You can’t even turn on the freaking television or open the damned paper without hearing some “expert” psychologist or marriage counselor blab on incessantly about how being quarantined with someone else can make you cranky.
Well, of course it makes you cranky! Do you think prison riots are caused by disagreements over whether to binge-watch “Tiger King” instead of “Lion King”? No. They’re caused by the opposite of “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
I’m talking about “familiarity breeds contempt,” which first appeared in Chaucer’s “Tale of Melibee” in 1386, and was not, as some falsely claim, original advice given by your mother on your wedding day. Oh, come on! You want to argue about that now? You’d have known that if you’d ever bothered to pick up a book instead of wasting your time howling out the back door at night and letting all the heat out.
After weeks of close confinement, it is a natural reaction for you to become weary of that loud slurping sound that seems to be mandatory when that certain someone drinks a cup of coffee, a cup you just know they will then leave in the sink for guess who to have to wash. Little things like arguing about how soon after delivery one can safely lick an Amazon package can strain even the best relationship.
Oh, and the glasses. Whoever decided it would be house policy to put them on the shelves bottom-up instead of lip-down? Why do people do this to each other? Has simple decency gone the way of unprotected shopping?
Yet as unpleasant as confinement can be, it can give us opportunities to do things around the house that we might normally ignore. Imagine being able to face summer knowing that all your flower beds have benefited from an afternoon of attention from a shop vac. These kinds of tasks can give couples needed “alone time,” even if half of the couple wastes her time flossing the forks.
Self-quarantine can teach us tolerance. Did your pants become too tight because drinking beer is now suddenly a bad thing that gets you dirty looks at 9 a.m., or is it because someone left them in the dryer too long, even though you specifically asked that they be removed after a fast fluff? Be careful not to criticize. You can always get more pants online or start drinking your beer from a coffee cup, so long as it wasn’t improperly shelved and now has Cheerios crumbs on its rim.
Couples also can take this opportunity to learn new negotiating skills. If she wants a dinner of Brussel sprouts sautéed in olive oil and slathered with that gawd-awful-smelling Indonesian turtle sauce, but you want a cheese dog, find a middle ground, such as veggie Sloppy Joes. So fun to make together!
Find ways to compliment each other. Instead of saying, “Pet stores are still open. Have you thought of having a groomer cut your hair?” say something positive, such as “It’s a good thing you thought to take the toilet paper from the service station bathroom since you forgot to get some earlier.”
Make it a point to do nice things for each other as a little surprise. Like maybe some night, you don’t pull all the bed covers on to your side, or decide it won’t kill you to leave just a little ice cream for others in the house.
Keep in touch with your circle of friends. My friend Laurie was having a book club meeting on Zoom when someone hacked it and put up some porn. I’m now exploring how to use Zoom to keep in touch with my friends.
Hobbies are good. Here’s an idea: Wash your hands every time you hear, “We’ll get through this together” on the spate of coronavirus ads now on TV.
And while you’re at the sink, there’s an ice cream dish that needs washing.
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