So how did you fare, thrust into lockdown with your loved one 24/7? Was it a dream come true to be able to fall into each others arms over coffee, enjoy a passionate kiss at lunch break, or share a sundowner drink together as dusk falls on Bangkok? Oh, the excitement of having your partner home early and not stuck in Bangkok’s commuter traffic jams.
Or were you ready to throttle Corona and whichever bat, laboratory or civet who instigated the worldwide pandemic and forced you to live inharmoniously in such unnaturally close confines?
Have you written a personal letter to the CEO of your partner’s company imploring them to file for special consideration and reopen the Bangkok office to all staff, before you start divorce proceedings?
Lockdown: For better, for worse
Mr Wren is a restless soul at the best of times. The idea of going into a potential lockdown with no ability to run in Lumpini Park filled him with horror. The thought of weeks on end without Premier League soccer, beer and Soi Eleven, tennis, golf or Aussie rules football brought deep, deep despair. Thank goodness he had no idea of the alcohol ban at this time.
Moi on the other hand was quite up for the challenge, I mean how hard can it be? All I had to do was be better than office smoothie maid, and let him put the last piece of jigsaw in…
Working from home.
Hmmm, it turned out this was quite a challenge.
Let’s be honest, any of us worth our salt as seasoned internationals will not have got where we are today without a high degree of independence. We expat partners develop highly sophisticated coping mechanisms to deal with whatever sh*t the world, the company or our situation throws at us. So we are not used to having our partners under our feet all day long. Certainly not in our space and never with their ‘what’s for lunch’ comments.
Even worse if you are homeschooling children as well in this scenario. Give us all strength.
Or, if you had any Gen Y in your household. You can take solace in the fact that this is the generation coping least well in a lockdown, socially isolated and home working situation. So ignore their sulking or weird Xbox dependency habits.
Researchers are saying that the average home working executive needs to work at 150% to provide the output they normally do in a regular workplace environment.
I dispute this! If the partner, can supply the support, the distraction and the meals needed harmony can be found. We found out early on, that success can be achieved but most appreciation seems to be gained through food.
A domestic goddess: Goddess yes, domestic no!
Since our lockdown days, I have gone out of my way to be the domestic goddess that he has always wanted and I never felt was important. Sure, he married badly. This is no easy task when you have told your maid she can take the rest of the month off on full pay. A quick risk assessment for Covid-19 identified our one morning a week maid who cleaned endless homes was a potential weak link in the whole social distancing scenario. She had to be furloughed, sob, sob -from all parties!
I have cooked. I have cleaned and I have made the world’s best protein smoothies for lunchtime all in an attempt to smooth the way and ace it on the marital bliss front. Who knew that apparently the office has a maid who makes all the men (they are mostly all men!) a protein smoothie every lunchtime? It sounds a bit suss to be, but not to be beaten I can do this.
Life is a piece of cake!
I even made a cake (once) which was nearly the undoing of me. Confession time… so I might have lost it completely once, or maybe twice in the Central Food Hall in Central Chidlom. In my defence I was brought up in the country where queuing and politeness are the order of the day, alcohol ban or no alcohol ban.
I will say it now, I am sorry to the Thai lady who when leaning over me in the cake ingredients aisle got the full brunt of my Covid-19 I’m not coping wrath. I am socially distancing, I told her and you are in my cake flour personal space! She looked at me blankly, as if I was the bang out of order farang that I was.
I only did the cake thing once. I mean at some stage life has to return to normal doesn’t it? I’m not setting myself up for failure. I might be able to carry off the domestic goddess malarky for a few weeks, months at a stretch, but I fully intend to hop, skip and jump back into my old Bangkok ways at some point.
The Jigsaw Puzzle – it is always the small pieces that make the big picture
C’mon how many of you have been driven to jigsaw puzzles to alleviate a boring couples evening? Oh yes, I’m hearing many of us are searching for marital bliss by piecing together 1,000 tiny disconnected pieces. Have you tried it? It works!
Either through a vain attempt to gain some semblance of marital order, or dispel the threat of having to sit with your partner through yet another repeat of the third round of the 2019 Malaysian Golf Open – won by Scott Hend of Australia by the way. God bless True Sport.
