A Guide To Relationships on Lockdown
So. You know how we've spent a lot of time these past few months. Talking about everything, the covid nineteen has changed while. There's one big thing that we haven't covered yet. It's sensitive. It's intimate. It's not easy to talk about even when there is no pandemic, it's just messy. It's marriage. And living together and partnership for life with kids or without. If you're married or partnered, you haven't been alone throughout all this and you're lucky, but you've also likely spent the last few months navigating an entirely different landscape, adjusting to a new daily life, and probably fighting at least sometimes. Today, we'll talk about the unique stresses that these and I'm sorry here. Unprecedented Times of placed on couples who pledged to spend their lives together. Just maybe not this close together for this long. We'll talk about how to fight and how to divide household labor how to survive till death do us part, and beyond and I will try not to get myself in trouble at home by saying something dumb. Can I do? We will find at. Jordan he's Rawlings and this is the big story. Stephen Marsh is a writer and a podcast and his new show is called and I'm GonNa say it, and we'll see if the producers me. How not about your marriage too bad? Hi Stephen. How're you doing? I'm doing well. Thank you, I'm going to start because we're GONNA talk about relationships today I'm just going to start by asking you. How has Being together with two kids, homeschooling and working twenty four seven impacted your partnership. You know to be honest, a kind of love it I. Mean Like I'm a freelance writer, so I'm used to being at home alone and so for me. It's sort of like the kids are home from school. There's like a lot of activity in the house and I'm less lonely. That's really that's really the big. The big change I think it's a little harder for my wife to be stuck with me the. The whole time, and certainly it's you know certainly to be my fourteen year old son in be stuck with your parents for the indefinite future without being able to go to camp or anything like that is a bit of a nightmare. I mean you know. I think were were kind of lucky. Because like whenever wherever covid goes like divorce, rates spike like in Wuhan the bureaucracies just totally overwhelmed with divorce. applications the sames happening in Italy It's a classic relationship accelerator so single. Single people who were you know at home? Confronting Death by themselves unable to touch anyone are like desperate to get married and people who are married or like I need to get the hell out of here. You know it kind of it kind of works both ways on people. Do you remember at the beginning of this? When people were saying? Oh, there's GonNa be a covert baby-boom. Then everybody with kids said well. If there is, it's going to be all only children, Yeah I. I mean it's like the hormonal effective covert I. Don't think has really been written about, but like I I mean I knew there would not be covid baby boom. There were there were stories. I mean. You've heard stories. The early days of people who'd been on three dates shacking up that cannot work out well, so tell me about this podcast which recorded pre pandemic, but is being released now in the middle of one. What has cova done to the subjects you discuss on the podcast? It seems like it must have just put more pressure on all of them. Well, yeah, I mean. It's very interesting because you know not to be too glib about it, but the time like the timing of the release could not be better because you know the questions that we deal with in this show like. You know the physiological basis of fighting like. How do you fight better like suddenly? This becomes very very important to people who are jammed together all the time. How do you deal with money together? This is also about going to become very very important for a huge number of marriages how to deal with death how to think through divorce. Should, you schedule sex? How do you deal with housework? And suddenly all of these questions which we were dealing with which matter you know in the best of times suddenly, they've all come very much to the fore the it's the old questions I don't think the questions have really changed. Just their urgency has and I'm going to get you to. Well give me some of the advice you get to in the podcast and the listeners to because I'm sure we could all use it right now, but I. You mentioned at the very beginning that you think it's been great for you to be at home in also have company my honest question to you is Would your wife? Would Sarah say the same thing? No, I don't think so I think she you know she. She's a more social person. It's not really a marriage question. She likes being in an. An office she likes being with other people. She likes that space quite a bit and be denied it I. Think is actually pretty pretty rough. You know also there's the question of we. We have to educate our children and do our jobs at the same time, which is hugely stressful and really frankly not possible. Yeah. I think for me a freelance writer. Where like you? You find me in my office where I am every where I've been every day for fifteen years like tied to this table in the tower of song. It's not. It's