Change doesn’t always happen in large increments. Sometimes, the steps to change are small, almost imperceptible, until you wake up one morning, breathe in deeply and find that there has been a noticeable, albeit unexpected shift. A shift that you might have trouble, at first, articulating, but that you know is there.

I had become a firm believer in the maxim: “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” My husband, a business consultant, had been on the road for a significant part of the 13 years that we’ve been married. Although I’ve always valued my alone time, by the time Friday afternoon rolled around, I felt renewed joy—almost that of a honeymooner—when the front door opened and my husband stumbled in, often too tired to feel much of anything. By the time we finished Shabbat dinner and my husband had the chance to unwind, the joy at reuniting became mutual. In fact, I found that these patterns of comings and goings brought a special spark to what we both considered an already highly satisfying marriage.

And then everything changed. Well, almostThe old, daily rules of living ended everything. When the coronavirus appeared in what felt like a cloud of darkness, our lives, like those of others’ worldwide, became uprooted. The old, daily rules of living, including, in our case, my husband’s travel for work, ended. Deciding on the safest way to shop for food, pick up mail, and maintain our livelihoods and our sanity in the midst of global upheaval—adjusting to the new normal—consumed most of our time.

We were far too busy working together on surviving the scourge, finding new ways to work and checking in with loved ones to contemplate how we would fare alone together in our 650-square-foot one-bedroom apartment, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For the most part, we were simply happy reveling in the safety and comfort of one another, despite the ambiguities and isolation. The feeling was a bit like being in our own small boat in a sea of other small boats, each inhabiting its own inlet and far too distant to reach.

Even though we did spend time separate from one another, happy to still have our jobs, we often checked in with each other during the proverbial “office water-cooler break.” Stopping work to share stories and experiences became a welcome distraction, and we respected one another’s need to do so. In the past, I had eschewed these interruptions, so focused was I on preparing lessons and on my writing. But now, whatever we were doing became less important and far less meaningful than consoling one another through a healing laugh, a silly video, a work update and some inspirational words of Torah. At a time when our boat-for-two was adrift in this world of uncertainty, these sharing breaks, regardless of their content, created a safer, deeper anchor and a closer, more grateful joining.

In the beginning of creation, G‑d created the first human, Adam, as an androgynous being, have both female and male characteristics, before spitting him into two separate people. To become whole, we require our other half. I understand this better than I used to now that we operate not only as a team, but as a unit. At this time, I feel most like a divided Adam that requires its other half in order to be whole.

Not that this joining is ever easy. Having both been previously divorced, my husband and I met and married as middle-aged ba’alei teshuvah (returnees to Judaism). Although we didn’t have the opportunity to grow together as a young couple might, and have distinctly different ways of approaching the world, I like to believe that we went into marriage knowing the potential pitfalls ... and conversely, what matters most. I had long before let go of my shopping list of traits for a partner and replaced them with three qualities: kindness, helpfulness and sincerity. These very Jewish qualities are those we found within one another. Before we even began talking about marriage, my husband offered to help with my son’s college tuition. And I was able to patiently wait a number of weeks between our first and second date for my husband to get over his concerns about starting over after a brutal previous marriage. More than anything else, this global pandemic has proven us right in further realizing, together, these values that continue to provide a stronger, steadier bond.

Although we’ve always tried to respect oneAny doubt that we are soulmates has vanished another’s feelings, fewer outside distractions have helped us more closely face the challenges presented by marriage: to better discern the meaning that sometimes hides behind the words and to accept actions that might have in the past caused upset. We’ve learned now to inhale more deeply, think first and then speak. Whenever we slip, we find that a sincere apology works, although not always immediately. The more we practice these behaviors and the more Torah we study, the more common this behavior becomes.

My husband, for the last 12 years, has taken on the mitzvah of praying three times a day. As part of the daily Shacharit (morning prayer), Jews praise G‑d for the darkness that precedes the light. According to Rabbi Itzhak Abuhav, a 15th-century rabbi exiled from Spain, “If we did not mention the night during our morning prayers, it would appear as if we thought darkness was bad. But this is not so. For G‑d creates all things beautiful in their proper place.”1

When it comes to the two of us, any doubt we ever had that we are indeed soulmates has been vanquished. With this faith, we will continue together on life’s newfound journeys. As my husband always says, “We can make it through anything as long as we’re together.”

Without minimizing the loss of life and the horrendous illness that many continue to suffer, my husband and I adhere to the Jewish belief that everything is indeed for the good, even though that good is often concealed. In this time of seeming darkness, we’ve sought together discernible rays of light. Together, we’ve found them.