It turns out jigsaws are like some weird form of meditation. I mean it is absolutely impossible not to be fully in the moment when attempting to recreate Monet’s Garden, New York Central Park or Winter Wonderland.
I have learnt so much about my husband during lockdown. One of the best examples of how men and women operate differently was the jigsaw. We both agree the starting point must be the edge pieces but from here on we differ.
I go for all the sky pieces and work logically down top to bottom. He goes immediately for glory and gather all the pieces for the truck in the middle. What? The truck wasn’t even connected to anything. The male brain works in mysterious ways…
Women scan and colour match. While men carry out a forensic analysis of the piece, the box and them triumphantly place it in the exact G spot in the puzzle. With a self satisfied look.
The nightly TV dramas
We are not a household that ever watch the telly much but we had more drama over the nightly ‘can I watch the news?’ discussion, than in season two of Fleabag.
I know I’m not alone in saying most women (mass generalisation perhaps) are over the depths of despair of the CNN or BBC World News coverage of Covid-19 by 9pm at night. We want to relax and unwind without the never ending dose of tragedy.
Men however, devoid of any sport to watch, have an insatiable appetite for every horror statistic going. Enough said.
Some people seemed lucky and make comments on how well they have caught up with their sleep since they went into lockdown. Not here in this household.
Video conferencing may have become easily the way of the business world, but needing to cover all time zones has meant we’ve (that’s the royal we) started VC days at 7am and up to three times per week are finishing near 10pm. Add in the wind down and the row over the TV News above and no one is getting to the Land of Nod, until late in the day. 10pm curfew or not!
The Headspace App and Downward Dog yoga Apps have been our nightly calm down.
It was pretty obvious to us early on how much our social life revolved around other people. We looked at each other and wondered how we would get through weeks, potentially months of social distancing.
We managed to include friends fairly easily through Zoom, Houseparty and soon our virtual Locktail Mocktail evenings on the balcony became a thing. Even better when we had the frisson of excitement of prohibition when Thailand’s alcohol ban came into effect.
Very early on we each came up with 10 evening activities which were to spice up a dull lockdown evening. We would look to draw out a folded up piece of red paper containing the activity for any evening which looked particularly uneventful – weren’t they all? Massage, disco dancing in the dark, contacting long lost friends, movie nights, body scrubs and facials, Thai language lesson, learning bridge and a few ‘who put that one in?”, become our way of life.
Rediscovering your relationship
There is no doubt that this has been an amazing opportunity to rediscover ourselves and our relationship. We found early on that we needed to change the way we talked to each other. Responding not reacting to issues became important, even when all you wanted to do was scream WTF at each other.
We found a lockdown situation amplifies the faults or points of tension in a marriage but some simple techniques were helpful at times of high stress.
In ‘How to improve your marriage without talking about it’ by Patricia Love and Steven Stosny (available at Kinokuniya EmQuartier) gives lots of helpful advice:
Six second hug
Hug your partner six times a day for six seconds. Try it! Six seconds is a long time, thirty-six seconds will facilitate a new level of closeness. It is impossible to maintain resentment whilst hugging, we would always end up laughing!
Hold positive thoughts about your relationship:
At some point in the day, as often as you can, stop for 10 seconds to think positive thoughts about your partner.
Appreciate your partner
Every night before going to sleep tell your partner the things they did during the day that you appreciated. Initially the things I was being appreciated for all seemed to revolve about food – I loved it when you baked me that cake!
Change the way you talk to each other
Whilst a lot of the book emphasises building a deep emotional connection we found living in such close quarters to each other, no-one ever had the cooling-off time when things got annoying. The old keep calm and carry on quote became quite helpful and we strived to always respond not react when things drove us crazy.
New pleasures discovered
After thirty five years together, no times has been more challenging than the past three months of Covid-19 life. Honestly give me “I’ve accepted a new job, we’re moving Friday” conversation any day over I’m working from home for weeks on end and a two month Thailand government emergency decree.
We survived! We are hugging more, appreciating each other more (and knowing exactly what drives each other bananas in close living situations) We now understand each other more and have just graduated onto working together to finish the next 1,000 piece jigsaw.
Little Wandering Wren is an International Travel Writer currently with her nest in Thailand. This Bangkok Blogger can be found at www.littlewanderingwren.com and on Instagram and Twitter @littlewanderingwren