When he stayed in bed, I knew there was a problem. Warren is a leaper, seizing the day from the minute he wakes up. His hair was tangled and matted from rolling around in discomfort all night, and his eyes were watery and red.
“I think I’m sick.”
Warren had the flu, the full-on flu, and he had it bad. In the name of sharing, a few days later he gifted a milder version to me, and I topped it off a week later with a little strep throat. Just this morning he came up to me and asked me to check his throat. I hope he doesn’t have strep, too, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he did.
Ours has been the house of sick for over two weeks now. We are physically depleted, more so than we’ve probably ever been. But we have a book to publish in just a few days and all the work that goes into that. Plus, we have a big personal project we’ve been working on that requires a lot of our attention.
You can’t as easily call in sick to your job when your business partner is also your life partner and there is no sick pay in your benefits plan.
(Warren, if you are reading, there is no benefits plan at Married with Luggage. Sorry.)
Back before we started putting everything through the Life Lab to see how we could improve our experience, we dreaded each other getting sick. Warren thought I was mean and grumpy, and I thought he was whiny and needy.
Looking through the lens of normal, we were both right. But sick isn’t a normal state for most of us, and we had to learn to adjust our expectations and behavior. And these past few weeks we put our lessons to the test with about 85% success (success = no fighting or aggravation).
How We Managed Sickness at Our House:
1. When one of us gets sick, the other takes up the slack so they can rest.
Giving your body a few hours of rest can do wonders. We learned that pushing through the sickness is often the worst way to deal with it. Try riding a train for 6 hours when your gut is churning and you’ll stop thinking you have to stick to the schedule no matter what.
We use the Pilot/Copilot strategy we shared in our book, letting the healthiest one take over the essential tasks, like food preparation and urgent work deadlines.
2. We let a lot of expectations go.
When we’re sick, we don’t maintain our regular schedule. There is a bare minimum standard for maintaining our life, and we use that as our set of expectations. Anything else above that is a bonus.
There’s no sense in fighting over laundry or whether the recycling is piling up. You take out the trash, do the dishes, and wipe the germs from the bathroom when you can. Everything else can wait.
We do the same thing with work. This is the worst time for us to get sick, so we simply scan our list of essentials and do those.
(It’s a good lesson for self-employed people to always bank an extra week or two into every big project just for illness and other emergencies that can completely disrupt your timelines. We did that for the first time with this book release, and if we hadn’t, we’d have probably missed our publication date. Amazon frowns on that, and it would have seriously impacted our business.)
3. We share essential chores when we’re both sick.
On those worst few days when we were both down, we put our meager efforts together to reach the bare minimum. Warren walked to the shop down the street for a pizza and stuck it in the oven. I cleaned the kitchen. I went to the pharmacy for our medicine while Warren kept us in hot tea.
We fell into a rhythm, evaluating each other’s cough, energy level, and contagion to assign chores. It came naturally, probably because we do this in a similar way every day for work.
4. Fights don’t count when we’re sick.
Grumpy-ass me and whiny-ass Warren get a pass during sick time. Behavior that we’d not normally tolerate slips through with a shrug. We’re not at our best, and our behavior reflects that.
We were recording a podcast one morning and a small comment turned into an argument. Imagine two people in robes in a basement, a giant microphone and laptop between them, trying to fight but too winded to raise their voices. It was ridiculous, and when we realized we were both acting out because we were sick, we apologized and called it a day. I can’t even remember what we were fighting about.
5. We set small goals for health.
We don’t like being sick. And our business won’t run without us in it. We also have a trip planned to Madrid next week, and we’d really like to be healthy for that.
So now that we’re past the low point of sickness and on the road to recovery, we test ourselves every day with something new. A walk to the recycling area. A short drive to get some fresh air. Sitting up on the sunshine on the terrace for a few minutes.
We can see the end of this, finally, and we made it through relatively unscathed.
In sickness and in health…
Making jokes about man flu and hypochondria is pretty common. People complain when their partners get sick and whine or grump around the house, taking the high road that they are never that bad. But we’ve found that kind of attitude weakens our relationship, extends our sickness, and causes resentment.
Instead of looking at the ways in which the other person “does” sickness badly, we focus on how we can work together as a team to get back to health.
Though I’ve gotta tell you, I won’t be sad if we never, ever, have to test part of our relationship again.
Get your certifiable germ-free copy of our newest book, Wild Rose, right here. If you like romance, adventure, and characters who have a little bit of life experience behind them, you’re going to love this story.