Relationships During Quarantine
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Boundless.org. Lisa is a frequent guest on radio and TV, and speaks around the world on relationships, faith, and the many challenges facing today’s young adults. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
You may love them, but that doesn’t keep them from getting on your nerves–or vice versa. Lisa Anderson gives suggestions for how to manage relationships during a time of forced distance, or forced togetherness.
Relationships During Quarantine
Michelle: How are things going in your house? Has this spring brought on some tension? You know, maybe it’s time to clear the air. Lisa Anderson has some great advice, including maybe putting down the phone when you do.
Lisa: I’ll euphemize it as saying, “Oh, no; I’m just a multi-tasker.” She’ll be talking to me; and I’m like on my phone, clearing out emails on my phone, or doing something, or scrolling through social media. That, to her, is very disrespectful. Technically, I think that I can hear her and do these things at one time; but it just conveys disrespect and me deprioritizing her.
Michelle: We’re going to talk about clearing the air and, also, life after quarantine with our loved ones—and Lisa Anderson—on this edition of FamilyLife This Week.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. You know, it’s the end of May, and we are living in just such weird times. A year ago, I never would have thought that something like a virus would have rocked our entire world like it did, and continues to do. Would you? I mean, did you foresee this coming? I would have never thought that this would have taken down everything, so to speak.
I mean, we are watching our world, right now, slowly wake up from fear, and sheltering in place, and restrictions. You know, we still have uncertainty; but one thing we’ve noticed, in this uncertainty and the sheltering in place, is those quirks/ you know, those quirks with our loved ones. You know what I mean! These are more than just leaving a wet towel on the bathroom floor or toilet paper—does it go over the top or under?—oh wait; no! Some of us didn’t have toilet paper during this time, but it’s good to know that it’s back in stock on the shelves now; isn’t it?
But also, those little quirks—a little bit worse than, you know, your two-year-old leaving their Legos® on the floor in the middle of the night, and you discovering it with your big toe?—you know, some of those quirks we already lived with; but let’s talk about those quirks you had never noticed—those quirks that we all seem to see when, all of a sudden, it’s just us and our loved ones. Now that we’ve seen those quirks/those warts, what do we do? How do we move into the future with our loved ones?—our spouse?— our roommate?—our children?—just how do we do that?
Well, I have a good friend, Lisa Anderson, who is the host of The Boundless Show, which is a ministry to young adults and singles. I just thought Lisa could help me out with this.
Michelle: So Lisa, the last time that we talked, we had all just been in quarantine for a couple of weeks. You gave advice about setting a routine. One of the things that you suggested was: “Hey! Maybe clean out a closet an hour a day, or go through some old pictures,” or things like that. I’ve just got to ask: “How clean is your house now?”
Lisa: [Laughter] Well, okay! So it’s not super-clean. In fact, if I could show you, you would see that I have some piled up laundry over here; clean laundry to fold. [Laughter] But I am going to say that most of the untidiness around here, I’m going to blame on my roommate; largely because she’s not here right now, and I can. [Laughter]
But I have rocked on some projects; I’m going to be honest.
Lisa: Sure thing! Yes, I’m systematically doing the pictures. I am into last year now on digital photos. This was starting with 2006, so I’ve done a lot on that. Now, I started that before quarantine.
Lisa: So it can’t, you know, take all the credit there. But now, I’m also starting on physical photos, which just send me over the edge. I don’t know what I’m going to do; half of those are going to get thrown, because I can’t even stand looking at them.
Michelle: So you had set up a schedule. I was having such a hard time in setting up a routine. For me, it was just the fact that I get up by 7:30 every day, have my coffee, and then go into the spare room that was my office. Then, at noon, I would take a walk. Then after that, everything just hit the floor; I mean, just, everything! I had good intentions of cleaning out a closet. I had good intentions of going through some things, and everything just hit the floor. I could not focus in very well.
Lisa: Well, here’s where I can’t focus—and this is where I’m also going to shift blame—because my work schedule is just off the chain. Everything is just cannibalizing my day. I can’t get started on a project before someone pings me with some need that they have. It’s just—that’s where I just want to blame my work environment or whatever. I don’t know; it’s just crazy.
Michelle: So what are some things, that you have learned through this quarantine, that maybe you need to change?