not really that different for me, but for her. It's huge. What have you guys thought about during this pandemic I know you've fought i. you know what I think. I can't even remember the subject I. Mean I know that sounds like a capo, but I definitely have fought, but you know the subjects are really irrelevant. Because what were you know when when we did the fighting episode? One thing I learned was that you know fighting is now. Now is not really about issues. It's not about the problems in your marriage, and certainly never helps to solve those problems It's really a physiological response to Stimuli. It's about when you're when you're intimate with someone. Your brain naturally looks for threat and that and naturally response to threat and when you do that, you're you know the tends to build on itself very very quickly, and you know the conditions of covid really are the conditions that make us all. Very intimate suddenly and. Without escape, and so it's natural that you're going to have more fights is just. It's just part of your body. It's just basically a physical reaction, so yeah, we've had some raiders, but I don't think they've like. The subject matter is kind of irrelevant. So how do you fight better the topic of a whole episode? Yeah I mean it's complicated like I. Don't want to reduce it to a one point because you know like. We talked to Stanton. WHO's very famous neurobiologist and we talked to cloudy Hasso. Who'd who does like lifetime studies, couples, and how they fight, and how it affects their bodily reactions to? Overtime and you know they have. They have a lot of collective insights into it, but I mean I. Think the real the point the takeaway for me anyway like fighting is not an intellectual process. You're not going to solve any issue that you have through fighting. You're not even going to address. It and so the really when you get into a fight, which is natural. It's it's inevitable. There's no escape from that the. The health even to fight. The point is to get jet to safety as quickly as possible. What does that mean get to? Safety means to make your partner feel like their loved rather than threatened, and you know the simple ways to do that are just to look each other in the is for about thirty seconds, or just to leave and run and do a silly dance, or do something physical to get out the energy. And just returned to a where you feel like you like your your interest or mutual again. just get to that place as quickly as possible because you know, the other way just expands forever. Don't you not fix the shoes by doing that though? But you never fix an issue by fight. I mean there's no you will not find anyone like. That was the point. That's what I learned like. You Talk to these people and you're in there and they're like well. Don't you need to have fights in order to solve problems in lake? Well, no fight has ever solved a problem and I I thought about it. In my own case I've been married for nearly twenty years and I was like. Yeah, you're right. I mean like the way you solve a problem by sitting down calmly with a glass of wine and talking things through and being frank and honest about it, and we're and we're talking to a therapist or D- But. That's not fighting. Like. That's not that's not that's not. The fighting is just response to Stimuli. What about just living together in general, which is another topic of one of the episodes first of all I guess. What did you discover that either? You've been just doing wrong? The whole time or wish you'd known before you lived with your partner. Well I mean one thing I learned I sort of. Of knew already had written about before in the unmade bed is that there are no solutions to the problems of living together like the there, there is no magic bullet you think think when you're when you're a kid. When I was a kid, I thought Oh will drop contracts, and it'll make it all simple, and then we'll. We're reasonable people. We both believe in equality. We both want. Want to do the same things, and and and we and we don't want. We don't WanNA fight about dumb stuff like who's cleaning the toilet and stuff like that, so we'll make up a list, but that's not actually how it works at all. It's much more emotionally driven, and it's much more about the quest for recognition, and the truth is those matters just like never really get solved. Solved so then you then you come to the place of Lake Well. How do you? How do you deal with that irresolution I? Mean that is the one thing that I really learned from doing this show is that marriage is quite hard You know look. I wasn't an idiot I. knew people were in pain in their relationships, but I. Guess I kind of thought that they were. Met screwing things up, or they had their own problems or something like that, it's like no actually doing this is actually quite difficult, and it requires a lot of endurance, and it requires a lot of skill and tenderness, and it also requires a lot of luck, and so that's I. You know that was the that was kind of the takeaway for me like you know. This is actually a lot harder than you think. Yeah. You realize now that we're two men now talking about housework, right? You don't know how. Yeah, no, and it's really. I'M GONNA. Get in trouble for this, and so are you yeah? and. Also