You may think this post on marriage in a pandemic is a little late. But, when the pandemic first broke, I like many others, expected it to be a fleeting thing. Then, when it continued to dominate life, there were so many people writing about marriage in a pandemic I didn’t see the need to add to that. But now that it is still dragging on, and some of the voices have died down, I thought I would finally contribute something.
MARRIAGE AND A PANDEMIC
I typically look at what it means to have a “normal marriage.” But these days, “normal“ has kind of gone out the window. We are all operating under a new normal.
Couples who have typically been franticly busy, running from one obligation to the next, are not going out like they used to, and some are even forced to shelter in place. A sort of forced companionship if you will.
And this forced companionship can be difficult because it can amplify irritations. We were able to avoid these irritations as long as we stayed on the go, but now there’s nowhere to go!
Here are some things that can make the pandemic marriage a challenge:
It’s no news flash that couples are usually very different from one another. We have different personalities, different ways of working, different likes, different approaches to children, different stressors, and different triggers. Being together all day, every day gives a lot of opportunities for those differences to bump into one another. If spouses can’t allow for each other’s differences without feeling disrespected or inconvenienced, then pandemics and quarantines are going to be experiences that feel more like waterboarding than togetherness.
Again, most couples are used to staying so busy they have an excuse for not stopping and communicating with one another. Before the pandemic, we could get by on shallow conversations about our day. But in a pandemic, we have less to talk about…because we’re either quarantined or we have our daily lives severely restricted. This forces us to talk to one another about other things, for longer periods of time. This can reveal that something we used to be phenomenal at when we were dating (talking), now needs a little work.
This one is a given. There is much for us to worry about these days. The big worry is whether we or our loved ones will catch the virus. Another big source of anxiety is whether we will have a job and be able to pay our bills. But then, there are the smaller worries. Where before we had to worry about whether our kids were good students, now we have to worry about whether we’re good teachers. Before, we had to worry about who was going to the store to pick up supplies. Now we have to worry about whether the supplies we need will be there when we get there. These, and a host of other worries, can raise our anxiety, increase our stress, and make our marriage more difficult.
LACK OF PURPOSE.
This one is not so obvious. Before, we were able to confuse business with purpose. Before, it felt like our purpose was to put a roof over our heads and food on the table, to raise and protect our children, to build our careers, etc. But when our ability to do these things has been temporarily taken off the table, we eventually have to face the question, “Why are we married and what’s our real purpose for being married?”
A PANDEMIC AND MARRIAGE TRAINING
So a pandemic can certainly test your marriage. But you can also use it as a time to train your marriage. I want to encourage you to use this time to do the following:
- Learn that your spouse’s differences are not about you. They’re about them. Your spouse is different from you, not because they’re trying to get your goat, but because that’s the way God made them. They are not out to get you, so stop taking their differences so personally. Begin to think of their differences more as tools that can be added to the marriage toolbox.
- Learn how to talk again. It doesn’t have to be life-changing, gut-wrenching conversations on a Dr. Phil level. Just talk about anything and everything. You use to do this when you were dating. So if you’re having trouble with this, go back and remember those times. The more you talk about little things, the easier it will be to talk about bigger things.
- Learn to calm your anxieties by noting them, but not living by them. Some anxiety is natural and even healthy in times like these. But if you find your anxiety is causing you more problems than solutions, you need to learn how to deal with your anxiety. I know this is hard if you’re prone to anxiety. So you may need some help. A close friend who can talk you off the roof. Scriptures can calm your heart. And if you can’t find anything to calm your anxiety, you may need to talk to your physician or a counselor. But take this time of pandemic as a time to train your anxiety.
- Learn to live for something greater than just the immediate. Surely you got married for more than just raising kids and paying bills. What is it about your marriage that can’t be stopped by a pandemic? What is it you want to accomplish in your marriage and with your marriage? Spend some time together tossing that question around and dreaming about that.
When it comes to marriage, you can look at this time of pandemic as a time of testing or a time of training. What will you choose?