Three Rules to Live by While Working From Home During a Quarantine Without Wanting to Divorce Your Spouse
By Kelly Kotliar, Esq. Senior Litigation Associate at Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein, LLP
You’ve all seen the headlines teasing about an inevitable “baby boom” in nine months after this pandemic-forced “Netflix and chill” time with our significant others. On the flip side, divorce lawyers everywhere are expecting a different boom – a divorce boom. While I do expect a spike in divorce rates in the not-so-distant future, I am here to offer insight into how to avoid some common marriage pitfalls while working from home with your spouse so that my office Is not the first place you visit when the quarantine is finally lifted.
I previously spoke with Bustle magazine and offered some advice on “how to keep your relationship healthy, according to divorce lawyers.” You can find my pre-quarantine advice here.
In my interview with Bustle, I noted, “In a world full of constant distractions, it is easy to lose sight of the importance of your relationship with your significant other.” Now, faced with endless days and nights with your spouse, many of those outside distractions have been stripped away and you are finding yourself face to face with the person you married, day in and day out, all while trying to manage the considerable obligations of work and home. We are now faced with unique challenges as we navigate these unprecedented times. If you feel that you are alone in your struggle, know that you are not. We are all in this together, from afar, or at least from a safe six feet apart. #SocialDistancing
For some of us, we are now going on week four of five of quarantine. As a result, you are probably spending more time with your spouse than you have spent since your honeymoon. Couples around the world are taking on the impossible task of trying to do it all, and tensions in relationships are higher than ever. If you have children at home, congratulations, you are now a full-time teacher, employee, caregiver, homemaker and a spouse.
No one marries their spouse expecting to spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week with them, so we have all been thrown for a loop. But before you throw in the towel and start googling divorce lawyers (in which case Berkman Bottger Newman Schein LLP should be the first call you make) try to implement these three rules, and maybe, just maybe, you can emerge from this quarantine with your marriage securely intact and with a new appreciation for your significant other.
1. Establish your work hours
Before you go to bed each night, discuss the next day’s schedule with your spouse. Write down any conference calls you have, or deadlines that need to be met. If you need an hour or two of uninterrupted time, make sure to schedule it and let your spouse know in advance. If you have children, divide parenting responsibilities around your work obligations and take shifts so that each of you is afforded time to complete your work free of distraction. Communication is key.
After you make your schedule and discuss it with your spouse, be sure to honor it. This is where so many couples will have trouble. Yes, last minute things will come up. You will receive that “emergency” call from your boss that you just have to take when you are supposed to be wearing your parenting hat so that your spouse can dial in to that scheduled zoom conference call. Work together with your spouse and discuss in advance of these types of situations how to handle when work emergencies arise.
Nothing breeds resentment in relationships like feeling as if your time is less valuable and your work is less important. In times like these, a degree of flexibility, patience and understanding should be expected on both ends for this to work while we all navigate these unprecedented challenges.
2. Designate your own space
If you are like me, your work office is your sanctuary. It is where you spend the majority of your time, your home away from home. You are free of the distractions of your spouse pacing around the living room yelling loudly on speaker phone, your children asking for their 10th snack of the day, or the whining dog desperate to go to the dog park that is now closed.
Even without an office, it is still possible to find your “sanctuary” at home. If you do not have a home office, as many New Yorkers do not, fear not. Find any space that you can make your own and settle in. It could be as simple as a spot on the couch, your coffee table pushed up against a window, an area on the kitchen island, or maybe if you are lucky, you can commandeer the entire dining room table. Beds also work nicely as “office” space (trust me, I studied for the bar exam from the comforts of my queen size bed, which is now permanently marked with highlighter).
Whatever it is, find your spot and make it “yours.” Having this designated space will help you and your spouse to establish boundaries and will allow you to be as productive as possible during your designated working hours (see part 1). If possible, while you are at the “office,” let your spouse know that interruptions are not welcome until designated “office hours.” Be sure to offer that same courtesy to your spouse while he or she is at their “office.”
3. Keep the lines of communication flowing
It is now more important than ever that you keep the dialogue going each day.
As issues come up, be sure to tell your spouse about them. And this does not apply solely to work issues or emergency calls. If you are feeling overwhelmed and just need to vent, make sure to share that feeling and then try to work together to find a way to alleviate that feeling. Maybe you need to take a closer look at how you are dividing your day and be sure it is “fair” and works for everyone. If you are taking on the lion’s share of child-care responsibilities, or your spouse is not pulling his or her weight cleaning up, do not keep those feelings in. Nothing good comes from harboring ill feelings towards your spouse and letting those feelings fester until they reach a boiling point.
Remember to be courteous in conveying your feelings, and do not wait until your spouse is in the midst of working diligently to meet an important deadline to air your grievances. Set aside a few minutes each night (perhaps after scheduling for the next day) to reflect on the day’s events and be sure to ask your spouse how he or she is doing or how his or her day was. These are common courtesies you would (hopefully) extend to each other under normal circumstances after coming home from the office at night, maybe over dinner and a glass of wine. Do not let this period of quarantine become an excuse to stop checking in on each other or to stop talking.
Without question, these are difficult times. If tensions and stress levels are high as a result, it is to be expected and completely normal. Hopefully, by putting the above rules into practice, you can avoid the dreaded divorce boom, and maybe even emerge from this stronger than ever.
If these three rules could not help keep you together, then be sure to pick up a copy of “The New Rules of Divorce” by Jacqueline Newman, managing partner of Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein, LLP, recently named to “Best Books of Oprah’s Book Club 2020” for 12 different rules you will want to memorize while going through a divorce.
Notwithstanding your best efforts, this quarantine may be the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back,” in which case Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein LLP can help you explore your divorce options. To schedule a consultation with an NYC divorce attorney, please calls us at (212) 466-6015, or reach out to us through our contact form today. We maintain offices on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, in White Plains, and in Hackensack, NJ.