maybe we should be doing it like. Let's also take that into account, but anyway go on one of the reasons why I wanted to talk to you and to talk about this is because I think it often falls on. the woman in a marriage to to try to fix the marriage, and to try to have those emotional discussions and try to bring those topics up so I think like. Yes obviously There are probably things that we're going to get wrong and screw up by having this conversation. It shouldn't be left to wives to make the husband go to counseling and to initiate these conversations, and you know to try to save the marriage, so so that's what I'd say that but I. Wanted to ask you about recognition because I find when there are inequalities, it is the recognition that makes the difference between a fight and no fight. It's not necessarily the active. Okay. Well, you take the garbage out five days a week and I'll take the. I'll do the dishes five days a week and etc. It's the lake. I see you taken garbage out. That's awesome. Well. That's the getting to safety. Part of fighting. Getting to safety is like that feeling like I'm seen in you, know me and were together right, and so you always want to get to that as quickly as possible, but you know I mean I'm on the record like my about housework like my feeling about it is that? Every like everyone should do a lot less of it, and that the the long term trend with housework is not men doing more where it gets women. Doing less has been that. That's true everywhere in Western Europe North America. It's called disinvestment in some well known sociological category you know. My mother was a fulltime physician who also vacuumed the the drapes of our house lake. That's not it quickly realized. That's no longer possible, and but that whole debate around what housework is it so fascinating but it's also almost impossible to have rationally like it's it it it becomes. It becomes super emotional and. Layered with with norms so quickly, you know it's it's almost impossible to have those conversations. In general, although I definitely agree with you, that men do not do their fair share of trying to make marriage is work or Thinking through their marriages right, I mean like I, I think there's this this thing with men were they don't WanNa even consciously try and conceive of these questions they want to just push them aside and get on with things and I think that's really bad and dangerous and stupid and just stupid like there's there's ways to think through this stuff that are very can really improve your life and can improve your marriage, and they're not hippie nonsense, right and the and they're not you know snake oil salesmen stuff they're. They're quite practical. I WanNa, talk to you, but a couple of. Of the other episodes that we can may be covering somewhat rapid fire succession associated. You schedule Sex. What what are the experts say? Yes, I mean you know in this show we take all these questions and we we try get multiple perspectives on them, and you know definitely different perspectives and see how we feel about them. We literally could not find a single expert who said don't schedule sex. They all say schedule sex because you know the simple truth is. If you don't, you won't have it and you know the other thing is if you get to once a week. that is the equivalent in happiness terms of going from making twenty five thousand dollars a year to making seventy five thousand dollars a year so i. don't know about you, but when I went from that from twenty five to seventy five K that was like the most happiness that was the greatest increase of happiness that I could have so yeah. You do absolutely that one you know most. Most of these things, there's no AB testing for most the stuff, so you know most of the things we don't have as definitive answers that to these questions, but that one is a pretty straight. Yes, how about deciding who to marry? That's I haven't listened to that episode yet, but really fascinating. We talked to a a matchmaker traditional matchmaker who charges ten thousand dollars for a? A relationship and we also talked to a WHO works at NASA Jet Propulsion Lab. Who as a sideline has developed as algorithm for determining when you should settle essentially and so like we look at the math of you know. How do you pick basically and not nothing works I? Mean that's the that's the sad answer, but like when you get to when you get to like trust, trust your. Your gut doesn't make any sense, but also trust. The numbers doesn't make any sense I. Mean I think that's kind of a lesson in itself. When you're picking this, you're doing it with. It's very partial information game. It's an asymmetrical information game and you have to know that when you get married. You're taking a big risk. What about should we just get divorced? How do you make that call? Yet, there's a whole group again. See. This is the kind of thing that I think that there. There's a kind of practical. There's practical solutions to this like there's a whole group of scholars divorce ideation out there from various different political beliefs and very leg. They study how people get divorced, and I mean about forty percent of people in divorce proceedings. Regret it in court really. You know the lesson here is divorce is a