How to Strengthen Your Marriage in Times of Stress
by Quinn KellyLicensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Social distancing. Homeschooling. Long walks. Hand sanitizer. And lots of family time. These are just a few of the ways I will remember this time of quarantine over the last several months. And while there have been so many sweet memories made from the clear calendars and extra time to enjoy family, there has also been some added stress. Do you feel me?
One of the places we’ve all likely felt extra stress is toward our spouse. Because they are an easy target for our frustration when we’re worn down from no breaks from our children. Or increasing annoyance over sanitizing the groceries for the twentieth time in the last few weeks. Because we know they can’t leave us during quarantine – even if they wanted to because we can steal their mask. (Just kidding.)
The reality is – social distancing is a time to either grow closer to your spouse or push them away. And the difference all comes down to intentionality and mindset. So today let’s talk about a few practical ways to strengthen your marriage in times of stress. Because it’s possible to look back on this unusual time in history as the time your marriage grew closer and stronger than ever. And here’s how.
1. Look at this time as a unique opportunity to reconnect.
Strengthening your marriage during quarantine starts with your mindset. Do you look at this time together as a time where you are cooped up with someone that likes to watch the Netflix shows you think are boring or do you look at this time as a mini-vacation where you can slow down and reconnect with one another? If you can reframe your mind to focus on the positives of having together time, your heart can open toward connection and communication. This is a great time to laugh, hang out, and just talk if you focus on the opportunity.
2. Go out of your way to increase the romance.
In keeping with tip number one, use this time to do the things you would not normally do to enhance your romance. And even the littlest of things can strengthen your marriage! Bring your spouse a cup of coffee. Sit together on the front porch. Write them a love note. Take time to be intimate after the kids fall asleep for as many nights in a row as you can. Whatever you can think of – focus on romance! Not on the fact that you aren’t supposed to leave your house.
3. Check-in with your partner’s mental status.
This is a trying time for many of us. There are so many unknowns for the future. Some jobs are not stable. Finances that are strained. Fears of loved ones getting sick. And frustration at the way outside leaders are handling things. Moral of this story: this is the time to be checking in with your spouse. Ask them how they are doing because as you know, this can change day to day. Don’t assume they are doing well. Take time to let them share. If you want to connect, you have to stay attuned. And feelings are strong right now. So check-in. And do it often.
4. Support their feelings.
In addition to checking in, it’s important not to minimize the feelings of your partner during this time. Because society as a whole is under a collective form of stress, it is easy to push away someone else who is hurting – especially if the same issue isn’t something that bothers you. But in marriage, it is key that you listen and support your partner’s feelings even if you do not necessarily see eye to eye. If they worry about getting sick and you do not, it’s important to hear their heart anyway. Dismissing feelings is an easy way to push away your partner when they need you most!
5. Give each other kid-free breaks.
While constant family time is fun, many of us are not used to having days on end with no breaks from children. So take turns giving each other a little time to sneak away for a walk, a quiet bath, or a trip through the Starbucks drive-through. Everybody needs some time to reset and often a spouse giving us time alone is the simple reset we need.
6. Take walks or time together without phones.
During this quarantine, try and unplug during your together time. If you want this to be a memorable time of connection, it’s time to disconnect from distractions. So take a walk with the kids and leave the phones at home or in the car. Be intentional to stay present. Because when distractions fade, conversations flow. And this is what will make connection increase! Your phone can connect with you after the quarantine.
7. Come up with a project or new hobby together.
A great way to enjoy your spouse is to mutually invest in an activity together. And friends, our excuses for not having time to invest are mostly gone as we are being encouraged to avoid our normal gatherings and social activities. So go on a run. Learn how to play cards. Renovate your bathroom. Or re-landscape the backyard. Teamwork breeds connection. And projects can burn off a little extra mental stress too!
All in all, remember this is a unique time for everyone. But it is most importantly a time when you and your partner need each other. You chose each other for life, through thick and thin. You now have this amazing opportunity to work on strengthening your marriage in stress! And this may be one of the hardest things you go through, so remember to love boldly and forgive even more boldly. It will never hurt your marriage.