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My favorite unplanned outcome of coronavirus? What this time has done for my marriage

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I don't know about you, but I am doing things I haven't done in years during this quarantine. In fact, I made a quick list of the potential outcomes for my life, all fostered by the coronavirus. Once we are all able to go back to our work routines, I will have learned to:

1. Master the virtual meeting.

2. Prioritize our family's mental health.

3. Eat home-cooked meals…at home.

4. Identify a new work from home option.

5. Focus on exercise and wellness.

My favorite unplanned outcome? What this time has done for my marriage.

Pam and I were married 39 years ago, next month. We obviously said "I do" to each other back in 1981 because we loved each other. At least as much as we could at the young age of 21 and 19.

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Over the decades two outcomes surfaced, one good and one not so good. The good outcome is, our "feeling" of love became an "experience." You can feel goosebumps and heart flutters for someone almost instantly. But the deeper experience of love happens over time, not overnight. It comes from sticking to the not-so-glitzy routines day in and day out. Our four decades of experience together have compounded.

The not-so-good outcome is, over the years we both just got busy with our daily routines, often times apart from each other. We are empty nesters. We both work — and we love our work. But, we're mostly active within our individual schedules.

Today, we are "forced" to be together — and I am loving it.

What COVID-19 Did to Our Marriage

I hope I don’t come across naïve, but I’ve observed lots of advantages that came from the disadvantage of the shelter-in-place order from our government. My wife and I are now enjoying things we haven’t gotten to do much for years (when I traveled):

1. Eating meals

2. Taking walks

3. Card games

4. Conversations

5. Time to think together.

I’m gaining a renewed love for the person I first fell in love with over forty years ago.

Some families, to be clear, suffer from mental health issues. If a family member has anxieties things may have gotten worse while sheltering in place: domestic abuse, drunkenness or coping with unemployment through addictions. Hospitals in our area talk of ER patients coming in with black eyes, broken bones and bruises. I recognize this is tragic.

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But for many, we slowed down and took time to breathe.

I have heard from friends that say the same thing I am saying: they’re enjoying special times in the kitchen, family room, backyard and bedroom that are fresh. There is even a Facebook group, “Unintended Positives from Shelter-in-Place 2020,” with almost 7,000 members sharing silver linings, such as “I’ve connected with family more.”

One news outlet found that “hundreds of parents from around the United States [feel] a sense of relief and joy [that] their children seem ­happier.”

New data shows that families are getting along better than ever. Shelter-in-place “isolation has brought a newfound appreciation for family life that is the silver lining to this wretched pandemic,” Miranda Devine writes in an op-ed in the New York Post.

I say, a pandemic is a terrible thing to waste.

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Taking Advantage of the Disadvantage

My big question is — why did it take a government mandate for me to enjoy this?

Years ago, author Stephen Covey taught us an important life principle: “The issue is not prioritizing your schedule, but rather scheduling your priorities.”

Bingo.

What if we scheduled these priorities (that I listed above) before we all go back to our busy routines again? Every one of us has a choice to make when it comes to our calendars:

1. Waste our time.  We find things to do to kill time or amuse ourselves.

2. Spend our time. We use our time on a task to maintain status quo.

3. Invest our time. We leverage our time to improve our lives.

The truth is, none of these three activities are inherently wrong. Sometimes we just need to relax and kill time. We need to let our hair down and decompress. It feels like we are wasting time because we don’t have a tangible goal in mind when we do it.

We also need to spend time, doing laundry, washing dishes or taking the trash out. Life has a way of keeping us humble by requiring most people to tend to such tasks. They’re not glitzy but they’re necessary.

The best time is leveraged, however, when we find ways to invest it. Just like money, when it is invested well, it multiplies.

Things get better. Life moves forward.

When we invest our time, it pays dividends. And I think it begins with the people we love the most.

Dr. Tim Elmore, Founder & CEO of Growing Leaders, is a world-renowned expert on leadership as well as Generation Y and Generation Z. He equips executives, educators, youth workers, coaches, and more to impart practical life and leadership skills to emerging leaders. His latest book is: 'Generation Z Unfiltered—Facing Nine Hidden Challenges of the Most Anxious Population." You can learn more about his work at GrowingLeaders.com.

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