Fear not, this is not a post filled with medical / social warnings. Nor is it post down-playing the significance of the current virus…
There was a time in your relationship when you couldn’t wait to be alone with your partner. Hours could fly by just sitting together, or staring at a sunset. Conversation came easily as you came to know each other and to discover the incredible life that your partner had. Remember those days?
But things are different now. You’ve been married for a while (maybe even a long while). You probably have kids, a career, outside hobbies and interests and a group of friends that you meet with regularly. The recent call for social distancing has driven many of us to stay in our homes, with only the occasional outing to buy groceries or essential supplies. We’re working from home. School is cancelled. Restaurants, movie theaters, bars and stores are all closed. Our normal life-distractions have been removed against our will. That leaves us in our homes, with our families for days and weeks on end.
For years I’ve laughed at older couples that complain when the always working spouse is suddenly home “all of the time” and becomes a problem. It seemed like an insignificant issue that should be easily overcome. Yet suddenly, most of us find ourselves in this situation with no advance warning.
I pray that you endure / survive the physical effects of the virus. They say for most, it will be symptomatic of a bad cold. The reality is, if it’s in your home, you’ll likely all get it. And in a week or so, you’ll all recover. But beyond the physical toll, there’s the emotional toll that will surely take place.
Experts are predicting that couples being forced to stay home together will lead to a new, significant baby boom in the coming year. That’s certainly not a bad thing. My concern is that this time will also lead to significant marital stress and separation for others.
It’s easy to hide dysfunction in a relationship when both partners are busy, apart from one another due to individual commitments. They may both know its there, but it is easy to ignore and keep on the back burner. But put both spouses in the home for an extended period and these issues become much harder to avoid. Little annoyances can become major points of contention. Boredom can lead to frustration. Inability to resolve conflict can lead to a house of silence which can lead to further aggravation.
The following are some things that you might consider during this “down-time” with your spouse.
Cast a Vision
- Take some time to sit and talk face to face. Put the phones down, turn the television off and make eye contact.
- Take turns assessing where you see your marriage today. What’s going well? Where might you be struggling?
- Discuss where you would like for your marriage to be in some future period (3 months, 5 years, 10 years).
- What obstacles must be overcome to reach this vision? What are steps you could take to overcome them?
It’s amazing how focusing on and committing to a future, shared goal can bring a couple together. This is a critical activity that couple’s don’t allow time for under normal circumstances. Take advantage of this time to dream together. Put together a plan that you can refer back to over time to check your progress.
- Play a game of “remember when…?” Ask each other fun questions like, remember when we first kissed? or “What was the best vacation we’ve ever taken in your mind?” or “What was the most embarrassing moment we’ve had as a couple?”
Sometimes we forget why we first fell in love. We get so bogged down in day to day issues that we lose sight of the blessing that our spouse is. Thinking back and remembering positive times can rekindle feelings that may have grown dormant.
- Play board games, do some family projects around the house, watch movies, get everyone involved.
Believe it or not, this now trying time will become a memory, not just for you but for the whole family. I remember being snowed into my home for a couple of weeks during the Blizzard of 1978. It was tough at the time, but everyone I know that endured it looks back on it as a positive memory now.
You will be spending more time with your spouse in the near term than you probably have in quite a while. You can let this annoy you and create a wedge in your relationship, or you can be intentional about investing effort in this time to making things better. Who knows when you’ll have an opportunity like this again (if ever)? Make the most of it. Repair your relationship, but don’t stop there. Reinforce it to make it stronger than ever. It’s all in your hands. Make a positive choice.