Marriage during a Pandemic

We are in the throes of a global pandemic. Families are forced to self-quarantine, stay at home and practice social distancing. This is quite a disruption to most of our routines. Even the strongest of marriages will find themselves struggling with the tensions the situation forces upon us. Hear in this episode some ways you can stay sane, and keep your marriage strong – even while dealing with this unnatural time.

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Helping Your Marriage Survive the Corona Virus

Fear not, this is not a post filled with medical / social warnings. Nor is it post down-playing the significance of the current virus…

There was a time in your relationship when you couldn’t wait to be alone with your partner. Hours could fly by just sitting together, or staring at a sunset. Conversation came easily as you came to know each other and to discover the incredible life that your partner had. Remember those days?

But things are different now. You’ve been married for a while (maybe even a long while). You probably have kids, a career, outside hobbies and interests and a group of friends that you meet with regularly. The recent call for social distancing has driven many of us to stay in our homes, with only the occasional outing to buy groceries or essential supplies. We’re working from home. School is cancelled. Restaurants, movie theaters, bars and stores are all closed. Our normal life-distractions have been removed against our will. That leaves us in our homes, with our families for days and weeks on end.

For years I’ve laughed at older couples that complain when the always working spouse is suddenly home “all of the time” and becomes a problem. It seemed like an insignificant issue that should be easily overcome. Yet suddenly, most of us find ourselves in this situation with no advance warning.

I pray that you endure / survive the physical effects of the virus. They say for most, it will be symptomatic of a bad cold. The reality is, if it’s in your home, you’ll likely all get it. And in a week or so, you’ll all recover. But beyond the physical toll, there’s the emotional toll that will surely take place.

Experts are predicting that couples being forced to stay home together will lead to a new, significant baby boom in the coming year. That’s certainly not a bad thing. My concern is that this time will also lead to significant marital stress and separation for others.

It’s easy to hide dysfunction in a relationship when both partners are busy, apart from one another due to individual commitments. They may both know its there, but it is easy to ignore and keep on the back burner. But put both spouses in the home for an extended period and these issues become much harder to avoid. Little annoyances can become major points of contention. Boredom can lead to frustration. Inability to resolve conflict can lead to a house of silence which can lead to further aggravation.

The following are some things that you might consider during this “down-time” with your spouse.

Cast a Vision

  • Take some time to sit and talk face to face. Put the phones down, turn the television off and make eye contact.
  • Take turns assessing where you see your marriage today. What’s going well? Where might you be struggling?
  • Discuss where you would like for your marriage to be in some future period (3 months, 5 years, 10 years).
  • What obstacles must be overcome to reach this vision? What are steps you could take to overcome them?

It’s amazing how focusing on and committing to a future, shared goal can bring a couple together. This is a critical activity that couple’s don’t allow time for under normal circumstances. Take advantage of this time to dream together. Put together a plan that you can refer back to over time to check your progress.

Reminisce

  • Play a game of “remember when…?” Ask each other fun questions like, remember when we first kissed? or “What was the best vacation we’ve ever taken in your mind?” or “What was the most embarrassing moment we’ve had as a couple?”

Sometimes we forget why we first fell in love. We get so bogged down in day to day issues that we lose sight of the blessing that our spouse is. Thinking back and remembering positive times can rekindle feelings that may have grown dormant.

Family Time

  • Play board games, do some family projects around the house, watch movies, get everyone involved.

Believe it or not, this now trying time will become a memory, not just for you but for the whole family. I remember being snowed into my home for a couple of weeks during the Blizzard of 1978. It was tough at the time, but everyone I know that endured it looks back on it as a positive memory now.

Bottom Line

You will be spending more time with your spouse in the near term than you probably have in quite a while. You can let this annoy you and create a wedge in your relationship, or you can be intentional about investing effort in this time to making things better. Who knows when you’ll have an opportunity like this again (if ever)? Make the most of it. Repair your relationship, but don’t stop there. Reinforce it to make it stronger than ever. It’s all in your hands. Make a positive choice.

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How Hot is Your Marriage?

Everybody thinks they desire a “hot” relationship. Steamy, passionate, physical… These aren’t bad things, but are they sustainable? In this episode, learn how to create a bed of coals in your marriage that will keep your fire burning even amidst storms or seasons of neglect.

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2020 Vision for Your Marriage

It’s a new year and a new decade. Time to create a vision for your marriage and focus on continuous improvement in your relationship. We’re planning a conference to help you do that.

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Happy Valentine’s Day

Mehh…

Valentine’s Day is a funny day for me. Lot’s of people come up to me or to Tara and want to know what we did to celebrate. After all – we are the quintessential, happily married couple, right?

It’s funny, most years we don’t do anything to recognize this particular “holiday”. Okay, yesterday I was at Costco and saw lots of guys carrying out flowers, so I felt a little guilty – I bought Tara a dozen roses. I gave them to her when I got home – she looked a little surprised, but was appreciative.

