What does love look like during a lockdown?
Is it the Tiger Trifecta of Joe Exotic, John Finlay and Travis Maldonado?
Or does it look like a surge of December babies?
(The married-with-kids readers collectively shake their heads… Homeschooling, shall we say, has bludgeoned the spark.)
Or will cramped quarters pour gasoline on years of pent-up and unaddressed emotions?
A recurring question in investing circles is: What supertrends will emerge from the current pandemic?
Ecommerce will increase, WFH will become the norm, supply chains will continue to automate… yada yada yada.
Most predictions are a distillation of “whatever trend is currently happening, will just happen more quickly.” (I guess that’s why VCs get paid the big bucks.)
Apparently the same is true for relationships.
“Disasters generally operate as an accelerator in a relationship,” says couples therapist Esther Perel.
“Life is short, let’s get married, let’s have babies. What are we waiting for?”
Or on the flip side:
“Life is short. I’ve waited long enough, I’m out of here.”
Try this mad lib out with your spouse. It’s part of the soften-startup template developed by the renowned relationship psychologists Julie and John Gottman.
“I feel __________ and I need _____________.”
(Shifting from “You” → “I” helps de-fang tones of criticism.)
Lisa and I did the exercise last night. And boy did it unleash a bi-directional stream of consciousness. The quarantine, it turns out, has the potential to accelerate our longstanding relationship resentment.
Lisa went first:I feel distant from you and I need more genuine check-ins. I don’t feel appreciated for the extra work in home schooling, cleaning, and having to put my art on the side (again).
I went next:I feel guilty every time I go down to my office to work and I need you to know that it’s scary to only work 4 hours a day during a global recession when you have zero guaranteed income.
That felt good. We hadn’t had a conversation like that since March 11th.
“People have different coping styles about how they deal with the unknown,” continues Perel.
Organizers will start clipping all COVID-19 articles; preppers will hit refresh on their Amazon Fresh delivery windows; empaths will incessantly call and text loved ones to check-in.
Lisa and I have very different coping styles.
Lisa is our Fauci, vigilant in decontaminating the house and an early-adopter of the mask (earning her the pet name, Sub Zero).
I’m more in the “this too will pass” and “let’s try not to control that which we can’t control” camp. Maybe a touch too optimistic given the gravity of the circumstances.
These coping strategies were immediately on display on March 11th.
Lisa’s first actions: understanding how to use our password manager, getting the low-down of all the financial accounts and insurance policies and locating the physical copies of our wills.
My first actions: starting a daily newsletter (which flamed out on Day 14).
Perel would classify these as textbook reactions to an “invisible existential threat.”
“Aww, that’s such a sweet and tender gesture,” remarked my friend Philip.
He was referring to how Lisa does all our in-store grocery shopping (for the top up purchases). Armed with mask, gloves, Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer, Sub Zero strafes the aisles of Vons meticulously picking out eggs, lentils and (of course) Tequila.
Why is Lisa our family’s interface to the virus-y outside world? The working hypothesis is that men are at higher risk, so she’s protecting me.
And last night, she told me how grateful she is that I’ve created such an antifragile career to provide for our family. (Fine, she said resilient but I’m trying to stay on brand.)
“Considering everything that’s going on,” she concluded “we’re in a good place.”
We’ll take that.