Nothing compares to spending 24/7 with your spouse for weeks in a row to reveal the current state of your marriage. This is a situation many couples are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Perhaps all the time together is revealing puzzling relationship patterns. Or more troublesome, maybe you’re annoyed or discouraged at where you have arrived in your marriage. After all, you thought you knew your spouse well.
If you are feeling this way, don’t despair. Many couples are noticing areas in their relationship that need attention during this pandemic. Just because you are noticing distressing areas doesn’t mean you can’t get your relationship priorities in order and reset your marriage on track to health and vitality.
Here are four tips for resetting your marriage during COVID-19:
1. Maintain Awareness
Know that you are not alone. Many marriages are experiencing stress and strain during this unprecedented time, and we can’t expect we will have a problem-free life. Understand that serious challenges don’t mean you can’t overcome them. Just because you are feeling discouraged in your marriage doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it. You can use this time as an opportunity to tune in and reset in your marriage as needed.
2. Recognize Every Relationship Takes Work
Marriage over the course of a lifetime needs nourishment in order to survive and thrive. This nourishment can include love, honor, respect, and acceptance. Other key essentials for a healthy relationship can include encouragement, a sense that we are growing together in the same direction, emotional connection, friendship, trust, and commitment.
In the midst of a storm, navigating where you want to go can be difficult. A friend recently sent me a note from an anonymous source about all of us being in the same storm but in different boats. Some boats are new, others are in need of repair, and others are sinking. Whatever boat you think you may be in, know that you can stay afloat and survive the storm. Look toward the horizon, get your bearings, and keep sailing.
3. Talk About Stress in Healthy Ways
How well do you and your spouse handle stress individually and together? There are tools that can help you diffuse stress. A strategy I use when I work with couples in therapy is called the stress-less conversation. The purpose of this exercise is to find a healthy way to diffuse stress by remembering the acronym LESS:
- L = listen
- E = empathic
- S = supportive
- S = stands with
I encourage couples to practice the stress-less conversation by using speaker and listener roles. First, the speaker picks a topic that is stressful to them. The speaker then talks about how the stress is affecting them. The listener listens by using the LESS strategy. The listener practices being empathic and supportive. The listener engages by asking questions. Problem-solving is not allowed during this conversation.
Taking turns talking about stress in this manner can help couples understand one another better and lessen their feelings of stress.
4. Notice Hardships and Discuss Them
Take pause during this time and reflect on the state of your marriage. What are you noticing? Evaluating the hardships in your marriage can actually strengthen your marriage. The following areas can be used as a guide to get you started:
- Financial Challenges: Many families are feeling squeezed, stretched, and strapped by financial pressures during COVID-19. If this is true for you and your spouse, this is a good time to recognize and discuss how it is impacting both of you. Come up with a financial strategy for how you will get through this time. Remember you are in this together. You are a team.
- Friendship: Are you and your spouse growing in your friendship? Does your spouse feel like they are known by you? Do you feel known by your spouse? Try asking one another. While many of us are still practicing safe measures at home, this time presents an opportunity to renew your friendship. Ask questions to check in and see how well you really know your spouse. It’s quite possible with the busy-ness of life that you have been missing each other. Take this time to reset your friendship.
- Communication Patterns: How we communicate with our spouse matters. Years together can create a communication rhythm that can be positive or negative. How are you speaking to one another? Are you speaking with kindness and respect? Or have you fallen into negative communication patterns using criticism, avoidance, or impatience?
No doubt COVID-19 has changed the world. We are all impacted. Whether you are in a boat that is afloat or a boat that feels like it is sinking, know there is hope for your marriage. If you feel like you could benefit from some help, many couples counselors are available for virtual therapy sessions.
There is no way we can change COVID-19 and its impact on the world. What we can change is how we respond to the changes in ourselves and in our relationships. Be hopeful. Choose to believe you will get you through this time. You can do a reset.
What strategies are helping you and your spouse improve your marriage during COVID-19? Share your comments below!
- Gottman, J. & Silver, N. (2015). The seven principles for making marriage work: A practical guide from the country’s foremost relationship expert. New York, NY: Harmony Books.
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