Lisa: Yes, trying to—and I want to take this forward with me—is simplifying. The ways that I’ve been able to simplify my life—
Lisa: —have been good, like just certain structures of: I don’t need to run to the store for one single item every time I need something—kind of just stocking up—because now, it’s a hassle. You know, now I’m like, “Where’s my mask?” I’ve got to go grab my mask. [Laughter]
You know, yesterday, I ran and picked up a prescription. I was like, “Oh, I’m just going through the pharmacy drive-through on that; I’m not walking into that mess.” Just prioritizing: “What are the tasks I need to do?”—and simplifying the number of them and the amount of errands I run. Those are a couple of things that have been good for me.
Michelle: So how are you planning to put those things into place as we move forward? Because we can say that—and people were like: “Yes! That sounds awesome; I need to simplify,”—but putting it into place is something different than, you know, saying it.
Lisa: Yes, I don’t want to refill that schedule. I don’t want to have something to do every night of the week. I don’t want to so overfill my commitments that I can’t keep up with them. So looking and saying, “Okay, moving forward,”—even though we’re in summer; and I love summer, and think that gives me license to get out and do whatever I want—have/to prioritize: “Okay, I need to have a few nights at home each week.”
I want to have, for example, even looking at—because I have a roommate—figuring out a little more structure for how we attack the house rather than this mad scramble of like, you know, “Is anyone going to do the dishes?”—and then getting all passive-aggressive, because I know that I just did them. [Laughter] Rather than saying, “It’s your turn,” I’m like, “Hmm, it looks like there are a lot of dishes over there,” —so just finding ways to be more honest and more intentional about structuring the tasks that have to be done.
Michelle: Yes; during the season that we’ve just walked through, what were some things that were harder for you than you thought that it would be?
Lisa: I would say one thing that was harder for me was just reconciling the need to slow down with stuff. It came on me so fast in that I was on a trip and came back; and all of a sudden, we were in lockdown. I didn’t have the chance to like, gradually move into that space.
Lisa: So I felt like it was this fear of missing out—of like, “Whoa! I haven’t been in my church now for, like, two months!”—or more at this point. I think, for me, just to get my head around what isolation means. Even though I’ve had a better experience with being sequestered than I thought I would, it’s still all of that fear-of-missing-out stuff, feeling—well, here’s a great example of it that just came to mind—I actually had one of my precious elderly friends at church die in the last few weeks.
Lisa: It was unexpected. She ended up in the hospital, non-COVID-related. I had seen her right when I got back, because I took her to a doctor’s appointment and got her some groceries. Then, the next thing I know, she was in the hospital.
I actually went to her burial; there were only four of us there. We all had our masks on, and that was including the pastor. It was just like this sadness, but I was determined to be there; because I was like, “I want someone to be there to mark that she has been promoted into heaven and that her life mattered.” She was a single woman in her 80s/had been single her whole life.
There was a sense of solidarity there, and just recognizing and projecting that to the nationwide- and worldwide-loss that has been going on, and realizing how to grieve in isolation is such a hard thing.
Michelle: Grieving in isolation is such a hard thing. I am so sorry for the loss of your precious friend.
But it also just makes me realize that, as we move forward—while I have not lost anyone to COVID—there are a lot of people, who have lost loved ones to COVID and to other things. That is also a new—I don’t want to say “a new normal, going forward”—but that is also something that people are having to work through, emotionally, and grieving, and that sort of thing, which is kind of hard.
Lisa: Yes, I mean, actual loss and then virtual losses too. It’s funny; when I look on social media—and I see my friends who are celebrating birthdays—some of them have had people come by and drop stuff off at their doorstep or hold up a sign as they drive by. I’m just like, “Wow! That’s not how we want to celebrate.” You know, that’s not how we’re meant to celebrate; but they’re just having to make do. Of course, larger than that, even, the people who had to cancel weddings and, of course, graduations and stuff. The sense of loss in that is so huge!
