Kim Shaffer, LCPC, Counseling Services

Pandemic. Covid. Quarantine.

These words are all too common to us these days. Although many are divided on the issues, one thing is certain. Since the pandemic, the divorce rate across the United States has increased by at least 34% and more than 31% of relationships report irreparable damage.

The harmful effects of the pandemic are real and hit close to home for many couples. It has given rise to a multitude of concerns caused by

  • Too much time together
  • Too much time apart
  • Increased anxiety and stress
  • Unemployment
  • Death of a loved one
  • Illness
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Responsibility of homeschooling
  • Financial challenges And the list goes on and on…

Now more than ever is a time to protect your marriage. It is a time for assessing the health of your relationship by taking note of the signs and symptoms of disease. It is a time for putting strategies in place to build immunity from disconnection, bitterness, resentment, loneliness, and hopelessness in your relationship.

To protect your marriage during the pandemic:

1) Create Space

Often couples are striving for ways to be together more often. Schedules are busy and time is short, but because of altered employment conditions, quarantine and homeschooling, couples are finding themselves irritated and anxious from spending too much time together in the same space. For those whose homes have limited space, these stressors are heightened. Therefore, it is important to recognize this source of irritability and employ strategies to keep aggravation and frustration at bay.

  • Do some activities separately when possible. Run an errand alone or work in a room behind a closed door. Take a walk.
  • Schedule alone time for something relaxing such as taking a bath, reading a book, or listening to music on your headphones.
  • Expand your support system by facetiming with your friends or family.
  • Designate a personal area in your home to signify a break from others such as your bedroom or the office.

2) Be Patient

If there was ever a testing of your patience, it is now! Stress is high. Restful sleep is hard to come by. Demands are overwhelming and chaos seems to be all around. As much as you are feeling stressed, so is everyone else in your household. In this type of environment, one harsh word or abrupt gesture can ignite a flame that can lead to a damaging explosion. Putting these strategies into practice can intercept a potential fire and set a tone of peace and understanding in your home.

  • Keep expectations in check. Don’t expect others to be on their best behavior all the time. Plan and prepare for times of discouragement and acting out. This way you won’t be caught off guard or disappointed, not only with the other’s behavior but also with your reaction.
  • Overlook things that can be overlooked. Some things just aren’t that big a deal. They may feel frustrating or hurtful because you are already in a compromised emotional state. Also, some things do not need immediate attention and would be better addressed when both parties are calm and receptive. Assess what needs to be attended to and choose your timing wisely.
  • Walk away. Sometimes you need to step away from a situation and take a break. Do this before you begin to bubble over inside. When you need a moment, kindly say that you are feeling overwhelmed and would like to take a break. Agree to come back to the situation later.
  • Give permission to gently hold each other accountable and commit that you will openly receive their feedback. This can be extremely helpful when done right. Compassionately pointing out a negative behavior and responding to the insight can prevent harmful interactions between spouses.

3) Build Bonds

It is easy to focus on the negative aspects of the pandemic. However, finding ways to turn the “negatives” into opportunities will help you use this time to construct something meaningful. One way to do this is to intentionally build stronger relationships within your marriage and family. Creating emotional connection within your family brings unity and peace into your home. It cultivates compassion and consideration for one another and instills feelings of acceptance and security.

TRY THESE THINGS:

  • Set a goal to give daily words of encouragement to each other. Point out a kind gesture or positive behavior. Speak with sincerity and intentionality. Be sure to acknowledge an encouraging comment by saying “thank you” to provide affirmation back to the encourager.
  • Reinstate faded traditions. Have family dinners become a thing of the past because of busy schedules? Family traditions nurture connection and provide a sense of belonging. They create structure and stability in a world that seems unpredictable.
  • Carve out time for intentional connection. Plan to spend 1:1 time doing something that is low-key like sitting by the fire or putting together a puzzle. This quality time with one another opens up opportunities for conversation. Ask questions and listen with the intent to know your loved one deeply.
  • Plan family nights. Connecting as a family strengthens the family unit and is fun! It also gives you something to look forward to. Schedule a game night or Movie Monday! Talk about it ahead of time and involve the whole family in the planning.
  • Don’t forget date night! Just as important as connecting as a family is connecting as a couple! As difficult as it might be right now, be sure to set aside time for just the two of you. Put the kids to bed early. Plan breakfast in bed. Go for a walk together. Carve out this time regularly and guard it.
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