Can your marriage survive the coronavirus?

(CNN)Even for those of us with the happiest and most stable marriages, social distancing to combat the spread of Covid-19 provides some serious challenges to our respective unions.

We're confined to small spaces with our spouses, with little to no reprieve. We've got to balance work life and personal life, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Throw young kids (or even teens) into the mix and it can be a recipe for disaster—or, even worse, divorce.
CNN spoke with several Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists, clinical psychologists and married people about how to make sure your union isn't a casualty of the coronavirus pandemic.

    Communicate, communicate, communicate

      The secret to any healthy relationship is communication.
        It's true under normal circumstances, and in the time of coronavirus. For some, this might mean periodic huddles to deliver updates on what's coming next. For others, it could be a daily check-in that rates how each partner feels physically and internally.
        Michele Weiner-Davis, a marriage and family therapist in Boulder, Colorado, said it doesn't matter as much how couples communicate during a coronavirus shelter-in-place, but simply that they try to do so.
          "The biggest challenges I've faced so far are the cases in which both spouses are looking at what's going on with different lenses—one person thinks the sky is falling and the other thinks people are making a big deal about it," said Weiner-Davis, who also has a busy teletherapy practice.
          "When people have different perspectives, they have different ideas of what needs to be done, and the only way to work around that is to communicate."

          Embrace space

          Most spouses spend the bulk of every day apart — at least one partner leaves the house to go to work. Now, however, due to companies ordering employees to work from home and government-mandated lockdowns, both partners are required to spend almost all their time under the same roof.
          Particularly for couples who live in smaller homes, this scenario can make it feel like neither partner has much (or any) personal space.
          For this reason, many experts suggest acknowledging the importance of alone time. Alev Ates-Barlas, an LMFT in upstate New York, said she tries to teach members of a couple to identify whether they are individuals who need a partner to engage them in order to regulate their own emotions, or individuals who find comfort in regulating on their own.
          "It is important that couples know where you fall in these two categories so that you don't end up assuming your need for regulation is actually your partner's need," she said.
          "If you know your partner is an auto-regulator, then you shouldn't pursue them or engage them," Ates-Barlas said. "Once you regulate yourself, engaging in reflective listening can be a good way to eliminate causes for friction and use that as an opportunity for greater understanding and learning about one another."
          Put differently, Ates-Barlas said the best way to get through a tense situation with your partner during the next few weeks might be to put on headphones and meditate, or sit quietly in a corner.
          Sometimes, she said, "all you need is a quiet [spot] of your house for five minutes."

          Keep it light

          In the days following government pleas to engage in social distancing, you might have seen a Tweet from writer and editor Molly Tolsky suggesting that partners suddenly forced to work from home together should create an imaginary co-worker on which to blame disagreements.
          "Pro-tip for couples suddenly working from home together," tweeted Tolsky. "Get yourselves an imaginary coworker to blame things on. In our apartment, Cheryl keeps leaving her dirty water cups all over the place and we really don't know what to do about her."
          Alexandra Fondren, a public relations professional in Northern California, took the advice to heart.
          Immediately, she and her husband started scapegoating "Cheryl" for all the things one of them did to annoy the other.
          "I never realized Cheryl was such a chocoholic," Fondren wrote in a recent email, her tongue firmly planted in her cheek. "I've heard it's an easy affliction to hide, but the empty wrappers that are littered throughout the 'office' are illuminating, mainly because none of their contents were once offered to her co-workers."
          Other partners have found solace in sharing stories of work-related video conferencing gone wrong. Some have even embraced #CovidConfessions, a Friday night social media phenomenon through which people share truths about their lives they'd kept secret until the pandemic.

          Establish routines

          Nobody is quite familiar with the "new normal" of social distancing yet, and with news about the pandemic changing rapidly, every day brings with it a new reality.
          Amid this constant tumult, Lee Miller, a marriage and family therapist in West Los Angeles, said it's wise to create new routines to give life meaning and purpose beyond the mundane. Specifically, Miller said to assign roles for each day: who cooks, who cleans, who answers the phone, and so on.
          "This is not even close to a typical situation, which means there are a number of different roles both partners are going to have to play while they're working through the current reality," she said. "It's critically important to schedule time to sit down and talk about what your expectations are of each other during this time."
          In New York City, Carrie Ingoglia and her husband Ron Richards have devised a winning strategy to balance working at home in a 576-square-foot apartment and parenting 15-month-old twins.
          Richards tries to schedule work calls when the babies are likely to be napping. Ingoglia takes them for walks when Richards needs to focus. Both partners stop working completely during baby mealtimes. The grownups also regularly go out of their way to give each other positive encouragement.
          "This isn't to say we don't bicker, because we do," said Ingoglia, a creative director. "But we know each other well enough to know a bickering moment is not a reflection of our commitment."

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