions are shared experiences that we will remember and can be helpful bright spots when life felt monotonous.
Patience & Grace
This one goes without saying but was the hardest target to hit a lot of the time. I had to be patient with the constant presence of other people. Being an introvert and my husband an extrovert, we found it important to really be aware of each other’s needs. His need for more conversation and outward processing than usual, and more of it with me. I check in more during the day, and instigate our midday walks to show him that I see and value his need for connection in this way. In turn, he tried hard to respect my need for quiet and alone time. Taking the girls out more often so that I can have the house to myself for an hour or spending a few evenings a week winding down alone. This give and take was a major part of offering each other patience and grace to move through this season as frictionlessly as possible.
Slowing down is another habit of stripped back living that we want to continue to value, even when life gets back to ‘normal’. There is always something that feels really important and fun to be doing. Gatherings, meeting, excursions, parties. But not many of these happenings are as meaningful nor has the power to build true connection as spending time, doing very little with those you love and those who have been given to you to care for. Pre-lockdown, we’d need to fight for a weekend alone as a family, with such busy work-weeks, our weekends were often jam packed with events and catch ups with friends and family. And whilst these are still important, our lazy days together talking, and pottering have really brought us closer together. The conversations we’ve had have helped us feel so known and valued and accepted. Slowing down together is so valuable.
So, as we slowly ease out of this time, I’m hoping we take the above essentials with us. Holidays, and adventures, night’s out and dinner parties are all things I cannot wait to get stuck into again. But in order for our marriage to thrive, I know we don’t need these things. I now know that if we can create our own fun together, and keep to our traditions, if we uphold patience and grace and take time out to slow down together, then we can thrive on much less.