Lockdown Lessons: What did you learn about yourself and your marriage?

 

Lockdown shone a spotlight on how we live. Things we once took for granted (toilet roll, anyone?) are no longer a given. We adapted to new routines: working from home, homeschooling, zoom ‘pub’ nights. We had days when we felt we’d got it sussed, and days when gin at 10 am seemed the only solution. 

 

We’ve got through the worst of lockdown, for now. We can now access childcare, hair salons, pubs. But nothing’s quite as it was – both in the world and in ourselves. 

 

As lockdown in the UK eases even further, now’s the time to reflect on the lessons we’ve learned. This blog takes you through a series of questions to help you work out your own lockdown lessons – and what it means for your future.

 

Let’s start with you as an individual, then we’ll move onto your marriage. Grab a pen and paper, this one’s interactive! 

 

What were your lockdown struggles?

Lockdown tested all of us in different ways. Maybe it was loneliness that was the killer for you. Or maybe lack of headspace with a houseful of children all day. Each one of us will have our own gremlins. But to learn from them we first need to understand what they are. 

 

Now’s the time for your notebook. Set a time for just three minutes, write: During lockdown my biggest struggles were…’ and let your pen flow.

 

Once you’ve finished, read over what you’ve written. What have you learned about yourself? Are there struggles you can prevent or lessen in the future, if we have another lockdown? 

 

What are you proud of?

However tough you’ve found life recently, if you’re reading this you’ve made it this far! And that’s something to be proud of when life is hard. Now’s the time to dig into self-compassion. What has lockdown taught you about your strengths? 

 

Again, set a timer for three minutes, write ‘I’m proud of myself for…’, and write.

 

Every little thing counts. Often the little things are the big things. Get it all down and recognise what you’ve achieved. 

 

What do you need going forward?

Now you’ve looked at the hard bits and the better bits. That will give you a sense of what you need. 

 

What would make your life easier? How can you access those resources? Who can help you? It might be expertise, it might simply be more time with friends to feel like yourself again. 

 

Write ‘Lockdown has taught me I need…’, set a timer for three minutes and go.

 

What do you want to leave behind?

It’s hard to make changes when our thoughts and time are cluttered with things we don’t need. All of us will have learned lessons about what we don’t want – habits, thoughts, maybe friendships that are no longer serving us well. 

 

Write: ‘As we leave lockdown, I will leave behind…’ set your timer, and get it all down. 

 

Your answers to those questions will help you understand what’s important to you. You’ve looked at what you found difficult, areas you can congratulate yourself for, and what you need and don’t need in your life. That’s powerful stuff. 

 

Now let’s think about your marriage…

 

What impact has lockdown had on your marriage?

Let’s start off simple. Give your marriage a score. This score comes without personal judgement – it’s not looking at whether you or your spouse could’ve done better or worse. It’s just your take on what is. 

 

On a scale where:

5 = lockdown has been brilliant for my marriage, it’s brought us together and shown us how much we value each other

0 = lockdown has had no effect on my marriage, it’s pretty much as it was before 

-5 = lockdown has pushed us apart, it’s made our marriage much worse

 

Give yourself a number. Don’t spend ages thinking about it, go with the first number that comes into your head. Often our first thoughts tell the truth. 

 

Now, think about what that means.

 

If your marriage is better as a result of lockdown…

great! What was it about lockdown that brought you together? What is it that you value in your spouse that perhaps you didn’t notice before? And, crucially – how can you keep that vibe going as lockdown eases? 

 

For example, maybe you got along much better because with the office closed they/you had more time at home. How will you keep that going when the office reopens?

 

Think about how to hold onto the things that have brought you together. And if you can’t – have a conversation about what you’re going to do about it. For example, if your spouse has to return to working away from home, can you timetable in a day off a month where you just spend time with each other? What solutions can you come up with? 

 

If your marriage is about the same…

…what does that tell you? Think about how strong your marriage was before. It might be that you have a great relationship, and lockdown hasn’t changed anything because you’ve rolled with it, and are both as happy as you were before. You can adapt to the changes and make the best of it. 

