Welcome to 2021, my friends!
While last year was quite a ride, I am very grateful to share that even with all the pandemic issues, I was still able to support 30 couples to get married. I am truly honored to get to know and support each couple that chooses to work with me and to be here writing to you today.
You may remember earlier in 2020, just after we began the first round of shut downs, I did a series of Facebook Live videos on my Chanelle Carlin Weddings FB page called “When close is a wee bit too close – Relationship Survival Tips for the 24 hour per day Stay Home Stay Safe Order”. The purpose of these brief chats was two-fold: 1) to honor where we’re all at and remind you that you’re not alone in feeling claustrophobic and overly restricted. We miss our friends and family. Some of us are even starting to miss our commutes and our colleagues. The other purpose of these chats was to share some simple tips that might help make sharing close quarters with your loved one(s) a little easier. You can catch Video #1 about Healthy Relationships here.
I’m feeling called to re-visit our Relationship Survival Tips all these months later because many of us are still living under shut down orders, or have been asked to stay home again after restrictions were lessened. Rather than re-do the videos (even though to be honest, I hate seeing myself on video and ALWAYS feel they should be re-done), I thought I would share a blog post beginning with Survival Tip #1, GRACE & SPACE.
For those of you who don’t know me, and just found your way to this post, my name is Chanelle Carlin. I am your Professional Officiant for your custom outdoor elopement or intimate wedding ceremony in the naturally beautiful Pacific Northwest and I have the honor of serving couples who have found “the ONE” and are intentional about creating a loving and successful marriage.
During this time, however, while we are under a 24 hour per day Stay Home Stay Safe Order mandated by the Governor (or in fact most of our leaders), even the most intentional couples with the strongest and healthiest of relationships feel strain. My hope today is to offer support.
As I mentioned above, we are ten months into this pandemic and folks are still/again asked to stay home, except if they are considered “essential workers”. We non-essential workers can go out to carry out essential activities like grocery shopping or doctor appointments. When we do go out, we’re required to wear masks over our faces and stay 6 feet or more from folks not in our household. All of this, we are told, is specifically to limit the spread of the COVID 19 virus, for which we don’t yet have immunity. In the world of many of my couples, staying home means no wedding, no work for some, no family time or time with friends and their previous hobbies. These restrictions, while for the common good, add additional stress on top of an already stress filled time. The Stay Home Stay Safe Orders also mean that folks are living in close quarters for 24 hours a day and while for some that isn’t too difficult, perhaps because of where they live or the people they live with, for others, close is becoming TOO close and creating stress upon stress.
Let’s take a few minutes and look at what we can do about that…shall we? One caveat though – this information is neither earth shattering, nor rocket science. These are simple tips and ideas that when implemented can help ease strain. Sometimes though, when we’re under stress, even the simplest of solutions can elude us until they’re presented in just the right moment under just the right circumstances.
I’d like to just recognize and reiterate that stress in these circumstances is NORMAL. This is an abnormal time. We are asked to stay away from friends, family and neighbors and co-workers in order to keep healthy and to refrain from sharing a virus. Even with the restrictions and most people adhering to them, we are told that the numbers of those with the virus continue to increase. The isolation is creating serious mental health issues among the most at-risk populations and there seems to be no end in sight. In the State of Washington, our current restrictions were supposed to end on December 4th, then January 4th and now…they’re set for January 11th. Just writing this paragraph, I can feel my stress level rising. Ok, Chanelle… breathe…The key is to recognize the stress, acknowledge it, affirm that your feelings are genuine and reasonable and then decide what you want to do about them (for those who are struggling with more severe symptoms of depression and anxiety – also normal during this time, please reach out for support).
For now, we’ll kind of move forward. The first video in the “When Close is a Wee Bit TOO Close” series highlighted five signs of a healthy relationship:
You’re both equals in the relationship
You have mutual respect for one another
There is open and honest communication
You support each other’s goals
You’re both responsible and accountable
If you’re planning a wedding, let’s assume that yours is a healthy relationship (I always assume the best, you see) and you treat each other with respect, have open and honest communication and are supportive of each other. You’ve probably already realized over the past few months that even the healthiest of relationships can be impacted and strained by 24 hour togetherness and high stress. In our society today, we aren’t used to spending all of our time together with our nearest and dearest. We have jobs that we go to, we have friends, we have hobbies, we enjoy socializing and we have time with extended family. For the couples who are made up of essential workers (health care, emergency services, grocery store staff), this can be compunded by long shifts apart and then worry about exposure.
As we’ve already said, when you’re feeling stressed, it creates stress for the people around you, or additional stress, and that can put stress on your otherwise healthy relationship.
When we think about Grace, we think of love, openness, vulnerability, forgiveness. Right? In this case, let’s also think of Grace as the ability to recognize that we’re in tight quarters; we’re in situations we’ve never been in before and would not have expected to plan for.
