by Dr. Josh Stowe
Life can be crazy and more than a little unpredictable. Just consider the past few weeks. None of us would have imagined this place where almost every conceivable pattern of a “normal life” has shifted. While there are some who have been able to maintain a degree of normalcy, most have watched life get turned upside down. Work, if you’ve been able to keep it, has moved to virtual and online expressions. Grocery stores with empty shelves have restricted access. Restaurants are closed except for drive-thru and deliver services. Added to this, local schools, churches, and retail stores have closed their doors. Every aspect of life has been changed in some way or another. We feel it. And our relationships feel it.
So how are we doing in the middle of all this change? Are our marriages feeling the strain? Are tension growing? Are old issues resurfacing? Are we listening to one another? Are we finding a balance? What can we do to maintain our sense of connection when so much pulls are us? While additional articles will explore the topic of marriage from different angles, let me offer a few thoughts to get us thinking about caring for our marriages in times of crisis and need.
Acknowledge the different. Do we really need to state the obvious? I think so. Life is really different right now. You might live in the same apartment or house, but you’re no longer living in the same place. Life together has shifted.
- Take a few minutes and visit with one another. This is isn’t the time to rehash old arguments or to give a relationship lecture. This is a time to share where you are.
- Where are you feeling the weight of present circumstances? What concerns do you have?
- What surprises have you experienced in this season? What do you hope for the future?
These are just a few questions to get the conversation started. We can’t cover everything we need to discuss in one conversation, but we can begin by connecting with one another.
Embrace little changes. There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of changes pushing their way into our lives. And while many of them may be unwelcome guest, others may serve as an invitation for small adjustments to live together.
- How are we spending time together? Are we defaulting into familiar patterns? Or are we striving to be more creative and intentional?
- Is there a meal-time we can designate as time together? Can it be a meal without distractions (e.g. television, social media, cell phones)? What might we rediscover about one another?
- How might we use common household tasks like preparing a meal, washing dishes, or laundry as places of meeting, where we can be together? Everything doesn’t have to be done perfectly for it to be a good time. Try a new recipe. Take turns washing and drying the dishes. Split the laundry. Talk and listen.
Make time for each other. We have already been talking about this, but it’s so important. Guard against the danger of relational drift. Too often we assume that shared space and familiarity equal healthy relationship connections. Periodically, I ask my wife about her favorite color. I have known what it is over the year, but it has also changed. We change. Get to know each other again and again. Make it a lifelong practice.
- Build-in the habit of a “daily check-up.” This relationship practice consists of two distinct elements:
- “How are you doing?” – Simply ask your spouse or significant other how he/she is doing. Then give them time to respond. Pay attention to the details, and listen for their heart. If they give you a one word response like “okay” or “fine,” then ask them to tell you more. Then listen.
- “How can I help?” – Most people just need another person to listen and to care enough to be present. But sometimes, they need encouragement or support. Maybe it’s advice about a specific issue. Maybe they need you to help cover another area so they can give more attention to what’s in front of them. The goal of this last question is simply to make ourselves available for one another as best we’re able.
- And have fun together. Learn a new game or breakout the dominoes. Find a recreational activity you can share together: walk, bike, hike, kayak. Whatever the two of you might enjoy. Try new a new restaurant. Breakout of the routine. Be spontaneous. Stop for ice-cream. Sit on a bench at a local park. You get the idea. Just don’t miss-out on opportunities to share life together. Don’t let it pass you by just because things are crazy right now.
It’s not by accident that we’re talking about marriage. From the beginning, God designed us to walk together and to share life together. In fact, we were formed in relationships; we were formed in relationship with God, with one another, and with creation. We are, at our core, relational beings. And marriage is one of the most significant relationships we will share. When done well, it can be a source of joy and strength and encouragement. It’s a place to celebrate when things go well. It’s a place of support in times of need. And we need each other right now. So how is your relationship? How is your marriage? Is it well? As best we’re able, let’s turn toward God and lean on each other.