By Greg Smalley
Many couples are dealing with difficult issues caused by the coronavirus. But it’s possible to build a stronger marriage by adopting new habits.
Quarantine? I’m enjoying it. I’m an introvert, so physical distancing and sheltering in place have felt like heaven. For others, this long confinement feels like a crisis. And when you’re facing a crisis, it’s easy to let your feelings spill over into your marriage and family life. If your marriage is challenged by the coronavirus, I’d like to offer some perspective and share ways you can let the coronavirus change your marriage for the better.
Unite your team
Don’t allow the loss and uncertainty to divide you as a married couple. Instead, unite against a common enemy: the coronavirus. As a divided country, 9/11 caused Americans to rally together and join forces against a common enemy: terrorism. This can also be true of your marriage during the quarantine. This is an opportunity to unite against a common enemy and function like a powerful team. Battle the uncertainty together!
Improve your “work talk”
The sheer volume of decisions that must be made each day to keep your family functioning — especially now that you’re quarantined together — is overwhelming. Daily financial decisions, medical choices and more. It’s exhausting! This reality requires regular “business meetings” with your spouse. I call this work talk.
Talk about how to divide the cooking, cleaning, housework, home-schooling, shopping and work schedules. You and your spouse already have expectations around how these things will be divided and how your “new normal” is supposed to function. It’s important to bring these expectations out and verbalise what you hope each one will look like and what you expect from each other. As you engage in work talk, remember you’re on the same team and need to find solutions that both people feel good about. The current quarantine gives you the opportunity to develop new habits about how to talk through big and small decisions as a team.
Increase your “heart talk”
You need to have business meetings, but your marriage also needs “heart talk.” These conversations are all about fully “knowing” and being fully “known”. It’s about completely knowing your spouse’s inner world (their worries, disappointments, hopes, fears, needs and dreams) and allowing your spouse to completely know your inner world.
These conversations don’t happen by accident. Work talk will monopolise your time unless you intentionally make space for heart talk. We recommend that couples spend about 10 minutes each day talking about meaningful things and getting to know each other’s inner life.
Erin and I engage in heart talk by asking each other about the highs and lows of our day. By asking this, we keep current on what is going on with each other. We’ve also developed conversation starters for couples to help you ask each other questions to get to know each other deeper. This type of intimacy strengthens our connection.
Another important part of heart talk is taking time to grieve together. Think about all the losses caused by the coronavirus: health, income, independence, social interaction and more. Make it your goal to care about how the coronavirus is affecting your spouse.
Everyone grieves differently. Allow your heart and your spouse’s heart to grieve however they need to. One spouse may need to verbally process the loss and want to be together while the other spouse may want to be alone. Heart talk is a powerful habit to build as you move forward.
Find new ways to play together
Erin and I love going out for date nights. However, being quarantined at home has forced us to develop other ways to play and have fun together. We have built puzzles, brought out the old Wii video game system, going for long walks, watched shows that we always wanted to see but didn’t take the time to watch and we’ve started cooking together. What fun activities do you want to continue doing after the quarantine is lifted and “normal” routines return?
Invest in others
The Jordan River is the only major water source flowing into the Dead Sea. However, there are no outlet streams. All of this life-giving water from the Jordan River goes into the Dead Sea but nothing flows out. Don’t neglect to share what you have been given in your marriage, even if it’s merely being an encouragement. Genuine sacrifice is giving away something that we own and value as an investment in someone else. This is the highest action of love. Invest in others by sharing the many gifts they have been given.
How will you use your marriage to encourage others?
We have so many neighbours who are hurting. Coronavirus cases are at an all-time high. Millions have filed for unemployment as businesses have closed. Add in social distancing and being quarantined, and it’s hard to care for others when we can’t give them a hug or share a meal together. As a couple, you can look for ways to invest in those around you.
Erin recently baked banana bread and left it on our neighbour’s porch with a note of encouragement. Our friend’s wife just had a baby, and we sent them their favourite meal through Grab. Maybe you could give a financial gift anonymously to someone who has lost their job. Run groceries to an older member of your community. Support small businesses and restaurants. Encourage our front-line workers: nurses and doctors, police officers and firefighters, and don’t forget supermarket cashiers, sanitation workers and delivery people.
© 2020 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally published at focusonthefamily.com.