It’s very interesting, though—getting back to the grief and death—one of the first things I thought of, when this first hit, was: “Oh, thank goodness that Mom is already in heaven,” and “I don’t have to worry about walking her through this pandemic and worrying every day about: ‘Is she going to get COVID?’ ‘What if we end up in the hospital?’ “What if…’”
You know, many people are dealing with that reality of trying to protect loved ones, and trying to sequester as much as they can, and do what they need to do. It’s hard when you’re wrangling, you know, a household of folks or someone who’s compromised, elderly and such.
Michelle: Yes, it is.
Lisa, we need to take a break; but when we come back, I want to change our conversation, just slightly, and really talk about the quirks that this quarantine has revealed about the people who we live with.
Lisa: Sounds good.
Michelle: So stay tuned; we’ll be back in two minutes.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. I am joined via SquadCast—kind of like a Zoom—with Lisa Anderson of The Boundless Show. Lisa, we are talking, post-quarantine right now, and the things that we have learned/the things that we are keeping.
The quarantine has revealed quirks and wrinkles in our relationships. We’re in such close quarters with people; and so we are coming to see different things than we thought, and things that we really don’t like.
Lisa: Right. I was thinking about this in the sense of, “Wow!” Here I am/I’m single,”—although, I do have a roommate; and there are so many good things about that—in that I have a number of single friends, who live alone; and they have truly been in isolation, now, for two months. It’s just really wearing, and they’re really having a hard time with it. I have a roommate, who’s also one of my best friends. She and I generally get along very well, so that’s been good; but it is funny just to think how the spotlight shines on certain things that you hadn’t anticipated.
So one thing that I realized is—and again, this is going to apply to anyone, whether you have a roommate, or whether you are with family members/with your spouse—you always think that you’re less selfish than you are—[Laughter]—until something like this comes up. You know, I think I’m just like oh, so easy-going and whatever: “I’m just like a joy/a dream to live with,”—whatever. Then you realize, “Oh!” It makes me think: “Wow! People who are living with roommates, that actually don’t know each other well or don’t get along well, you know, my goodness; that must be so tough!”
One thing that I have noticed is that my roommate has very much this mentality of: “We just live in this place,” and “What’s mine is yours,” and “We’re just in this together.” I’m much more of like, “Okay, I need you to like—my stuff is my stuff.” Even little things that are totally ridiculous—and this is where I’m like—“Am I the most selfish person in the world?”—just funny things that can be irritations.
Michelle: Yes, I’ve been noticing that—I mean, just in myself. Okay, this is total confession time; this is like, “This is where Michelle lives!” I’m not as angry. Anger is like—I don’t want to say it’s my pet sin; it’s not something that I just sit there and, you know, stroke at night like a little kitty—but I know that it’s not right. It’s something that I do face; and I have to continually go to God and say, “Please forgive me!”; but it’s because people are just people.
Now, that I’m not around people, and I live alone, I’m just finding that this sort of anger is gone, because I can be the selfish one; I can be the one, who’s leaving the chocolate on the kitchen towel, and I can be the one who doesn’t clean up after myself, and no one cares; because no one steps in my house!
Lisa: Yes, so here’s the opposite of that, Michelle—and this is where I have to tell on myself—is that having a roommate is like, “I can’t just do whatever I want.”
Lisa: So if I want to, like, fritter away my time—or like, for example, I can’t just go downstairs and watch four hours of Netflix®; because she will literally be like, “Why are you just watching all this TV?” and be all up in my face about it—you know, clearly implying: “Shouldn’t you be reading Scripture?” or “Shouldn’t you be…”—you know?
So then it’s like I have to operate on this false sense of, like: “No, I’m doing stuff; I’m being productive. I’m doing…” [Laughter] I like make it look like I’m doing something good, and then I go back and watch something if I want to. It is funny how/you know, it’s like my built-in accountability partner, just hanging over my shoulder all the time and saying, “No, that’s not a good use of your time.” I’m like, “What?!”
Michelle: “How dare you! How dare you tell me that?”
Lisa: Yes, I’m all defensive about it.
Michelle: Yes! Okay, so how do we deal with these wrinkles/with these quirks? We know that they’ve been revealed; and so, as we move forward, they’re still there; they’re just not as magnified.
Michelle: So have you had conversations with your roommate?
Lisa: Yes, I’m hoping that what people realize in this is how generally poor at communication and conflict we are, regardless of quarantine and isolation.
Michelle: That’s right.
