Covid-19 did not simply pose a real threat to marriages (abcnews.go.com), It also showed us what happens when couples have limited resources to cope during crisis. We were faced with an unpredictable event that left us struggling to gather our thoughts and feelings, while also taking real, life changing actions for our homes. Marriages suffered during COVID-19, and according to Psychology Today divorce agreement sales saw a staggering 34 percent increase in the summer of 2020 compared to the year before. Many other crises threaten our marriages such as, the loss of a child/pregnancy, job loss, financial crisis, etc.
Marriage & Family Therapists for over 30 years, Jack and Judith Balswick write, “Any group whose members have a strong attachment to one another, interact on a regular basis, and go through various changes together can expect to experience stress. The family is such a group.”
One question I received from couples during and “after” COVID is “How can we help our marriage survive difficult times?” A concern that I also hear from couples is regarding the shift in our culture, where many spouses now work from home. In some instances, both spouses are, and this is creating much stress, because believe it or not, the office serves as respite for some couples. It gives them a break from each other during the day, and they look forward to reconnecting after work. Others simply need that time to get away and breathe. These are all very important and appropriate concerns, and I am more than happy to share some tips to help reduce some of the anxiety around our “new normal,” as well as any other crisis that couples may experience in the future.
Here are a few suggestions to help couples cope with any crisis in a healthy and safe manner. They can be used in any order:
- Be patient. Spouses may not share everything they are currently feeling, in order to prevent stress and worry. Seek to understand rather than criticize.
- Give each other time to disconnect from immediate family and connect with self and others, such as distant relatives or friends. This will recharge your spouse and give him/her the calm needed to be present with your immediate family.
- Support each other with household chores. This will prevent burnout and resentment, especially if one person is doing majority of the housework. Children can help with age-appropriate work
- Build trust and intimacy. Try to find the courage to speak up about the things that matter to each of you without being defensive. Work diligently to create a safe space for each other by asking, “How can I make things better?”
- Stay alert for PTSD symptoms. Trauma survivors may be re-experiencing their trauma from: losses, critical illnesses, isolation, rejection (maybe from work) etc. They may be experiencing nightmares, anxiety, negative changes in thinking or mood, suicidal thoughts etc. Be attentive and gentle. Ask your spouse to share their fears with you. if they need space, offer them that, while staying alert for self- injurious behaviors such as cutting, alcohol abuse, etc. If you suspect suicidal thoughts or plans, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988*
- Plan ahead. schedule family time for after work. This will give you all something to look forward to, especially if the both of you have been home working all day. Set aside extra time later at night just for the two of you to do whatever you please.
- Boost your spiritual growth. Read devotionals together. Pray for your family, friends and the world.
- Acknowledge and validate your spouse’s fears and concerns regarding the crisis you all are experiencing. Talk about them and do not dismiss them. A listening ear offers healing during distress.
- Exercise Together. This way of supporting each other fosters connection and bonding. It also reduces stress by increasing our happy hormones like Oxytocin (“love hormone”) and Endorphins, our body’s natural pain reliever. Add an extra spice to your exercise by holding hands if you go on walks.
- Limit Negative Media. This will keep the stress levels low at home.
- Create a ‘Crisis Vision Board.’ Write down all the things you all dream of doing after the crisis. This will keep hope alive and help reduce stress.
- Practice using this miracle question. “How can I love you right now?” Then try to give that love as you are able. This will increase intimacy. Avoid assuming because it causes confusion and creates disconnect.
- If you are newlyweds, try not to resolve any major conflict on your own during crisis. Seek professional therapy so that a neutral person can help you navigate the difficult conversations and reduce emotional injuries, which can take very long to repair in a marriage.
- Make these things essential: Show gratitude, hug regularly, forgive often, maintain date night and sexual intimacy.
Scripture for The Day
“If two lie together, they keep each other warm;” “two are better than one.” -Ecclesiastes 4:11, 9.
Balswick, J. O., & Balswick, J. K. (2006). A Model for Marriage: Covenant, Grace, Empowerment and Intimacy. InterVarsity Press