Stores are empty. Restaurants are closed. Events are canceled. Even your church has canceled worship services. You might be working from home. Although you’re not sick or “officially quarantined,” you’re spending a lot of time in the house with your spouse. Will this time be filled with frustration and tension, or will you use the time to strengthen your marriage?
Dr. Greg Smalley, vice president of Marriage at Focus on the Family, says, “You will annoy each other, so give loads of grace. Keep asking yourself if the issue is a ‘big deal’ or a ‘little deal.’ ” Dr. Smalley says you should be able to let go of the little annoyances, but he recommends that couples address bigger issues so they don’t build into resentment.
Whether you’ll be at home together for two weeks or two months, your attitude and approach to the situation can make all the difference. Here are some guidelines for the most positive experience, in spite of the stressful situation:
Start with the Word
You could speculate about all that might happen surrounding the coronavirus crisis: health and financial issues; spending too much time with your spouse and kids; running out of supplies. But “which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Luke 12:25). Of course, reasonable preparation and precautions aren’t unbiblical.
Certainly many people will experience difficult situations, such as illness, grief or hunger. Thankfulness during a crisis isn’t a natural response for most people. But the Bible has some great advice to frame the discussion. First Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” And Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
The choice is between being anxious or praying with thanksgiving. To keep a positive outlook, the best options seem to be prayer and thanksgiving.
Make a plan
Communicating with your spouse is a good thing at any time, but in a crisis, it’s crucial. Here are some questions to ask your spouse when you know you’ll be spending lots of time together in close quarters:
What are your biggest concerns about the crisis?
If you have concerns about our spending so much time together, how can we best give each other enough space while still working as a team through this difficult time?
How much alone time would you like each day, and what does that look like for you?
What would you like us to do together?
What are your expectations for times you’re working from home?
How can we use this time to build our marriage?
How can we use this time to grow closer to God?
Dr. Smalley adds one more thing to the list of questions. “Talk about specific behaviors that help you feel loved,” he says. “My wife and I have each other complete this statement: ‘I feel loved when you …’ ”
As you discuss these questions, keep in mind that some people need more space than others. “You need space and alone time — time to focus on individual interests,” Dr. Smalley says. “Figure out what that looks like for each person and schedule workout times, TV watching, walks, hobbies and quiet times that can be done alone.”
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