Lisa: I mean, this should shine the spotlight on us.
Michelle: Good point!
Lisa: Because now, it’s just more magnified; whereas, you know, I used to say—when I lived alone, which I did for like 13 years prior to having a roommate—it was always great; because when someone irritated me, I just went home; and I just chilled. I was by myself, and I got back to my own routines and structures. Now, I can’t do that; I actually have to address things. I think the biggest principle to think of, in a forward manner of thinking, is to keep short accounts.
Lisa: So, again, the last thing you want to do is let something fester—which is: “[I’ve] been there; done that,”—and then, letting it blow up; or doing, as I alluded to previously, of addressing something in a very passive-aggressive manner; or using humor, which I try to do, which always backfires on me—so just to say: “Okay, let’s sit down. Can we just talk through a couple things, just moving forward: ‘What this can look like’?”
Another great example is—I am the type of person who wants everything in its place. If I sit down on a chair, and I move the pillow to sit on the chair, when I stand up, I’m going to put that pillow back. My roommate is like free-for-all; the couch is actually moved like two feet back, because we have bare floors. I’m like, “Why is this couch at an angle?” “Oh, because I was sitting on it.” “Just sitting on a couch?—it physically moves by you being on it?” And then it’s like all askew and that drives me nuts!
So just talking about priorities like, you know: “Having things straightened up is a big deal for me. Can we just kind of come to some compromise of making that happen?—or at the end of every day, for example? Maybe it doesn’t have to be moved every moment; but at the end of every day, when we go to our separate parts of the house, just the house is kind of tidy; we’ve kind of brought it back to where it was.”
Again, the Netflix thing or me frittering away time—rather than her saying, “Yes, so how’s your walk with Jesus going?” or something like super passive-aggressive like, “When was the last time you read through Revelation?”—[Laughter]—if she just says, “You know, Lisa, I’ve noticed you’ve been watching a lot of TV; hey, what’s that about?” Or you know: “Maybe we, together, can encourage one another to do this a little differently,” or “…spend tomorrow doing a ‘No TV Day’ or something.” Then it kind of makes it a fun, proactive challenge, rather than, “You clearly are not saved, because all you’re doing is watching this TV show.” [Laughter]
I think, you know, we have to keep short accounts. We have to be willing to be kind, and honest, and direct about stuff—not using the passive-aggressive behaviors or some other way of doing it—not blowing up about it. Then realizing that we can all own our own stuff as well. Again, where I jokingly say, “Oh, it’s good!”—because all the things that are wrong are my roommate’s problem—no; I realize I’ve got my own stuff too.
So leading with those and owning those—and even going proactively to a person, whether it’s your spouse, or your kids, or your roommate, or whatever—and saying: “Hey! Let’s do a little inventory. Tell me; how has this been going for you? Is there anything that I could be doing that would make this experience a little better for you?”
Michelle: Oh, yes!
Lisa: Because then you’re not in a defensive posture. Then you’re actually asking for it and inviting it, and it immediately sets the tone for it being more conciliatory in that sense.
Michelle: That’s a really good point: to actually be the humble person and to go in and say: “Okay, how can I make this easier for you during this time? How do I set up the structure that would be best for both of us, so that we don’t kill each other after all of this is done?”
Lisa: Yes; and I mean, they’re great principles to have after all this is done, too—
Lisa: —in the sense of, you know, one thing I do is—like if my roommate, who is a very relational person, and I tend to be more scattered—I’ll euphemize it as saying, “Oh, no; I’m just a multi-tasker.” She’ll be talking to me, and I’m like on my phone, clearing out emails on my phone, or doing something, or scrolling through social media. That, to her, is very disrespectful.
She has had to say to me, “Lisa, like when I’m talking to you, can you just put your phone down and like look me in the eye?” I realize that’s a priority for her; that’s honoring. It’s a way for me to honor her by doing that, even though, technically—and, who knows?—I’m probably not doing this well; I think that I can hear her and do these things at one time, but it just conveys disrespect and me deprioritizing her. So we’ve been able to shift that pattern a little bit.
Michelle: You know, you said earlier that none of us really has this handle on this communication and being honest with the other person. That’s what this is bringing out! It’s because, in all of us, there’s a little bit of passive-aggressive: “I’m your Holy Spirit. I’m here to tell you what you’ve done wrong against me.”
