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.