Dear Emuna,

Let me begin by stating that I have a good marriage, thank God. I appreciate and admire my husband, and he feels the same way about me. We have five lovely children (not perfect but no one is!), three of whom are out of the house. We are 55 years young and anticipating many more productive work years in front of us. We enjoy spending time together but we also value our time apart. I need some privacy in the home and he needs some space outside it. We have always sort of joked about the challenges that will confront us when he retires – how he’ll hover over me and demand my constant attention – and we’ve basically made a commitment to never retire!

Then along came Covid-19 and, even though he’s not retired, we’re having some of that experience. We’re both at home together, we are both still working but he is hovering, he is demanding my (almost) constant attention, he is invading my space and my privacy. I feel a little suffocated. Like I said, I have a good marriage and I don’t want to damage it but I’m starting to feel a little frustrated and resentful. Help!

Too Young to Retire

Dear Too Young,

I hear you loud and clear. My friends and I share the same joke. And I believe, in general, that marriages are more vibrant and healthy when there is time apart (I don’t mean long trips), when each spouse has interests and experiences separate from the other that they can then bring to the relationship. If no one goes anywhere or does anything or sees anyone else, the relationship may start to get stale.

This is one of the big challenges of our current situation. If we can’t see anyone else, if we can’t go anywhere, if we can’t do anything, how do we not just avoid resentful but actually keep the relationship alive and growing?

Like anything else about relationships, there is no magic answer. And the times are certainly very challenging. So let’s begin by cutting ourselves and our partners some slack. These are totally unanticipated circumstances and we were thrown into them with no training or preparation. We are all operating totally outside our comfort zone and outside the familiar.

On an emotional level, I think it’s good to reframe: enjoy that your husband wants to spend time with you instead of resenting it. Not all husbands do and you should be grateful and stop and say a little prayer of thanks to the Almighty.

Practically speaking, you need to establish some boundaries, perhaps a schedule. Instead of being constantly available, work on determining times when you’re both working and times when you can “play”. This will ease the pressure and I think be a relief for both of you.

Find some activities you can do together, possibly even ones that get you out of the house (my husband and I have been exploring small historic towns in New Jersey – just driving there and walking around – it doesn’t require any money, contact with others or even really good weather).

Additionally, without stimulus outside the home, you have to create some inside. Find books and articles to read where you can share ideas and discover new ones. Learn Torah together – you will grow as people and as a couple.

Yes, these are challenging times but there are opportunities also. One of the most common complaints in marriages is that couples don’t get to spend enough time together. In a completely unexpected way the Almighty has answered that prayer. Take advantage of it.