If you’re like us, you’ve spent more time with your spouse in the last 6 months of COVID lockdown then any other time of your life. Prior to becoming a work from home family our lives were very hectic. Juggling 2 small children, my husband’s very full time ministry job, and being a therapist 2 days a week; we were constantly passing kids, running here and there & some nights just catching each other for 30 minutes before passing out in bed. Then abruptly in March, my husband begun full time ministry from our back patio, I attempted to hold zoom counseling sessions locked up in our master bedroom, and entertain our 2 toddlers all while going days without leaving our home. All the problems busyness had distracted us from in our seemingly perfect marriage came rushing in like a flood of water and suddenly my spouse was driving me nuts and pushing my buttons in a way he never had! The things I never had time to be frustrated by, I all sudden had plenty of time to notice them. Shocker right? There’s a reason there is truth to the common phrase “absences makes the heart grow founder.”
Even if quarantine hasn’t forced you to work from home and spend endless hours with your spouse and children, the stress of 2020 has likely hit you in some way. Maybe it’s financially, maybe as an essential worker you are now filled with anxiety or being overworked due to the implications of the virus, or maybe just the loss of normalcy and routine has started effecting your once peaceful marriage. You are not alone in this and your relationship can survive all the changes of this very different season we are all enduring.
As a therapist I’m daily helping my clients communicate better, connect deeper and rebuild friendship. So how can you use this time at home to actually grow your marriage relationship deeper rather than allow the pain of 2020 to wreck it?
First, acknowledge to your spouse the ways this year has effected you as an individual and together acknowledge the way it has effected your relationship. Once you’re able to recognize the stressors you are facing you can be more aware and proactive at addressing them together. Although it may not feel like it, your spouse is not your enemy. They are not the problem, and neither are you! Separate yourself out from the problem and try to let the struggles in your relationship become the problem, not your spouse. Sharing with your partner and being open to listening and truly empathizing with each other will only build deeper connection.
Secondly, perspective is key! This time doesn’t have to be marked by frustration and tension in your home. What if you allowed this time to actually start new ways of being with one another and develop a deeper friendship. Rather you know it or not, you and your partner are the creators of your own family culture. Your family norms are what create the structure of your family. The ways in which you turn towards each other in both times of uncertainty or frustration and in times of happiness make up the structure of your family. You are sending little messages to your partner through out the day… Are you here for me? Will you respond to me? Can I count on you? This year, you have an opportunity to turn towards your spouse and adjust the culture of your family without the normal distractions we had prior to the world shutting down. A few things our family started implementing was regular family meetings to discuss the harder things like finances and a daily evening check in asking each other the question “How are you doing?” Or “How was your day.” These new norms have allowed us opportunity to share and created safe space in our marriage to grow a deeper connection.
Finally, ask yourselves is there a way you can walk away from 2020 with a stronger dependance on God? I often tell people that nothing will sanctify you more then your spouse. That has got to be one of the reasons God designed marriage the way he did! All your faults and sinfulness will inevitably be exposed by your marital relationship and this year is a great opportunity to draw closer to God as you navigate this season. Remember that because your both created in God’s image, your spouse may reflect different aspects of God’s character then you. When you can celebrate those differences and learn from them, you allow them to become strengths and not weaknesses of your marriage. As you both grow deeper in your relationship with Christ and become more and more like Him, you won’t be able to help but grow closer in intimacy with your spouse. So, as we all navigate the changes this year has brought us, let us be more open to sharing with our spouses, shifting our perspectives and finding new family norms all while focusing in on what God could be doing in us to deeper our relationship with him and our spouse.