"We have been cooped up at home every day," Jack and Susan shared over one of our recent remote Zoom Safe Haven Marriage intensives. "Our usual outlets for stress and ways of refueling have been significantly reduced. COVID has hindered us from freely going to the gym, out to movies, visiting friends, sending the kids to camp or even getting away for the weekend." Of course, this echoes the sentiments of many cooped-up couples in this season of COVID restrictions.
As we are all doing our best to slow down the spread of the coronavirus, many couples are finding their new, home-bound lives to be quite stressful (though ironically filled with many unexpected positives, as well). "We are under each other's feet, sharing home office space, waiting for the bathroom, cooking together and—never thought we would but we are—homeschooling our kids!"
The more time couples spend together, especially when it's compounded with added responsibilities and unfamiliar stressors, the more opportunities there are for their differences to trigger irritations, frustrations and arguments. Being patient, well-mannered and maintaining a kind attitude, all keys to a good marriage, can become much more of a struggle under these circumstances.
The stresses and strains of normal life are draining enough, but if you don't have time to replenish your body, mind and soul, it can leave you with a very thin layer of resources, making it difficult to find the stamina to react to those you love with a positive attitude. Answering yet another question, getting interrupted one more time, having to quickly come up with another meal plan can easily tap your last ounce of patience, plummeting your "fuel" gauge to emotionally empty.
How can you care for yourself so you can be the best you can be at home?
1. Name your struggles and stressors. Identify the difficult things in your life and openly talk about them with your spouse. Many couples are struggling financially, uncertain about work schedules or whether there will even be a school year, and at best are a little hazy about what the future holds. If you or your spouse try to ignore, distract, minimize, place blame—or you just lose it and panic—stressors can't be recognized, discussed and problem-solved. Which means, the nagging issues only grow bigger and create more stress.
Find time to talk through the struggles and stressors in each of your lives. If it triggers an argument, find a good life coach to help you and your spouse list and talk through the main issues in your lives. If you need, contact us at the Safe Haven Relationship Center and we will connect you with a life coach resource. A coach can help you get an outside perspective so you can find workable solutions.
2. Try to do things together that you really enjoy. Don't make 'doing chores' your only quality time together. Get creative. Try puzzles, games, artwork, hikes, bikes, scooters, working out, kite building (and flying!), table tennis, bread making, virtual cooking lessons, guitar lessons, art lessons (any lessons!), learn a new language and more. Remember that laughing, playing and exploring together are great ways of deepening your connection.
3. Do things apart, too. Jack and Susan created a schedule where on alternate days, each could use special equipment or space or time alone to pursue their separate interests. They also gave each other time late in the afternoon for what they called an attitude adjustment. As Susan put it, "When I know I will have time for a relaxing walk or quiet bath, I find it easier to scrape together a few more hours of energy to deal with work or be more patient with the kids."
4. Choose your attitude. We may at times blame our spouse or our circumstances for the condition of our heart (that is, our attitude), but in reality, no one can make you feel irritated, impatient or put you in a bad mood. You can't control how your spouse acts or reacts to you, but you can choose the way you face it. You choose your attitude and mood. So…
Every day when you wake up, choose to be in a good mood. At each mealtime, check the flavor of your mood. Is it sour, bitter, peppered or sweet? Choose to be the best version of yourself, which means: choose kindness, a positive outlook, a pleasant demeanor and good manners. These times may be uncertain, but you most certainly get to choose your own attitude. For everyone's sake, we hope you choose wisely!
"God is always there for us, so we can be strong in knowing that He always has our backs." Deut 31:6 Good News
"Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28-30
"Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary." Isaiah 40:31