Spending time with my best friend
It’s a sad fact that lockdown, which has been challenging enough for so many reasons and has hit so many families really hard, has seen a 42% increase in enquiries about divorce. It is apparent that for many people, being trapped indoors in their family bubble, spending more time with their family than they ever have done has pushed many relationships to breaking point, exposing cracks and exacerbating underlying issues and opening new fissures to the point of no return. I feel a little embarrassed and ridiculously lucky when I declare that for me it has been the complete opposite.
During lockdown I have realised that when picking a partner, which was definitely more luck than judgement, I really did end up marrying my best friend and lockdown, which has definitely changed our relationship, has cemented our bond and made us both realise that we want more.
Don’t get me wrong – being cooped up with family has been a challenge. There wasn’t a day when I didn’t consider selling our boys for scientific experiments, often looking at them and saying to Vic, my wife, ‘Why did we bother?’ Don’t be shocked – that is my sense of humour. But on more than one occasion the adage ‘many a true word is said in jest’ could not have been more true.
My relationship with my wife was also put under the microscope and it is fair to say that every minutiae of our dynamic was scrutinised. But we came out of the other side so much stronger. I have a very patient wife and that has never been more evident. With my emotional range of a fence post I have had to relearn skills that I had let gather dust as, like most families, we struggled to cope with the frenetic pace of the daily treadmill of school run, lunches, pick ups, cooking meals, shopping, and work, and more work, and ironing and shit! forgotten birthdays, days out, dentist, days out, placating parents with lengthy phonecalls and the list goes on. In the struggle to keep up with the pace of life that is completely normal for most families, it is easy to neglect the things that actually count, most of all communication. I was guilty of this.
lockdown has taught me that surviving on those morsels is only enough to survive, not thrive.
Too often we pay lip service to the things that actually matter, like talking about each other’s day, or how we are feeling because we are trying to cook three meals at the same time (gotta love fussy eaters) or evading a creeper in Minecraft as our 6 year tells us how ‘trash’ we are. Vic and I have always found time for hugs, that reassuring physical contact at points in the day that, at the very least communicate that we are in this together or that we are feeling it too, whatever that may be. But lockdown has taught me that surviving on those morsels is only enough to survive, not thrive.
All too often I have had one ear on what Vic is trying to tell me, while I try to juggle finding the batteries for the remote control (why do they go missing?) or having my lockdown belly pummelled much to the amusement of one of the boys. I have learned that by not giving my wife 100% of my attention is unfair and unhealthy. I have learned that, even if I don’t have a clue what Vic is talking about, which is quite often as her field of expertise goes over my head, I need to listen, give her the time to communicate, without the need to skip to the end, or vainly search for a solution which means we can end the conversation and move on to the next task. The added bonus is that you feel closer as a result; I feel I know Vic better and it is hard not to find her enthusiasm and her passion infectious. Like my previous post, it all comes back to time, and I have realised that giving your partner your full attention, your unfettered time with no caveats is vital to maintaining a healthy relationship. Without it, all the other noise is futile, because without it the relationship will wither and die.
Needless to say, Vic has always done that for me. She has always listened to my gripes about teaching, my worries, my hairbrained schemes and she always does this with no agenda, no need to feel she needs to solve my problems or provide solutions, just because that is what a partner should do. I suppose I am probably just a typical man, and I can’t help feeling that the increase in divorce enquiries is most probably down to men who are not equipped to make that change.
That change in our dynamic, that refocusing of what we need from each other outside of maintaining the house, our busy lives and not killing the kids happened very early on in lockdown. That hitting of the reset button meant that lockdown itself was a journey of rediscovery. We rediscovered what we liked about each other, how we like to spend time together, what make us laugh, what moved us and what frustrated us (not just the school run – the important things).
Consequently, we spent a lot of time together, working together and just being in each other’s company. Like millions of people out there, Vic developed a love for gardening, and I found myself looking for jobs to do out in the garden just so I could be out there with her. This culminated in finally laying a patio and path together after living here for 10 years, spending a day on our hands and knees in the sweltering heat partaking in the joys of pointing and not once did I think about doing a Brookside or Fred West!
Like most of the nation, our garden looks better than it has done for a long long time but more importantly so does our relationship.