Marriage in the age of COVID19

The demands of COVID19 are unique and completely unheard of in our lifetime.  Quarantine?  Masks? 6 feet apart?  Temperature taking before you can enter a school?  Dining outside only?   And that is just a small part of the list of life changes foisted on us by this virus.  We are captives in our own homes.  What does it mean to be sent home from work and placed on a screen for hours on end?  How can you possibly be attracted to your spouse when they are in your face 24/7?  One person said:  “I had no idea that if given the opportunity, my spouse could go for days without showering!  Thank you COVID19 for giving me the opportunity to study this person in depth.”

Marriages have a story and a history.  My father loved telling the story of how he met my mother.  His sister was in nursing school and he was a truck driver.  On one occasion, when he was home and not on the road, she invited him to a party in a friend’s basement.  He was hanging out with a group in the basement when his sister came down the steps with her friend, a slim brunette with a charming smile.  He turned to his buddy and said, I am going to marry her.  At the time she was a young nursing student just like his sister and engaged to a charming doctor on the staff of the hospital where she was training.  He was not deterred by the little ring on her finger.  He pursued her with gusto and won her heart.

When hard times came as they always do to relationships, he would page back to that moment in the basement and remember that he set his cap for her and won.  Whatever was happening in the moment could always be managed.

Having that initial bond with your partner is a powerful resource in times of stress and struggle.  Replaying that attraction brings each of you into focus as your brain is bathed in the love hormone of oxytocin.  Romantic love exists across cultures and is driven by this chemical in the brain.  We have gone so far as to watch these chemical reactions through fMRI studies of the brain.  As we watch the chemical changes when people in love view pictures of their loved one, we see the chemical shift. The parts of the brain associated with reward and pleasure light up when viewing the one they love.  Reaching to that person and touching them makes those pleasure hormones spike even more.

Our skin is the largest organ in the human body and touch can ignite those feelings of longing and attraction.  This is true for the newly in love and for those who have been together for years.  A light touch of the shoulder as you pass or an extended embrace when you meet will cause a chemical reaction that bathes the brain in dopamine.  The brains reward system can be triggered by touch leading to more intimate connections and sexual pleasure regardless of how long you have been together.

Forced to work from home and monitoring your children’s on-line schooling while not being able to socialize with your peers is a true strain on the psyche.  A pandemic is a crisis of unbelievable proportions.  We have never faced anything like this.  Yet, our bodies are prepared and ready to help us.  We were built for this.  Our brains have chemicals that are readily available to help us “feel good”  despite the circumstances.  Releasing these chemicals through touch, memory and story can light a passion that will sustain us through all of the stressors.