wonderful thing. It's kind of the key. People underrate the power of divorce like divorce is key to modern life as In freedom of the press its that important because it means that we're not locked in these terrible relationships like there is a way out and super important for human liberty, but at the same time you won't understand that if you're thinking about divorce. Especially coming out a covert I, think take it slowly like to take take your time to do it because people get divorced for his bad reasons as they get married rate for emotional reasons that are really temporary, and they don't really think through and yeah like divorce slowly. The last one I want to ask you about is pretty profound marriage death especially now when you know probably number of long term, marriages have lost a partner. How does marriage survived death? In what is that look like you know we talked to? That was a very powerful episode. You know it was. It was a sign of its success that no one who dealt with it could actually get through the whole thing without stopping and crying like our executive producer couldn't edit it like had to keep stopping. The sound designer couldn't really get through it. He kept crying. I. Mean it's your worst nightmare. Anybody who's married well I don't know I think they're i. think are much worse things that can happen in a marriage actually certainly after doing this show, but I think the You know that we talked to a woman who texts her dead husband like three years after the thing that's so interesting is that the relationship doesn't really end. We talked to all these people for whom including my mother for whom they're dead. Spouse, you know. The fact of his death was just kind of one more fact in the relationship, and the relationship went right on. It's just without one person, and so you know what this show is really about the difficulties of marriage, which can be grueling like the housework, the money problems the sex problems like all this stuff, but that show really showed like it is worth fighting for like it is actually worth trying to work out because it can be incredibly powerful in life life-affirming. What did you learn about? Marriage is an institution and a concept while making a show well, it's very It's not natural. When we did the show about parenting leagues, the thing that we kept returning to the kept coming back was like love your children and express your love for them, which is actually kind of the most natural thing in the world really late. That's not a tall order, but with. Marriage even the best couples, even the luckiest couples. The most compatible couples are going to struggle. Because because it is, it is not a natural arrangement. It's not built into our biology to do this, and and so that means it's doesn't mean that it's not worth doing, and it doesn't. The institution isn't powerful. Because in some ways it's never been more powerful than it is right now, but on the other hand I like it does require a lot of effort and a lot of endurance. My last question is just did this podcast the process of making it make you a better husband, and as a follow up like I, asked before. Would your wife agree with that I? Know? Did and I I know she would agree with it for sure. You know I, think just the the fighting episode was a really big one. Where it's just like you realize like actually, there's no point doing this. If you really WanNa change, things like have a serious conversation about them. Don't get into these screaming matches that. End Up just backtracking on and nothing ever happens like and you know there was something there was some very serious sort of I mean not very serious, but I am medium sized family crisis and in the middle of doing this podcast, and because I did the show I was really quite a bit calmer than I think I would have been before i. was just like you know what it's like. I feel threatened, but don't, but it's just. It's just physiological. Just just let it go. Just let it go, and you think about it when you're when when sanity is returned I'm going to remember that advice when Rosemary gets mad at me possibly while listening to this episode. Well I. Mean I think one thing that's really important like you really realize that how much pop culture and media assumptions about marriage of created this impression like it's i. mean it's happily ever after whatever and it's just. It's nonsense I. Mean we all know it's nonsense, but you the figuring out how this works involves a lot of effort. It's hard to admit that to yourself that. That it's all nonsense, yeah, I think I think it's really shoved down our throats, and then we don't ask ourselves these questions like I. I actually assumed doing this I. Mean it's weird to think but I was like a forty year old man who thought that married people had sex three times a week. And then I talk to an expert and they're like no joking like. And it was like right. Of course, of course that kind infer even basic information is not really available even to married people. You're kind of just left alone to deal with it, and there's no reason not to know. There's no reason to be ignorant. Stephen Thank you so much for this and I look forward to listen to the rest of the show. That was pleasure. Give give my best rosemary.