I was talking to a friend last week, sharing stories about our weekend. She and her husband had celebrated their first anniversary as a married couple, in true quarantine style, with homemade pasta and a bottle of chilled wine that had been left on their front porch by a dear friend. She made a comment that struck me as interesting – “Our first year of marriage was certainly not what I imagined.”
In that first year, they both had major changes with their careers, bought a home together, and most unplanned of all: weathered 3 months (and counting) of a global pandemic. While many of those events were welcome and brought joy to their relationship, she delved deeper in her reflection that it was more the amount of change, challenge, and cooperation between the two of them that she didn’t anticipate. She, like many newlyweds, thought that the first year would be a breeze, a blissful journey together living life. I can relate. I myself just celebrated nine months married to my husband – also qualifying us as newlyweds navigating a different first chapter of marriage than we envisioned.
As my friend and I continued reflecting and sharing thoughts on what has been unique for us as newlyweds during a pandemic, we came to the conclusion that there are actually quite a few positive outcomes for our respective relationships. Initially, my mind thought of all of the things we were missing – going on a belated tropical honeymoon to escape the Minnesota winter, postponing double dates with our friends, and as trivial as it is, entertaining family at our home while sharing and putting to use our generous wedding gifts. And for my friend, thinking of how she had planned something far more extravagant for their first anniversary, but was more or less forced to choose a simple night at home.
Through this casual conversation with my friend and later in an intentional conversation with my husband reflecting on the impact of this time on our relationship, I came away with a new perspective on the situation we’ve been in.
Here are four positive relationship outcomes from navigating the pandemic as a newlywed:
- More time together
We’ve spent more time together since early March than we would have under normal circumstances. My husband still works 40 hours away from our home each week, so we’re not together 24/7, but we do spend the evenings and weekends together. On a typical week, I would likely have had dinner plans with a friend, and on the weekends, we may have spent time apart doing various projects, errands, or simply have separate plans. But those times apart have been very few and far between the last few months. We do try to maintain a balance of separateness versus togetherness while we’re home, but we’ve certainly tipped that scale to being together more often than not. While we’re still in this honeymoon stage of our marriage, we’ll take that as a positive outcome, and we’ve cherished the time together we would have not otherwise had.
- Increased collaboration
Pre-pandemic, I would handle most of the household and grocery shopping, honestly because I enjoy the process. We’d often go to the store together on the weekend for our weekly shop, but my husband would also stop at specialty stores throughout the week for a treat – a loaf of bread from the neighborhood bakery or some locally sourced meat from a butcher near his work. We were used to picking up things from the store when we felt like it, and we enjoyed the ability to each go out and shop when and how we liked.
However, when we started to roll back our time spent in stores, we started to collaborate far more than we ever needed to before, on something as simple and effortless as deciding on weekly meals and making sure we were stocked on household essentials. This change for us required clear communication and conscientious thinking about what we would need for ourselves as well as the household in general. For a while, we were starting out each Saturday morning with a casual planning meeting about what we were running low on, who was willing to go where to get what, and how we were going to do this in a safe manner.
As time has passed, and our state has begun to open up, we’ve found ourselves being less strict about our time out in the world, but shifting into that process helped us discover our collaboration style with each other. I know we would have figured this out eventually, but looking back, we’re both grateful to have experienced this and strengthened our communication skills that collaboration requires.
- New date norms
We love to go out for date night in the city to try a new restaurant. Spending hours in the romantic ambiance tasting appetizers, cocktails, and of course, enjoying the main course. We haven’t gone to a restaurant since early March, and we miss it so! However, that doesn’t mean that we haven’t enjoyed date nights in the last few months. We’ve had at least one “date” a week the entire time we’ve been at home. It just looks different. Now, we usually order takeout, try to sit in our backyard or in a park (weather permitting), and intentionally avoid mundane conversation topics, instead focusing on topics that we look forward to discussing. Again, this is something we likely would have figured out eventually but having circumstances that made us change up our normal routine and force us to get more creative helped us establish a new definition of what date night looks like for us. It encouraged us to see beyond the glitz of the trendy restaurant and focus in on the intentional time together.
- Renewed perspective
I’d like to think that both my husband and I were always grateful for our health, our jobs, our family, and frankly for each other, but we had many times throughout the last few months where we would verbalize just how thankful we are for the things we easily take for granted on a daily basis. The phrase commonly used when exchanging vows, “in sickness and in health” certainly carries more weight during a health crisis. Sure, our life has been inconvenienced, but we understand the realities that face so many other couples. Being grateful has given us a renewed perspective that helps us understand why a concept like resilience, which Prepare/Enrich taught us about, is so important. We put in work through our premarital education to establish skills to help us weather the various challenges and adversity life throws our way. And if we’ve learned anything, we’ve learned adversity will come, it will be difficult, and the days will get darker before they lighten. But that knowledge helps my husband and I appreciate each other and why we value working on our relationship. It’s a perspective I’m grateful we have so early on in our marriage and hope other couples have been able to find.
Despite neither my friend or I anticipating a global pandemic occurring in our first year of marriage (I mean, who would?), we both agreed there were positive outcomes for our relationships. When I was talking with my husband, preparing for this post, the ultimate conclusion we came to was that we feel closer and more connected than any other point in our relationship. That may be a byproduct of being married and settling into our identities as a husband and wife, or that close and connected feeling may be emphasized by the situation we’ve been in the last few months. Either way, we agreed that we’re really enjoying this first chapter of our marriage.
Whether you are a newlywed or not, let us know what positive relationship outcomes you’ve experienced during the pandemic!