When you plan on being in tight quarters together, what would you be doing? I know I would usually be camping, but then you’re surrounded by wide open spaces. Or, perhaps you’re in the car when you’re in tight quarters and sitting in traffic, but you know this is short term. Or, you’re on a long journey, but again that’s short term (relatively speaking). There is a starting and a stopping point to the journey. Part of the challenge right at the moment is that we’re in our confined spaces and being asked to stay in those confined spaces for an indefinite period of time (no pre-determined stopping point), which can cause stress for folks.
When you’re feeling stressed and like you just want to escape your apartment or tiny space, I encourage you to remember that you love this person; that you‘re feeling stressed together and stuck together. You’re in this together. This is one of those #forbetterorforworse moments in a relationship that we’ve all heard so much about.
Under the best of circumstances, you wouldn’t be stuck sharing the same small spaces together 24-hours a day, but if you’re going to be stuck in the same small space with somebody, isn’t it nice that it’s someone that you love and who loves you?
How are you allowing yourself and your partner grace?
I’d love to read your ideas.
There is space apart and space with proximity. We’ll talk briefly about both.
Normally, when you’re feeling like you need space from one another or from your small living quarters, you can just go out. You can go hang out with your friends and grab a coffee, go shopping, grab a beer at the pub, do a winetasting, play a round of golf or even visit your parents. Don’t feel like cooking tonight or doing dishes afterwards? That’s ok. We can just go get dinner at our favorite eatery. Right now, these things are not options for us. Most of our favorite hang outs are closed. Restaurants, if open, are available for take-out only and the expectation is that we stay inside our homes as much as possible so we stay away from other people and limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Uggh. ;-)
When we’re forced to stay home all the time, live, work, play there, our once beautiful space can begin to feel less home- like and more cardboard fort- like (fun at first, but eventually a wee bit cramped). To alleviate the box-like feeling, even in small apartments or small houses, there is usually a way we can carve out space for ourselves and each other. There might not be much, but it is possible. We just need to be creative and open. This is where those healthy relationship elements like equality, mutual respect and open and honest communication come into play. Perhaps it’s as simple as saying something like, “I’m in the bedroom while you’re in the living room during this time.” If you need to work, perhaps you can each set up your work spaces in different corners and use head phones to keep from distracting or being distracted. Maybe, you just schedule time for a bath. Remember too, that going outside is very healthy – even in winter. You can still go out and be in your yard or walk around the block and neighborhoods. We’re just asked to maintain a healthy 6 foot perimeter from other people.
Sometimes, space is just allowing your partner their quiet time. Perhaps you want to read, they want to relax and de-stress by playing video games. This is done by sharing space with proximity (being near each other).
I know a couple who are going through this at the moment. They are grateful because they just moved into a house not too long ago, but they aren’t used to being together quite so often. They are both active and independent. They both work from home now and are cooking together and completing projects around the house. So for now, when they want their own “me” time, one of them is binge watching TV shows, while the other is gaming. It’s strange for them both, because the one doesn’t normally watch TV and the other, while he enjoys playing video games, is generally a more athletic, get outside kind of person. They’ve finished most of the projects they wanted to get done around their new house and the normal types of activities they would do outside are not currently options. So…they are giving each other space to do what they want on their own and sharing proximity. I was heartened in my last conversation with them because as much as they are not used to sharing so much time and space together, they are finding healthy ways to make it work and recognizing that this time will pass and their normal active lives will resume.
Another option is to schedule time together so it becomes more like your old routine. While you’re each “working” or having space apart during times of the day, perhaps you can schedule time to come together and check in. Dinner together? Game time? Chat about what have you been working on? Share something you read or learned? One of my recently married couples is scheduling on-line dance lessons together for after they have completed their work and chores around the house.
Do you have any ideas for carving out space for yourself
and your partner in your living space during this time?
So…here we have relationship survival tip #1 for when close is feeling a wee bit too close during the Stay Home Stay Safe Orders: Allowing yourselves Grace to admit this is a stressful time, but you’re both doing your best to manage and Space for yourself and your partner, even in small spaces.
Thanks for you being here and would love to hear your ideas for an upcoming topic. Is there an issue that the two of you are facing that you think would be helpful for others? Feel free to comment or send me an email at email@example.com. Please remember that you’re not alone in this and if you need support, please reach out.
Chanelle Carlin is an ordained minister, professional wedding officiant, author, gratitude coach and owner of Chanelle Carlin Weddings, LLC. Chanelle believes that life and love should be celebrated every minute. She collaborates with couples who’ve found “The ONE” to create custom, memorable ceremonies for their intimate wedding or elopement in a natural setting in the Pacific Northwest. She lives with her family in rural Okanogan County, Washington, USA and LOVES traveling throughout the Pacific Northwest to officiate weddings. You can visit Chanelle at www.chanellecarlin.com, on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.