Long hours at work, rush hour commutes, and a never-ending list of chores. That kind of schedule is what many couples experience during their first few months of married life — and all that stress and time apart can make it a challenge to establish good relationship patterns and figure out how to live as partners.
So what happens when you’re a newlywed quarantined due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
Oriana Vento, my Bogotá, Colombia-based coworker, says quarantining has brought her and her husband closer and helped them discover their dynamic as a couple. She married her husband, Nabil Grueso, in January. Before local quarantine orders went into effect, Oriana and Nabil only saw each other for a short period of time every day, and they would only eat together once a day because of Nabil’s busy work schedule.
Now that they’re both working from home, they are learning more about each other’s character and “how to understand when the other is stressed, sad or just tired,” Oriana wrote in an email.
“It is evident that during this time, faults and challenges are more palpable too, but this as a good opportunity to work on them.” Oriana wrote. “Even if we get mad at each other, there’s no other place to go, but to talk and solve things in a constructive way.”
The Baha’i Faith, wrote Oriana, “has provided us with tools that help us learn to be better each every day, [which is] what I think is the foundation of our marriage.” Oriana and Nabil are inspired by the Baha’i teachings that:
The foundation of the Kingdom of God is based upon harmony and love, oneness, relationship and union, not upon differences, especially between husband and wife. – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’u’llah and the New Era
“As Baha’is, our ultimate goal is to develop a united and peaceful world. Given that family is the core of every society, if we do not develop unity in the most basic element of society, then we will never be able to have a united world,” Oriana wrote.
Building that unity was more difficult when they barely even had time to sit down for meals together. “I left home around 6:00 a.m. in the morning, and I was back around 8 p.m., which only gave us time to eat something small before heading to bed,” Nabil explained.
Regular family meals create “a healthy dynamic that helps nurture the family,” wrote Oriana, who grew up eating with her parents and siblings. “With the busy schedules all of us had, I think that time we shared were the ones we treasure the most ultimately. Now that I’m married and have my own family, I look back to those moments, and I realize they shaped our family identity. It’s not just about the meal itself — it’s the space of comfort and sharing we create around them.”
Now Oriana and Nabil can have every meal with each other. “We´re eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner together. The special thing about that is that we’re learning to cook together,” Oriana wrote.
Spending more time cooking isn’t the only change in their relationship. Oriana wrote that they also now have time to reflect on and talk about their relationship.
As Baha’is, Oriana and Nabil believe in consulting — an action-oriented, collaborative discussion to achieve clarity and consensus — with one another is essential for understanding each other. Baha’u’llah, the Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith wrote:
The Great Being saith: The heaven of divine wisdom is illumined with the two luminaries of consultation and compassion. Take ye counsel together in all matters, inasmuch as consultation is the lamp of guidance which leadeth the way, and is the bestower of understanding. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah
Indeed, Oriana and Nabil are taking advantage of the additional time that they have together to build a stronger marriage and learn to support each other during a crisis. Developing and strengthening their relationship at this time revolves around understanding that we were not created to live in isolation. Abdu’l-Baha, the son of Baha’u’llah, wrote:
Some of the creatures of existence can live solitary and alone. A tree, for instance, may live without the assistance and cooperation of other trees. Some animals are isolated and lead a separate existence away from their kind. But this is impossible for man. In his life and being cooperation and association are essential. Through association and meeting we find happiness and development, individual and collective. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace
“If I was alone in quarantine, I doubt I would be as calm as I am right now.” Oriana wrote. “My husband is my safe place and my rock, and through these hard-times, our relationship can’t do anything but get stronger.”