 

Or it might be that your marriage was flat and miserable before, and lockdown hasn’t really made it worse, but it’s not brought you together either. The cracks that were there are still there. Even a global pandemic hasn’t changed that. 

 

Or it might be something in between. Think about what your lockdown lessons are if you feel the same now as you did in March. 

 

If your marriage is worse after lockdown…

…it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the end. Lockdown created new, difficult pressures that will hopefully ease. But it does mean it’s time for a conversation. Every healthy marriage needs healthy communication. That means being able to state your needs and feelings without blame and work together to decide what next.

 

So think about what made your marriage worse. Maybe you treated each other badly because you were under each other’s feet all the time. Maybe the stress of juggling childcare and work between you meant you had no time for each other. If it was lockdown-specific issues like these, now is the time to plan. 

 

How can you deal with them if we’re locked down again? What can you put in place? 10 minutes a day that’s set in stone where you have a cup of tea together and talk? Making sure you get alone time so you don’t want to throttle each other?

 

Or maybe lockdown highlighted existing problems in your marriage and shone a full-beam light on them. Perhaps there are issues that were staring you in the face all along. And lockdown has meant you’ve finally had to acknowledge them. 

 

If that’s the case, it’s more important than ever that you talk. You can’t carry on as you are. And you can’t go back to how things were, because that wasn’t good either. 

 

Something needs to change. A relationship counsellor can help you talk things through. It may be lockdown was just the lesson you both needed to get your marriage back on track. Or it may be that you are looking at a future apart. Either way, you need to take action.

 

What if you want to separate?

 

Whether your marriage was better, the same or worse after lockdown, you may decide to go your separate ways. This may feel strange, especially if lockdown actually strengthened your marriage. 

 

But know that you’re not alone. Many of my clients have found that lockdown showed them that they want more out of life. Even if their spouse was a wonder-partner during lockdown. There’s nothing like a global pandemic to remind us that life is short and to go after what we want.

 

The first thing to do is sit with your feelings. Don’t act straight away. Let your decision settle. Give yourself chance to think and feel the emotions before setting anything in motion. You may decide to broach the subject with your spouse and see how they react. They may surprise you by feeling the same way. Or they may be stunned. 

 

Either way, it’s good to be sure in your own mind before taking on other people’s thoughts and opinions. And believe me, everyone has plenty of those when it comes to separation and divorce!.

 

The next thing to do is make a plan. Again, this doesn’t need to involve drastic action. It’s about getting paperwork together. And it’s about knowing what’s important to you and what you need in your newly single life. Unless your personal safety (emotionally or physically) is at risk there’s no need to leave straight away. It’s far better to know what you want and need first. 

 

To get started on thinking about your divorce plan, read my blog here.

 

Get support

 

If you decide that your marriage is at an end, you’re likely to have a whole storm of feelings. You may feel excited now you’ve made your decision. You may feel hopeful and excited for a better future ahead. Or you may feel overwhelmed about how to get through it all. You may feel confused by friends and family chipping in with their own advice. You may feel all these things within the space of an hour! 

 

Divorce is not easy, but it can be empowering. It is a route to living the life you want. What you need is clarity on what to do, and a trusted community of people who have your back.

 

The Absolute Academy is a community of women navigating divorce. (Actually, some have already divorced but they get so much from the group they’ve stayed!). We have weekly zooms and you have access to all my resources on getting divorce ready. Plus you have a circle of supporters who have your back, as well as my legal and coaching expertise. 

 

If you want to power your way through divorce, this Autumn I’m running Get Divorce Ready. It’s an 8 week programme (run over 10 weeks to give you time to take action) so I can be alongside you as you navigate your divorce journey. I’ll be there every step of the way. And you join The Absolute Academy for three months as part of the deal. To be the first to hear about it join the waitlist here.

 

And if you want answers quickly, just for you, then you can work with me privately. We look at your specific situation in depth. You get my coaching expertise to help you make the right decision.  And my legal expertise ensures you’re empowered rather than bamboozled by the system. You can book a one to one with me here

 

Whatever your lockdown lessons about life and marriage, make sure you take action. I’m here whenever you need me. 

About Emma

Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is author of the Amazon best selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self-study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com

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