More than likely you and your spouse have never lived through anything like what we’re in the middle of today. When you said, “I do,” you dreamed of being together in your home and longed for days of quarantine-like conditions without outside interruption.
However, you’re now a few days into the COVID-19 shutdown and likely can’t wait to be free again. Chances are, it didn’t take long before you started arguing about what to watch on TV, where to get takeout, and how you’re both going to work in your suddenly tiny home. If you have children, they are certainly not leaving you alone. Oh, and you’re also now a home school teacher on top of everything else.
You may be legitimately concerned about finances and how to pay the bills. If your parents are getting older, you may be concerned for their health. We know tension levels might be high in your home right now. Know that you are not alone. We want to help you grow stronger in your marriage even during this coronavirus pandemic.
In this post, we share four ways you and your spouse can thrive amid this chaos. You can find even more in Part 2 of this series.
Sometimes we think we know what’s running through our spouse’s head and heart. We make poor assumptions about their motives and often negatively interpret what they say and do. When tensions rise, we’re even more prone to assume the worst.
As a married couple, remember you are one flesh (Genesis 2:24). In a mystery we can’t fully grasp, God sees husband and wife as one with each other. Therefore, when you assume the worst or make your spouse your enemy, you’re not just harming your spouse. You are also harming yourself.
We recommend starting with a posture of believing the best about your spouse. I Corinthians 13:7 says love believes all things. When we choose to believe the best about our spouse, we demonstrate this love. If you’re confused or unsure about their motive, then simply ask for clarification. Take time to understand how this pandemic is impacting them. The recent stress and sin in their life might be completely new to them. However, start by believing the best instead of assuming the worst.
Additionally, look for ways to affirm and encourage your spouse. Chances are good your spouse is currently struggling in some capacity (emotionally, relationally, spiritually, physically, vocationally). Every day consider writing down a new reason why you’re thankful for your spouse.
Seek one way to encourage your spouse today.
The more time you spend together, the higher the odds something our spouse does will frustrate us. Instead of growing bitter or keeping a mental list of their wrongs, make sure you address your frustrations with your spouse directly.
Often, couples will come to our marriage ministry, re|engage, with years and years of bitterness and malice swept under the rug. Every day they grow a little more frustrated until one day the whole thing explodes.
In Ephesians 4:26 the Apostle Paul writes, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” This doesn’t mean every argument or conflict needs to be resolved before you fall asleep at night. However, it does mean that couples should make sure they’re not allowing unresolved conflict to lead to sin.
Keeping short accounts doesn’t necessarily fix every problem. Though it does prevent bitterness from setting in. When you have more time together, there will be more opportunities for conflict, anger, and bitterness. A few verses later in Ephesians 4:31, Paul says “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” We stand with Paul—keep short accounts with your spouse. When you keep short accounts, you’re also more likely to believe the best about your spouse (#1 above).
Deal with any unresolved conflict you have with your spouse.
You can grow and protect your marriage by both connecting daily and by giving each other some space.
We know this can be challenging for those of you with young kids but look for ways to prioritize intentional time together as a couple. You’re going to have to say “no” to some good things to make time for better things. Carve out some couch time at night to catch up on your day and share how you’re doing. Kristen and I go for a walk together and grab time to catch up right before we fall asleep. Even though many of you are in the same confined space all day, you may not have much intentional time together as a couple. Try to figure out what works best for you and your spouse.
At the same time, make sure you each get some alone time. What a great opportunity you have to yield to and serve your spouse. If you have kids, watch them alone for a while and give your spouse a break. Let them spend time with Jesus, workout, or talk on the phone with a friend. The dads out there must create some space for moms, especially when (home) school starts back with gusto.
Get practical and discuss with your spouse when you’re going to fight for some time together and time apart.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve seen in married couples over the years is that it’s hard to share what we’re learning with each other. We either get insecure, prideful, or too busy to share. If there’s anyone in the world we should be honest with and share what we’re learning, it’s our spouse. Genesis 2:25 says Adam and Eve were naked without shame. This means they were physically, emotionally, and spiritually naked with each other. There was no guilt, shame, or insecurity between them.
However, with the fall in Genesis 3, this all changed. Every married couple since Adam and Eve has struggled to be vulnerable and real with each other.
If you want to have a marriage that’s going to stand strong through a pandemic, you’ve got to be open and honest with each other spiritually.
Note that this is all assuming that you’re devoting daily and spending time with the Lord on your own. Check out this daily devotional app Join the Journey, or investigate our online equipping classes (which are currently free and available to your church). A health marriage starts with you and Jesus as you devote daily.
Then, as you spend time together (see #3 above):
Praying together has been a challenge for me and Kristen for all 18+ years of our marriage. I take the blame for not leading well. But for the last few weeks, we’ve prayed together consistently. In fact, we’ve prayed daily with and for each other. In a way I can’t explain, God is growing our marriage through being intimate with each other spiritually.
Tomorrow, share with your spouse what God is teaching you. Take each other’s hands and pray together. Start simply, and simply start. You won’t regret it!
This extra time together in a confined space is either going to grow your marriage or tear it apart. How are you going to steward this opportunity? We’re coming back next week for Part 2 in this series on how to grow and protect your marriage in the midst of a pandemic.
For more resources on how to strengthen your marriage, watch this message on The Gospel Centered Marriage, learn about Christlike Communication, and see if a church near you runs re|engage, our marriage enrichment program.