In Sickness and In Health and In Quarantine
I’ve always said you should live with someone before marrying them, but I never advocated for an indefinite quarantine. I am not a monster or a reality show producer. But for the past three weeks, every couple that lives together has been put to the test. (And every couple that lives together and has kids should qualify for sainthood).
The only difference now between the married couples and the unmarried couples who live together, is that the married couples (myself included) already made our vows. And under the most trying of circumstances, we are doing our best to uphold them. As for the couples that have had to put their wedding plans on hold, this is a good time for you to reflect on the vows you will eventually make. Who do you want to spend “the rest of your life with” and how will you make that life work, if the rest of your life is spent in confinement?
Not long ago, my husband and I promised to love each other in sickness and in health. Way back in 2018, we had no way of knowing that we were also agreeing to love each other in quarantine. People told us “marriage is a leap of faith,” but even they could never have imagined the scenario we’re currently in: A global pandemic that has forced us together, indoors, 24 hours a day, for the foreseeable future.
Despite the considerable strain we are under, I love my husband and, as of today, Saturday, March 28, 2020, I wish to remain married to him. I like to think we have a leg up, having lived together for 11 years. But this is of little consequence when you remove the ability to leave your home. Add to that, tight city living, and it’s a trying situation.
Everything has changed, and yet nothing has changed. Because just as we promised in our wedding vows, the only thing we can continue to do is support each other and lift each other up. Here are some other tenants we are trying to uphold:
We are committed to keeping each other entertained.
We watch movies, play board games, and text each other the best Coronavirus tweets from one room away, but once the “normal” ways to pass time run out, you have to dig deeper. Whether that’s wearing wigs and creating character pieces from a Halloween bin, or not throwing away a piece of withered ginger from the back of the fridge because it kind of looks like a witch’s finger and that could be a funny prop for an Instagram video, and then later watching the cat bat around that piece of withered ginger on the kitchen floor for 10 minutes. If it makes you laugh then it’s worth doing.
We are also committed to annoying each other.
This is an equal partnership so the burden falls on both of us to flip out on each other when someone touches a can of beans and forgets to wash their hands, then remembers to but doesn’t do it effectively (according to one half of the couple that knows more about hand washing because they watched Mariah Carey’s Tik Tok.) Admittedly, I am the more uptight half of the couple, and I have tried to let some of that fall away during the quarantine. I am also the more extroverted half. So I have continued to obsessively put shoes away while also whining that I need to be entertained (see above). My husband has committed to keeping the fans on and blowing constantly even though I am always freezing and he is always hot.
And we are committed to keeping each other healthy.
We talk to each other, we check-in; we give each other hugs when we’ve read a particularly grim statistic. We sanitize the doorknobs and replace the hand towels. Pandemic aside, my husband always keeps track of and orders our bulk supplies, like hand soap and toilet paper, but I am especially grateful for it now. We keep each other fed with actual nutrients during the week. And we keep each other honest about how much pizza we can eat vs. how much pizza we should eat.
Technically, when I got married, I didn’t “sign up for this,” to be in 24/7 confinement with my partner. No married couple up until now could really conceive of it. But I’ll say this to all couples, married or unmarried: If your relationship survives this, you will have acquired an impressive set of skills (coping, compromising, communicating) that will serve you well in your marriage and the rest of your life together.
Ali Kelley is a Brooklyn-based writer raised in the suburbs. More at www.alikelley.com