What’s the biggest test of any marriage than to be stuck together for months during a pandemic, re-negotiating relationship rules and personal boundaries? Five couples tell us how they fared.
By Shweta Bhandral
While HR managers focused on team-building exercises to keep the work wheel moving from home during lockdown, most did not incorporate ‘home’ into their new system. The pandemic has not only triggered anxiety about disease, death and job loss, it has also had the side effect of disrupted family systems. Lawyers in China and India have already reported a rise in divorce cases and queries. Marriages the world over are being put to the test. We spoke to five couples on how the COVID-induced lockdown has affected their relationship.
AASHKA & BRENT, GOA
TV celebrity and entrepreneur Aashka Goradia married Brent Goble in 2017, after which Brent moved from the US to India. Along with her TV work, Aashka, 34, began working on a makeup line called Renee Cosmetics, while Brent, 33, pursued yoga. In 2019, he launched his yogashala Peace of Blue in Goa, while Aashka shuttled between Mumbai and Goa promoting both their brands.
The year 2020 began on a high note as Aashka shot an ad campaign for her brand and Peace of Blue grew stronger. Then, COVID derailed plans. Luckily, Aashka and Brent were together in Goa when lockdown began in March.
As Brent puts it, “Our relationship has had to adapt, period. Our attention that had been focused on outward success turned inwards during lockdown. We would talk things out, sometimes take time to be in separate parts of the house if needed.” Aashka adds, “We have no rules in our relationship. There is complete freedom because that is essential for growth. But yes, there is discipline.”
To keep restlessness away, they do yoga, solo and together (lead image). “We practise close to two hours in the morning. We are also doing online sessions with students,” says Brent. Developing content for their brands also keeps them busy. Aashka adds, “I think we have nearly exhausted everything on the streaming TV channels. We also read a lot, and I particularly found a new passion for the writings of J. Krishnamurti.”
RADHIKA & RAVI, MUMBAI
Radhika, 40, and Ravi Kaushik, 45, look after a radio station and a TV station, respectively. With the entire media industry going into digital management of production and on-air processes during lockdown, the couple has had a hectic work-from-home life. Eventually, however, it improved their personal relationship.
Ravi says, “We have become more appreciative of each other’s work. The fact that both of us are tackling major issues and doing heavy lifting for our organisations led to both of us respecting each other even more.”
Radhika adds, “After 15 years of marriage, we had begun taking each other for granted. But now we have discovered things about each other that we were too busy to pay attention to during pre-COVID life. We are best of friends.”
Life at home is even more demanding when you have an eight-year-old to entertain through the day, without stepping out. The family has set some basic lockdown rules. Radhika tells us, “It’s a rule to not fight at all. We create funny family videos, cook food, watch TV, and even exercise together. All this keeps Arav also occupied.”
The couple believes that giving space to each other during this tough phase is also very important. “Let the other person be and do what makes them happy – that is our mantra,” says Radhika.
SANGYA & BHUVAN, NEW YORK CITY
Married four years, Sangya Sharma, 33, and Bhuvan Khanna, 34, both work in IT companies in Manhattan where the lockdown began in March. Bhuvan narrates, “For the first few days, there was a lot of panic buying and getting enough supplies of essential items. Getting good masks was a challenge. Once we had enough stashed away to last us a couple of months, it was just about hunkering down and waiting for the curve to flatten. One solace was that we were in a city that has enough resources.”
Being used to doing their house chores themselves, they did not face any domestic difficulties. Sangya says, “The bottom line is that you do whatever it takes to support your partner, and it’s always both ways. We play on each other’s strengths: I do what I’m good at, and he does what he’s good at.”
Lockdown gave this ambitious couple more time to talk about their future. “We had interesting conversations that brought us even closer. It got us going on things we had been putting off due to everyday work pressure,” says Bhuvan.
Sangya adds, “We never hang up on each other, we don’t walk away from each other, and we don’t sleep with an unresolved argument.” If anything, the lockdown has made them feel stronger and more confident about dealing with tough times together.
CAROL & LIONEL, MUMBAI
Lockdown did not change things much for Lionel Andrade, 65, who is retired. But it took away a part of his wife Carol’s life. At 70, Carol is dean at SPICE Institute, Bandra.
The initial days were tough for the senior couple, who have been married 38 years. As Lionel puts it, “Carol was behaving as if the world would end if anyone sneezed. It was the uncertainty we were fighting. There were no parameters within which to define our experiences, hence the fear.”
As the days passed, Lionel continued to manage household tasks, finance, attending to grocery requirements with the added responsibility of sweeping and cleaning, while Carol took to cooking and dusting. She says, “Our understanding of boundaries and a new view of each other appeared.” Not being able to meet their son weighs on them, but they talk to him and his wife every day. They miss church but do pray together for 45 minutes daily.
As a couple, they believe that talking and sharing is essential. “Once your fears are laid on the table, they are easier to handle,” says Lionel.
Carol adds, “Lionel is much more matter-of-fact about this whole experience. He grounds us both in common sense and refuses to get over-excited about anything.” These soon-to-be grandparents affirm that lockdown has made them appreciate relationships much more.
PRIYANKA & KRANTI, DELHI
Lockdown has been a time of discovery for Delhi-based journalist couple Priyanka and Kranti Sambhav. Kranti, 42, admits that it has helped him shift his mindset: “By doing the housework or daily chores, I am not helping my wife. I am not doing her a favour.”
On her part, Priyanka, 40, is now focusing on the family. She says, “In all these years of shoots, studios and anchoring, this is the first break where I am running the biggest show of life: my household. I am spending time with my son and husband with no hurry to reach anywhere. We are working out together, planning meals. I also found out that my husband makes better paranthas than me.”
Priyanka quit her job in 2019 to launch her own venture. She was busy establishing her brand Kaam Ki Baat when COVID struck. It worries her that Kranti is now the sole earning member in the family but the couple believes that they must face the situation and improvise. Kranti says, “It has given us more clarity in terms of priorities. We have started asking, what is more important and why?”
Their 11-year-old son Kabir is finally getting all their attention. “In 16 years of marriage, this is the first time that the family is together 24/7. Every household chore has become a family task. Whether setting up the camera or cutting vegetables, we function as a unit.”
First published in eShe’s July 2020 issue