Tensions run higher than normal during a crisis, especially when you live in close quarters 24/7/365 as many couples have during shelter in place. This forced togetherness combined with financial worries can really test a marriage. If your relationship is suffering due to pandemic pressures—take a breath. You may be able to save your marriage.
This crisis won’t last forever
We get it. Life is challenging right now, and it may seem like the world will never get back to normal. The good news is we will return to a “new normal” eventually—so keep that in mind. In the meantime, there are steps you can take to make life more tolerable and strengthen your marriage—if you’re willing to do the work.
If a threat of family violence or financial misdeeds by your spouse has put you at risk, you should act swiftly. We cover the five signs it’s time to call a divorce lawyer here.
Make small changes now to better cope
This includes changing up your routine as a couple, an individual and a family unit if you have kids. Instead of staying cooped up at home, look for ways to get out of the house and try new activities. With all of this forced togetherness, agreeing to allow each other some regular alone time can really help, too.
If you want to reinvigorate your relationship as a married couple, flexibility is key during COVID-19. A romantic dinner at your favorite restaurant may not be an option but you could put the kids to bed early and have a candlelight dinner on the patio. If you don’t have kids or they’re old enough to be left alone, take time each day to go for a walk with your spouse and talk.
While we all need to deal with real world problems these days, it’s important to minimize negativity. Avoid watching the news too much, binge-watching dark programs on Netflix, spending too much time on social media and engaging in negative talk during family discussions. If your thoughts or conversations dwell on the negative, seek out positive topics, books, movies, games, crafts, sports or other activities to change the mood.
Adopt an individualized mindset
Some people go through divorce to release a pressure valve of unhappiness. The truth is: It’s up to you to make yourself happy. Not your spouse, not your kids—you. If you are unhappy with your life and marriage, what can YOU do to fix it?
It’s really important to take responsibility for your unhappiness and marriage problems. Many people like to blame the other spouse when their marriage falls apart. While this may be true in some cases—family violence, substance abuse, narcissism—both spouses usually bear some responsibility for a troubled marriage.
If you’re unhappy take time to figure out why. A mental health professional or member of the clergy may be able to help. Once you’re happy with you, you will be better equipped to work on repairing your marriage or make the decision to move on.
Consider taking online classes to reframe your thinking or hire a life coach to guide you. Making lifestyle changes like regular exercise, healthy eating or meditation to find happiness or embracing a new hobby or volunteer activity to help you find your purpose can also work wonders.
In the short-term, commit to making new healthy habits that reinforce feelings of accomplishment. These habits may be as small as making your bed first thing in the morning or taking a short walk before breakfast. Next, allow yourself to do one thing that makes you happy every day, then increase those happy activities to two and three times a day. You’ll be surprised at what a big difference these small steps can make.
Open the lines of communication
Many marriages fail because couples don’t communicate well. Are you and your spouse willing to sit down, listen to each other and talk it out—without judgment or nitpicking? For some couples, taking time to air concerns and put everything out there can bring relief and serve as a springboard to resolving marital problems.
For example, a wife may feel resentful because her husband isn’t helping with the kids enough (she just wants him to help with bath time). Or a husband may feel resentful because his wife unloads her laundry list of mom problems on him the minute he gets home from work (he just needs 15 minutes to clear his head, then he’s happy to listen). Without communicating these resentments the other person may not know a problem exists. Talk about it and you may be able to find a resolution.
Of course this tactic doesn’t work for all couples, especially those that have failed to communicate for years. They simply don’t possess solid communication tools in their relationship toolbox and may need help from a marriage counselor or family therapist to work things out. Counseling isn’t the only way to save a marriage but it does work well for some couples.
Hang in there!
Our nation has survived pandemics before, not to mention two world wars and the Great Depression. We always come out better on the other side.
Focus on the positive and take proactive steps to improve your mental and physical health, as well as your marriage. The work you put in now will set you up for success when this crisis ends.
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