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Because family life matters

New couples in lockdown

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My husband and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary last week, another special occasion we have marked whilst social distancing from family and friends. The youngest of our four children was with us for the first few weeks of lockdown but is now working on the frontline in London, and since then it has been just the two of us at home.

We both have busy jobs and my role at Care for the Family means that before the pandemic I was often away from home, on the road with our events. As a couple (and after a few false starts) we’ve become fairly adept at managing time apart, so being catapulted together 24/7 has meant that we’ve had to learn to adjust our step. I reflected yesterday that we probably haven’t had this amount of focused time together, just the two of us, since our honeymoon and the earliest days of our relationship.

Enforced time together can have the effect of holding a magnifying glass to both the good and the challenging aspects of a marriage. Small irritations, thoughtless acts and differences of opinion, as well as moments of laughter and acts of consideration and kindness, are thrown into sharp relief, having more impact and taking on more significance.  We are discovering new things about each other and building new rhythms of life just as we did in the early days of our marriage (although, with thirty-five years behind us, I guess we are better at it  – we’ve had more practice).

For all couples, our marriages are a work in progress as we navigate the different seasons of life, each of which brings its own challenges and opportunities. Whatever the history of our relationship, the first season of marriage is when husband and wife set out to forge a new identity together. It’s a time for discoveries – some a delight and some less so – and many couples are finding themselves having to do this in the context of lockdown and all that entails.

Movie night

Luke and Rosie married in February as storm Dennis swept the country. The first signs they saw of the COVID-19 outbreak were when they noticed people wearing masks at the airport on their return from their honeymoon. Then, just a couple of weeks later, lockdown began. The foundations of any relationship are built on time spent together, and this is something they now have in abundance!

Luke commented:

“Although we’ve known each other for ten years, we realise there’s still so much to discover about each other. It’s as if these weeks of lockdown have given us a crash course! We’re both working from home, and it’s been great to have the opportunity to understand each other better and get to know our very different personalities!  There’s been time to enjoy the things we love about each other, as well as to clock the occasional annoying habits. One thing we’ve noticed is that the lockdown can make our world seem quite small. It’s easy just to talk about mundane stuff – what we’re going to eat for the next meal or what Netflix film to watch – and we’ve had to make the effort to discuss other things. We try to go out for a walk together every day, and we’ve discovered it’s much easier to chat as we’re doing this.”

Rosie:

“Whilst there have been great opportunities, there have been some missed expectations and disappointments for us as a couple. I was really looking forward to coming back from our honeymoon, sharing photos, talking to family and friends all about our wedding, and being known as “Luke and Rosie” rather than as two individuals. We also miss hanging out with friends. We’d put lots of things on hold to do after the wedding – things like going to the beach, to the cinema or even to Nandos together – which I’m really hoping we can do once the lockdown is over.”

Digital world

Gemma and Jonathan also married just before the lockdown. They feel as if they are still in the bubble of their honeymoon, enjoying spending time together, and discovering one another’s foibles. They are working from home and have set up work stations on the kitchen table.

Gemma commented:

“We are able to spend so much more time together as we don’t have to travel to work. It’s really lush seeing what Jonathan’s job is about. I’d never have understood what he does if he’d been going out to work every day, but now I get to see it close up, which is brilliant.”

Like Luke and Rosie, Gemma and Jonathan miss seeing friends and are sad they can’t socialise as a new unit.

Gemma said:

“I was really looking forward to introducing Jonathan to people and saying with pride, “This is my husband.” When the lockdown is eventually over, it will feel like old news.”

Jonathan feels disappointed at not being able to establish his place in the wider family, as a son-in-law, brother-in-law and uncle.

High five

I asked both new couples what advice they would give to others starting a relationship in lockdown. Here are their tips:

  • Take the opportunity to get to know each other better – both the good things and the annoying ones!
  • Create a time or space to talk.
  • Be real about the things that are disappointing. If one of you is feeling low, don’t take it personally and allow them to be sad.
  • Don’t allow little niggles to build up and don’t have any taboo subjects that you won’t talk about.
  • Find things you love doing together, but also make time for doing things on your own.
  • Keep in contact with friends and family.
  • Make a list of things you can enjoy doing together after lockdown.
  • Make the most of this time – you’re unlikely to get it again.

Embarking on marriage is like going on a lifetime’s journey of discovery. And whilst starting married life together in lockdown is far from ideal, it’s also an amazing opportunity to build a strong foundation that will stand your relationship in good stead over the years to come.

Katharine Hill

About the author

Katharine Hill is the UK Director of Care for the Family. Katharine is a well-known speaker, author and broadcaster and regularly presents marriage and parenting events across the country. She is married to Richard and they have four grown-up children and two grandchildren.

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