Deb Toering is a Board Certified Professional Christian Counselor (BCPCC) in private practice at Trinity Family Counseling Center. In addition to working with a wide range of client populations and presenting issues, Deb is also an engaging public speaker. She has spoken in front of various groups across a range of topics including marriage, bullying, ADHD/ADD, and teen leadership.
Just saw a funny meme that said, “For the second part of this quarantine, do we have to stay with the same family or are they going to relocate us?”
Perhaps some of you have had similar thoughts about your spouse. You wonder how you can make your marriage work so that a second quarantine could be more enjoyable. The quarantine has a way of shining its light on the holes and hurts in your marriage. Problems that have been placed on the back burner when life was busy are now coming to the forefront. The disconnect in your marriage is only adding to your overall anxiety during this pandemic.
The quarantine light is revealing lots of new things, many not so good: new views of your spouse at work, maybe working too much or too little. Their messy work space has invaded your peaceful gathering place for dinner. There is an underlying tension and irritability between you and your spouse that goes beyond the current tension of a barking dog or noisy kids during a business call.
For those whose work has been deemed “non-essential”, the stress of lost income, fear of not having a job to return to, or the lost hope of reopening a business you have spent years building, all add a new level of stress. You may be fearful, depressed, irritable and anxious; perhaps sleeping too much or too little, eating too much or not enough, wondering if life will ever be the same?
But there’s something more going on than the common pandemic stressors. Just being in your spouse’s presence causes feelings of irritability and sadness. Destructive habits of criticism and withdrawal from each other have become the norm. Apathy has set in. Walls have been erected. What has happened to your early love? Years of neglect, unresolved hurts and unforgiveness cause the heart to grow cold.
What can you do? Is it possible to have this time of quarantine be a life-changer for your marriage? Absolutely!
START WITH YOURSELF: Ask the Lord to show you all the ways you have hurt your spouse. Write them down. Ask Him to help you feel grief for all those hurts. Ask Him to forgive you. Then go to your spouse with your list and ask if there are more ways you have been hurtful. Listen to the hurts. Ask for forgiveness. Encourage your spouse to do the same. Extending grace and forgiveness to each other is key to the healing process.
COMMIT TO A NEW START: Assume the best about each other. Imagine what this time is like for your spouse. Encourage conversation and pour out extra love and patience. It may just return in twofold measure.
Filling up your gas tank lately has been easy on the pocketbook. Filling up your spouse’s love tank will cost you very little and nothing else will yield a higher return of happiness. If you don’t know your spouse’s love language, find out at 5lovelanguages.com. Then, be intentional about expressing love in their love language, even if you don’t feel it at first.
Your marriage may be the one stressor you can control in this crisis, with some humility, forgiveness and effort. A few sessions with a professional counselor may speed the process. Video or phone counseling at this time can be very effective and there is still time before we return to normal. The good news is that your marriage will not just return to the way it was, but can emerge much stronger than ever before.