Living in Lockdown as a Newlywed Abroad (Madrid, Spain)

Six months ago, I was making the final preparations for my upcoming wedding in Northern Ireland and visiting with friends and family who made the trip. It was also my last night seeing my fiancé before we would spend the following one apart and then be joined together as husband and wife. The biggest things on my mind were getting myself mentally and physically prepared for the wedding ceremony and reception, receiving a long-awaited package from my dearest friend and also waiting for her to arrive to the Emerald Isle already. Her original flight had gotten delayed then cancelled and she ended up not arriving to Dublin International Airport until 5 a.m in the morning of September 21st, 2019, our wedding day.

And I thought that was one of the most stressful and complicated times of my life…

It’s hard for me to fathom that my mind was full of wedding plans, traditions and rom-coms not even 180 days ago.
(Photo credit: Aaron Jean.)

Imagine that type of scenario playing out every few minutes of every day for weeks around the world.

You may have a better handle on the current state of the world now.

Since March 16th, 2020, the entire country of Spain has been put on lockdown. Cuarantena in Spanish.

My husband and I have personally stayed inside since Saturday evening, though we have each been outside for a couple of minutes to take the trash out.

That’s it.

In late September 2019, we faced a difficult apartment search in Madrid. We had to stay at a temporary Airbnb in Puente de Vallecas as there was barely anything else left available in the city (the M-30 as locals refer to it). I hated being so far from the center, my old neighborhood and to be staying on a bottom floor (bajo) apartment.

It was awful. And he and I had just started sharing a living space together.

We spent a little under 20 days reading ads and calling potential landlords and finally had success on October 10th when my husband’s boss connected us with her real estate friend who was renting out his old 1-bedroom apartment. Though the walls were freshly painted the brightest shade of yellow I’ve ever seen and I visited this place all on my own, Andrew trusted my judgment and we said yes to that apartment!

It didn’t have amazing tiles like the ones featured on this fountain in the Botanic Gardens in Gibraltar but it was more than fine for us. (Photo credit: Aaron Jean)

We’re so glad we did because we could NOT imagine sharing a room in a shared apartment somewhere in the city limits of Madrid. At the time we started searching, we saw that only 100 or so listed apartments even allowed couples to live there. Most landlords do not allow couples, thus making the search even more difficult if money were a real, pressing issue.

It’s an incredible relief right now during these uncertain times that that is not our reality. Though sharing a 600-square foot 1-bedroom in a major city and spending nearly every minute here isn’t ideal, it isn’t so bad after all.

How has the lockdown changed our routines and lives?

Long story short, I’m glad I married into a Netflix subscription!

On a more serious note, I, myself, am not a stranger to spending more time at home. I teach private English classes in the afternoons but the rest of the time I work from home and also spend time looking online for new projects. I’m in the process of writing a couple of ebooks which will now actually get finished much sooner than I had planned! Hooray!

Needless to say, the lockdown in Madrid doesn’t pose a huge change to my routine but I miss going for a walk, get some sun and meet up with friends. I had also been charging electric scooters from Lime as a side gig but I haven’t seen or touched a scooter since the morning of March 14th. The company has since removed their scooters from the city in an effort to help residents and tourists comply with the lockdown regulations.

If you live somewhere long enough, you adjust to what you see every day. Can’t say I really even notice the yellow too much.

For my husband, this whole set up is very strange. He works a couple of mornings during the week and then all afternoons during the same block of hours, four days a week.

He has Fridays off and usually spends it indulging in some alone time, outside of the apartment. I, in turn, get my own alone time. On the weekends, he usually can squeeze in a few hours of football watching one or both days.

We have done this ever since we got married a few months ago and it’s helped us maintain our individual personalities and work on personal projects.

In the afternoons and evenings, we eat lunch and dinner together and sometimes dine out for the occasion.

In lockdown mode, we are seeing each other all the time. We haven’t been out to eat since things started getting more serious here and we started washing our hands so much we were drying them out (back in late February).

