Natasha Hung Smith never ever thought she would find herself locked in quarantine with her husband and her one-year-old son during the spring of 2020. And like many other couples, the situation has been nothing short of challenging.
Quarantine for couples has yielded both positive and negative results. In one extreme, couples have repaired their broken marriage and in the other, divorce rates have been observed to be higher. For Natasha, the experience has been nothing short of a rollercoaster but also a surprising journey of self-discovery.
As she opened up in a revealing OP for Harper’s Bazaar, Natasha also communicates universal lessons for all of us who may be a little unnerved with our spouse during this lockdown.
Natasha married her husband JP about five years ago and she makes sure to note that issues are not a new phenomenon in their marriage. “Our first year of marriage was ridden with communication misfires and unmet expectations,” Natasha mentions. This led to the couple taking a separation within their first year of marriage.
That certainly was not the end of their relationship. Rather than giving up, Natasha and her husband went through marriage counseling and “were able to work through a tremendous amount.” It gave them a new beginning and traced “a positive trajectory” for their relationship to become stronger and resist the test of time.
They realized that they were both different people and found a way to make their differences work harmoniously.
We’re as different as different can be, which we’ve come to learn only makes the time we do make for one another that much more special.Natasha Hung Smith to Harper’s Bazaar
Yet, the lockdown brought back some old ghosts and new, unexpected trials to the table. It turns out that their differences didn’t matter as much when they were not spending that much time together. “We actually didn’t spend that much time together pre-pandemic—and it worked for us,” she revealed.
With quarantine, Natasha was thrown back into a whirlwind of doubt and resentment.
With the arrival of their son, Natasha and JP had settled into a routine that worked for them both. But it was all destabilized with the arrival of the coronavirus. The world outside their apartment offered them balance, a kind of solace from the difficulties of raising a child.
“Gone are the days of leaving home for work and having the ability to balance family duties and personal needs,” Natasha realized. Instead, she and JP were thrown into a toxic situation.
Now, our days are riddled with in-your-face conflicts, emboldened bad habits, the challenge of dividing new responsibilities, and a lack of personal space.Natasha Hung Smith to Harper’s Bazaar
They both realizes that “escapism is a vital part of their marriage.” But was that the only thing that held it together?
Natasha had been working from home even before the pandemic, as she is self-employed. JP’s also benefitted from a very flexible schedule at his corporate job. Pre-lockdown, this enabled the two of them to juggle taking care of their son while balancing work life.
When the lockdown started, Natasha had high hopes for their relationship. She thought JP would finally witness the amount of work she put into maintaining the household.
“At first, I thought quarantine would give JP a chance to witness how I manage to get the house cleaned, the laundry done, work projects completed, and dinner ready (or, let’s be honest, at least ordered via Seamless), all while managing to keep our one-year-old from ripping down every light fixture in the apartment,” she confessed.
But it was the complete opposite.
Instead, he seems oblivious, focusing his attention on playing Call of Duty, making frequent trips to the kitchen for coffee and snacks, listening to Joe Rogan’s latest podcast, and taking the occasional work call.Natasha Hung Smith
This became the root of Natasha’s buildup of resentment. “It appears that even with us both at home 24/7, I am still expected to handle all the same domestic tasks I took care of before, despite JP being home to help,” she said.
While he played video games to relieve his stress, she found no time to deal with hers. “Old frustrations, anxieties, and anger” resurfaced and suddenly, it felt like they took major steps backs and undid all their progress.
As JP went on obliviously, Natasha tried her best to get some “mental clarity” by doing some home workouts. Even those were not sustainable in an environment where a baby constantly requires attention. She tried to make her struggle known with non-verbal cues.
I glare over at my oblivious husband and see him happily piecing together a Game of Thrones 4D puzzle, AirPods in his ears. I expect him to sense my irritated wife cue, come to my rescue, and sweep the baby away—no such luck.Natasha Hung Smith
Ultimately, she realized that maybe that part of the problem resided within her. JP was not the type to take initiatives at the sight of a dirty kitchen or messy bedroom–he didn’t understand the non-verbal cues. So how could she resent him for something he wasn’t even aware of?
In not voicing my wants and needs, I’ve participated in a pattern in which my invisible expectations are never met. This is my #CovidConfession: I have taken on the roles of superwife and supermom, and I unfairly resent my husband for it.Natasha Hung Smith
“Instead of clearly telling him what I really need, I became increasingly passive aggressive,” Natasha confessed. Eventually, the buildup of resentment would come to a high, and she would angrily “dictate household tasks I expect him to take on.”
Natasha even derived pleasure from seeing him struggling to balance all the tasks she had had to pull off while in lockdown.
Call it sadistic, but I wanted him to feel the struggles that I felt forced to overcome—but as it turns out, it was me forcing myself to suffer silently.Natasha Hung Smith
But that didn’t make her happy–only more miserable. If she wanted their marriage to work, she realized that her needs could not go unspoken any longer. She could not let the wound fester.
Her new plan to deal with the ordeal involved a lot of communication but also a reality check. Rather than wanting to be an Instagram superwife, Natasha decided she would stop following these unrealistic standards set by social media.
But most importantly, she would stop assuming that JP knew what she wanted and purposefully failed to deliver.
I will stop blaming JP for not knowing my needs and wants when I don’t know to voice them for myself.Natasha Hung Smith
The two “now honor certain invisible boundaries every day, like giving me 15 minutes in the morning to have my cup of coffee without the baby tugging at me.”
“Trying to carry the entire domestic burden without asking for help like the superwife I thought I needed to be did nothing but make me feel inadequate and alienate my husband,” Natasha confessed.
She learned a precious lesson during lockdown, one that she will carry forever with her.
I have realized my superpower in social distancing: I hold the key to our marriage surviving the rest of COVID-19 and beyond.Natasha Hung Smith
And like every superhero, her husband JP is her partner in crime, not a villain. By sharing her story, Natasha gives us a much more realistic look at marriage during quarantine. It’s not perfect, like many social media personalities may make it out to be. But it doesn’t have to reach a breaking point either.
More inspiring stories: