Bet that grabbed your attention. No? Well, if you follow me on social media, you’ll realize we weren’t exactly on the brink of divorce. I’m grateful to this pandemic because our marriage has been strengthened and has even thrived during this otherwise horrible year.

We celebrated 32 years of marriage this past March, just when the lockdown hit everywhere. That’s an excellent length of time these days. We have friends who didn’t make it and ended up divorced. We’ve had our own difficult and soul-gutting times ourselves. But we have always come through the other side, mainly because we’re both too stubborn to quit.

Over the past five years, my husband’s military career had put him in two increasingly stressful jobs. So stressful his blood pressure became alarmingly high, and I was afraid for his health. We were living in the same home, but his exceptionally long hours at work meant we were passing in the bedroom and shower a lot of the time. We both felt disconnected, communication suffered, and frustrations mounted. Neither of us liked the situation but his work couldn’t be changed so we tried our best to adjust our perspectives and ride it out.

Then came the pandemic and the order to “work from home”. One might think these kinds of pressures would make matters worse, but in my eyes, nothing could’ve been better. Aside from our fears about getting the virus from shopping for groceries and the perpetual quest for toilet paper, everything in our lives came to a grinding halt. Although he still had his work Blackberry “attached to his wrist”, as I liked to call it, and he was on call 24/7, because the world had slowed down, so had military training operations.

My husband’s blood pressure went down to normal for the first time in years. He began sleeping more than five  hours at a time. We both relaxed because our adult children with special needs live at home with us and we didn’t have the additional anxiety that other friends whose adult children lived in group homes did. And we had the chance to sit and have coffee together and actually have a conversation!

It felt like a miracle to me. I realize it sounds silly—you couldn’t talk to your husband before the virus hit? Yes, but not in the same manner as we did when we were on a forced lock down. While other people were on social media moaning about being stuck together in their homes, we were enjoying playing Scrabble, UNO with our kids, completing puzzles with them, and reading books for the first time in months.

We had time together with our dogs, an extra dose of relaxation that comforted us. When we suddenly lost our golden retriever, Valour, to lung cancer at the end of April, I was so happy that we’d had that 24/7 time with him to enjoy what ended up being his final days with us. It was a gift.

And I felt like we “saw” each other for the first time in a long time. My husband found an unusual hobby—watch collecting. He came upon a new group of fellows to hang out with online, and enjoyed digging into the history of watch-making. I upped my own hobbies and renewed interests with online friends. I completed my novel NORTHERN PROTECTOR and turned it into my editor in May. And my husband, being home, had time to read it before I sent it in. It felt like we were enjoying my writing together. Another new experience!

Has it all been sunshine and roses? Not at all. I know we’re lucky in that none of our family has suffered from the virus. We haven’t lost income or jobs. But I wouldn’t give back these months at home for anything. I’m fine with life flowing at an easier pace. I love our new weekend rituals around special meals and watching movies on Disney+ with our kiddos.

There’s no doubt we’ll look back on the year 2020 as an historical turning point for many things in society: how we handle public health, view sports and other live events, experience school, and what constitutes “polite” behaviour by wearing face masks to protect ourselves and others. This crazy year of a pandemic mixed with heightening climate change is as traumatic as 1918 and the Spanish Flu was to that generation. I’m just grateful for the benefit it’s had to my marriage and my family and I’m holding on to those intangibles along with my faith.

What benefits have you found during this season of stress from the pandemic?