A good cup of tea sure does help in these times. (Pictured: the Starbucks mugs from Ohio, USA, and Northern Ireland)

How are we balancing everything?

This lockdown came as a shock to us but at the same time expected it. A week and a half ago, Italian leaders were sending the entire country into lockdown mode and the thought didn’t even cross my mind until schools in Madrid closed on March 11th. I just didn’t imagine everything to happen so quickly.

We didn’t panic buy but made about three trips to the supermarkets to buy enough food to last us the next 2-3 weeks. We did our last normal Saturday morning trip to the supermarket on March 14th. Ever since then we’ve been inside and cooking up new meals and ideas almost every day.

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020 was the craziest day I’ve ever spent in Spain thus far. So many supermarket shelves looked so bare. Yet smaller shops were fully stocked though largely ignored by the general public.

After the initial panic wore off for me, I began to think more rationally and calmly. I charged a few more scooters while my private classes were starting to cancel on me one by one throughout last week. But ever since my husband’s academy officially closed on Monday, we’ve been a lot less stressed. Sure there are bills to pay and a lot of things are up in the air but we are choosing to look at this positively and cross several big projects off our to-do list.

(Watch this space!)

We’re still giving each other a few hours of “alone” time by me using the living room and Andrew using the bedroom or vice versa. It’s not the same but sometimes being in a different room from someone helps you focus better and recharge your batteries.

Our days are usually marked by routine. Routine alarms, meal times and particular class schedules for each day but not for the time being.

The last sunset I saw in Malasaña for a while (on Saturday March 13th).

We’re trying to replicate our routine by doing the things we’ve done every day for years now. Washing our faces, brushing our hair, getting dressed, setting the table, cooking, eating at the same time, having bedtime tea. Calling family and friends. Seeing a movie together. I’m even remembering to put on night creams and lotion my hands!

We’ve created themes for each day and while in the beginning, I thought it would be fun to add activities and games, we’ve just stuck to cooking recipes from around the world. The United States, Spain, Ireland and China are just a few countries whose dishes we’ve prepared.

How has this been affecting us as a newlywed couple?

Taken before our wedding reception in Glenariff Falls Forest Park (Ballymena, Northern Ireland, U.K.)

It’s making us stronger and even more grateful for one another.

The past year and a half have been particularly stressful for me as I have been working in Spain as a freelancer with very little wiggle room when it comes to obligations and taxes. Around this time last year, I was seriously doubting how I and my parents would contribute towards the upcoming ceremonies (which I’ll write more about soon!) since my dad’s health was worsening and I was struggling to keep myself afloat financially.

We have felt resistance against our relationship ever since we got together in 2017 but it increased in the months leading up to the wedding itself. It took a miracle for me and my family to be in a good position to support me just to get to my own wedding ceremonies, sign the papers and walk down the aisle.

Just the other night, I came to the realization of why there was so much resistance against Andrew and me getting married.

It was because of what we would be dealing with in March 2020.

We are firm believers in God and we know that He was destroying every obstacle that the enemy was throwing in front of us the last several months.

We were meant to be together during this global crisis to support each other, calm and love each other in a way that no other person could. And point each other to the God of peace and all comfort.

Stained glass windows in Ballycastle Presbyterian Church, Ballycastle, Northern Ireland, U.K.

Wherever these difficult times find you, I encourage you to be grateful for the things in your life that did work out up until now and the things that didn’t. It was all meant to happen just as it was.

Not a minute sooner nor a minute later.

My heart does go out to anyone who has had to cancel or postpone their wedding, graduation or birthday, but especially weddings. It very well could’ve been us had we waited to marry in 2020 so the reality of the situation is at the forefront of my mind. It will be for a while.

If you’re in lockdown, where are you located and how is it going? What are you doing to stay connected and loved? More updates and resources to be added to this website in the coming days!

**Thank you all for supporting my blog over the years and letting me share my life and thoughts with you.**