This is really bringing out the almost healing waters of, “Let’s talk about this.”
Lisa: Yes; oh, absolutely! Of course, with someone in your space, you’re eventually going to have to address it; because it is just right there. But I’ve even seen it—I mean, there’s even opportunity for conflict even with co-workers via email or via Zoom; or someone said they’d deliver something, and they didn’t. Now, you’re like—in fact, just yesterday, I had a “misunderstanding” with someone in Finance. I had written this whole email. It was funny; because I actually told my roommate, at the end of the day—I’m like, “Yes, I didn’t send that,” because, even as someone with a Communications degree, I could read it and realize I sounded super defensive; it sounded snarky. I just didn’t have the bandwidth to go and recraft it in a way that would have been, you know, something that I could send. So I’m like, “That’s just not getting sent.”
Sure enough, today, that person actually got back to me; and we’re going to have a phone call about it, which is going to be a lot better; because—
Lisa: —both of us probably are misunderstanding pieces of this. And let’s be honest; it’s finance, so I probably don’t understand anything of what she’s trying to tell me. It’s just going to allow us to both get on common ground and work this out versus what is just a Matthew 18 situation—
Michelle: That’s good.
Lisa: —of various hurt feelings here; there’s misunderstanding.
What happens is—and what is so wrong to do is—and this is where I was tempted: “Okay, am I going to like email this person back?” And then, because I know who all these people are, cc every boss they have in the chain of command; because then I’m like, “Now things are getting real.” [Laughter]
Lisa: “And we’re going to get some accountability here.”
Lisa: No! This is just a misunderstanding that she and I need to work out. I don’t need to make a power play here or be weird about it. I see that, in person, so often, where we’re like—you know, even in the office—“Okay, I’m going to go to her boss and complain about her; then hopefully, they’ll just do something.” Then the boss, if they’re a passive-aggressive person, they’re going to call their entire team into a room and address something generally that, really, is just meant for one person. You know, it just snowballs into something crazy.
I’ve actually had that, where I’ve had employees come and gripe at me about a fellow team member. I always say: “Okay, look; if this is something that I have to step in on,”—because it’s an HR issue; it’s something that is structural/you know, related to job descriptions/whatever—“I will; but this sounds like you’re just mad at this person. So you need to go to them directly and address that.”
They’re all like: “Whaaat? You know, I don’t want to upset the working relationship.” I’m like, “Well, you already did; because you’re mad at them; so just go fix it.”
Again, it’s like this is stuff that we learned in kindergarten; but then, somehow, we forgot it; and now we get into all these power plays and stuff that aren’t helpful.
Michelle: So we learned it in kindergarten; we forgot it, and we relearned it during COVID-19. [Laughter]
Lisa: There you go; exactly! Good practices to put into place.
Michelle: Well, Lisa, this has been fun. Thank you so much for joining us and just helping us really think through, “Where is life heading once we get back?” I know it won’t go back to normal; but once we get back to the fact of, “Let’s move on from here; how do we do that?” So thank you.
Lisa: Yes, and I just hope that it allows us to remember that, you know, in essence, we need to love everyone. We need to care for everyone’s hearts and spirits, whether we are stuck in a house with them, or whether we’re in a workplace with them, or in a grocery store with them—wherever we are—looking at other people as Christ looks at them. That’s going to be a good place for us to get started in any relational pursuits, now and in the future.
Michelle: Good word; good word. Thanks, Lisa!
Michelle: Lisa Anderson from The Boundless Show, giving us some great advice on how to move forward past the quarantine. Hey, also, if you need some further resources for your family on how to continue moving forward after quarantine, check out our website, FamilyLifeThisWeek.com; that’s FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
Hey, next week, we’re going to hear from Sally Lloyd-Jones. You’ve heard of her, right? She’s the author of The Jesus Storybook Bible, and she has an amazing way of interacting with children. She’s going to model for us how to tell stories to kids. It will be a great show next week, so I hope you can join us for that.
Hey, thanks for listening! I want to thank the president of FamilyLife®, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. And a big “Thank you!” to our production team today; to Keith, and Marques, Justin, and Megan.
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