These are definitely challenging times. COVID-19 has us cooped up in a serious way, and many of us are dealing with any number of other problems, including employment, schooling, and possibly health. Your marriage is going to be bearing some strain along with everything else in your life right now, but that doesn’t have to mean it has to come out worse for the wear. Here are some tips to keep your marriage safe and strong during this difficult time.
1. Let go of the small stuff.
Every couple has points of stress around the little things – he leaves his socks on the floor; she never replaces the toiler paper roll. Yes, these are irritating behaviors. And it is certainly appropriate to discuss even your minor frustrations with each other in a respectful and effective way.
But maybe not right now.
We are all under an awful lot of pressure these days. You don’t have to “give in” and tell your spouse it’s okay that they continue to do that annoying thing they always do. But perhaps now is a good time to put the little things aside. You may be dealing with problems at work (if you are lucky enough to still have a job); if you have kids, they are probably climbing the walls with cabin fever (thankfully that’s the only fever they have). Are the socks on the floor really the biggest issue right now?
Look, I’m a marriage counselor. I know that the socks on the floor aren’t just about the socks on the floor. But for now, let’s try to avoid letting the socks on the floor thrust us into fights about the bigger stuff.
Talk yourself through it. “I can tolerate socks on the floor right now. There’s bigger stuff to deal with right now.”
In the pressure cookers we’re all living in, this kind of demilitarization will be a big help.
2. Take a little space.
Obviously, this is not so easy right now. But that’s why it’s all the more crucial. Family members are in each other’s faces all day every day. It’s crazy. One way to ease this a little bit is to support your partner getting a little alone time.
For 10 or 15 minutes a day, let them go to the bedroom and lock the door, or go out for a walk without their cell phone, or whatever counts as personal time for them. You manage the kids/dogs/house for that time. It’s harder on you, but you’ll get more bang for your buck, because your partner will come back with a little extra juice.
Taking a break is not just something your partner does for themselves, it’s something they do for you. You need your spouse to be keeping their head above water just as much as they need it!
Likewise, alone time is something you do for your spouse, not just for you. Make sure you are both invested in giving each other that time. Maybe split it up so that one gets it in the morning and one in the evening. Or if it’s more convenient, do it one after the other while the baby’s napping. Use your alone time to do some yoga, or call a friend, or whatever will recharge you. You both need a little sanity, and you both need a sane partner.
3. Look for what’s going right.
This is a helpful practice all the time, but all the more so now. Look for your partner’s strengths. Keep an eye out for the ways they’re helping you out. Say it to yourself in your head, and then say it to them as well.
It doesn’t have to be anything dramatic or out of the ordinary. If your spouse gets the kids dressed every morning, recognize how that’s making a positive impact. It’s one less thing you have to do. It keeps the kids on task. It passes some of the time with them. There’s lots of benefits you can notice.
Look for opportunities to see these things happening. This is not about ignoring or whitewashing problems that may exist in your relationship; it’s about you feeling better. There are many reasons you can still feel good. Just like you can appreciate the parts of your body that work well even when something hurts, you can appreciate the good things in your relationship even when there are parts that are troublesome.
It’s also about your partner feeling better, which is another benefit for your (see point #2 above). Being appreciated for the things we do, however small, can be a real boost. Imagine if you guys were passing appreciation back and forth all day for the countless things you are both trying to do to keep life running right now. It would sure make a difference in how you both feel, and in how your marriage fares during this challenging period.
We are all facing tough times in our own ways right now. Your marriage can be a great source of strength and support at this time, so it really behooves us all to do what we can to keep it in the best shape possible. Of course, if you need some extra help, we’re still here for you, providing sessions for married and unmarried couples, families, and individuals both online and in person with appropriate distancing.
To learn more about our marriage counseling services, click here.