My act initiated an interesting conversation between the two of us. It’s almost as if this “Hallmark created holiday” is used to guilt people into showing love for their spouse. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge believer in buying flowers for Tara or showing her my love in a variety of other ways. But somehow buying (over priced) flowers on this day seems to almost diminish that.

As I think about all of those guys buying flowers at Costco yesterday, I wonder – how many of them are in good marriages? How many of them think they would be in trouble with their wives if they didn’t buy them flowers? I personally know of several dysfunctional couples (e.g. the classic living as roommates) that still exchange gifts on this day. Today they’re all lovey-dovey, but tomorrow they will slip back into their routine of taking each other for granted.

Eons ago when I was dating Tara, Valentine’s Day was a big deal to me. I was in the selling mode. I wanted to win her over by wooing her every opportunity that I had. Fast forward nearly forty years… I still try to woo her, but I have learned from experience that an unexpected bouquet on a random Tuesday evening makes a much larger impression on her than the obligatory flowers in mid-February. Showing her that I love her by speaking her love language on an ongoing basis has a much bigger (and more lasting) effect than fighting the crowds on this day to a restaurant.

Please don’t misinterpret me. I am still a hopeless romantic, but I want Tara to know that the love I express to her comes from my heart, and not just from the calendar. The key is to meet your spouse’s needs where they are. If they would be hurt if you didn’t recognize Valentine’s Day, then by all means celebrate it! But don’t limit yourself on expressing your love. Keep the fires burning year round by being spontaneous and unexpected.

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2020 Vision for Your Marriage

It’s a new year and a new decade. Time to create a vision for your marriage and focus on continuous improvement in your relationship. We’re planning a conference to help you do that.

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Fall in Love Every Day

In this busy holiday season, it is important to keep your marriage as a top priority. Hear how one couple intentionally falls in love everyday and makes the choice to keep their marriage strong. That’s one habit that leads to a shocking marriage

Check out this episode!

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Prioritizing Marriage

Your spouse should be the most important person in your life. So why is it that so many put them on the back burner of life when it comes to prioritizing time and money? In this episode, hear the dangers of taking your spouse for granted and the joys of putting them first.

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Looking Forward

Marriages that are in distress spend all of their time looking backward, assigning blame and keeping score. Healthy marriages look forward with an ongoing effort to get to a better place. Hear how to accomplish that in your marriage in this episode.

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Don’t Live Life in Your Rear View Mirror

Photo by Shukhrat Umarov on Pexels.com

I have traveled to India several times. One thing that always amazes me is the traffic and the way people drive there. A given four-lane road may contain seven actual lanes, consisting of cars, trucks, scooters, pedestrians and cows. Despite the seeming chaos, it seems to work for the locals. In one car I was riding in I noticed there was no rear view mirror. I asked the driver about that and will never forget his response. “I don’t care about what is behind me, only what lies ahead”. In his mind if all the drivers behind him had the same attitude he would be perfectly safe.

One thing that I have come to notice in working with couples in marital distress – they are all focused on the past. They are quick to point out the flaws and the misdeeds of their spouse. Give them sufficient time and they will provide a list of infractions going back for years. I call this “Living in the Rear View Mirror”. Couples in this state have a hard time seeing where they are at the moment; they certainly aren’t able to look ahead. When you encourage a couple like this to consider what could lie ahead of them, they are often unable to do so without looking to the past. For them, the road ahead looks exactly like the road behind them, but in their minds it will only be worse.

Couples in healthy (dare I say, Shocking) marriages remember the past, but they don’t live there. They have an understanding that while they may have been through some rough patches in their relationship, that is strictly behind them. While they make an effort to learn from such seasons, they don’t assume that they are doomed to live in them forever. They have a strong sense of moving forward. Their destination is up to them and they work diligently to make sure they continue to head in the direction they’ve chosen.

Couples focused on the rear view mirror are score keepers. Individuals in these relationships will typically tell you (sometimes in agonizing detail) how they are behind in the sick game they are playing. Their spouses have treated them far worse than what they have done in return. So consciously or not, they feel the need to even the score by lashing out with demeaning words or unkind actions. The self-implied rules they live by prevent them from moving forward in any meaningful way.

The reality is, you can’t change the past, you can only learn from it. Regardless of who did what to who and how many times, it’s time to stop the game without declaring a winner. It’s time to throw that game in the garbage, so that it can never be picked up and played again. It’s time to declare a new, intentional future. Draw a line in the sand distinguishing your old way of living from your new. Create a few positive, proactive rules to keep you on track. Jointly decide where it is you want to go and begin planning your route to get there.

For those of you that prefer literal directions over analogies – ask yourselves, “Where do we want to be (relationally) in the future?” Pick a time period, one month, six months or one year. Define what you want to look and act like at that time. Then determine the steps you need to make in the near term in order to achieve that goal.

If you are in a marriage that is living in your rear view mirror, I would encourage you to do like that Indian driver and tear it out. Focus on the road ahead and work to get to a better place.

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