This time of COVID-19 has been stressful on marriages. Many couples have been forced to be at home together. Others have had to change up normal routines to help care for children. Still others have struggled because of stressors such as job losses, financial strain, and even losing loved ones. As we become more stressed and anxious, individually, our marriages can also struggle. Perhaps you find yourself too emotionally exhausted at the end of the day to connect with your spouse. You may be afraid to talk to your spouse because it would mean opening up about how you are really doing with all of the current craziness. Maybe you sometimes stop and wonder to yourself why your spouse suddenly doesn’t seem like the same person you married.
Statistics show that many marriages are struggling right now. The divorce rate is up by 10-25% in most states. The number of cases of domestic violence has also increased. Many experts say, however, that in times past, when marriages endure times of crisis together, they emerge stronger and closer on the other side. Here are a few tips to help your marriage endure the uncertainty and stress of our current circumstances:
- Protect Your Time Together – You may be spending a lot of time at your home with your spouse, but are you two actually spending any quality time together? Think about some activities that you and your spouse enjoy doing together and make time for them. Do you enjoy playing games? Going for walks? Trying new foods? Cooking? Try to schedule a few activities a month for you and your spouse to enjoy doing together. This may mean lining up a babysitter for your children or setting aside a certain night of the week, but guarding this time to have fun and enjoy the company of your spouse is extremely important in staying connected. We often get overwhelmed in times of stress and lose our sense of fun and spontaneity. Making time to get out of your stressful situation to laugh and have fun together will do wonders for your relationship.
- Affirm Your Spouse Everyday – When we get stressed out, we often begin to think negatively about things and the people in our lives. Make it a point each day to affirm instead of criticize your spouse. Look for ways that he or she helps you without being asked, or think about the qualities that you admire about your spouse and let him or her know that you appreciate those things. Perhaps you just want to remind your spouse that you are in this stressful time together and remind him or her that you will always be there. When negative thoughts about your spouse creep in (as they often will), combat those thoughts with the positive things that you love and admire about your spouse and speak them.
- Make Time to Hug – Did you know that hugging your spouse actually helps to release a “feel good” chemical in your body called oxytocin? Research shows that a 20 second hug with your spouse will actually help release this chemical in your body, which will help you to feel closer and more connected to that person. Make it a point to give your spouse a long hug a couple of times a day, and add a few kisses in there too! Your oxytocin levels and feelings of connectedness will certainly improve.
- Verbalize Your Needs – Keep in mind that your spouse is not a mind reader. During times of high stress, we often look to our spouses, friends, and even children to fill us up. This is a lot of unfair pressure to put on someone. Chances are, if you are stressed out, your spouse wants to help you, but he or she may not know how. Be clear about your needs. Sit down with your spouse and tell him or her that you are overwhelmed and share some things that would help you. If roles are reversed, and you see that your spouse seems stressed out, then ask him or her what you can do to help. Try your best to avoid expecting your spouse to read your mind. It essentially sets that person up to fail. Being clear about your needs will give them a concrete way to help you.
- Look for Ways to Help and Serve Your Spouse – Oftentimes in marriage, we become very self focused. Our thoughts and struggles all focus inward. We begin wondering why our spouse isn’t in tune to our needs or why he or she isn’t supporting me in a way I want them to. Instead, try thinking of a few ways that you can help or serve your spouse. Try leaving your spouse a little note on his or her windshield or packing their lunch for them or surprising them with a gift. Sometimes, when we take the focus off of ourselves and give to someone else, we feel better about ourselves and our emotional well being improves. Be sure to do your part in keeping your love fueled during stressful times. Loving your spouse in those “little ways” can make a big difference in how both of you feel.
If you find that your marriage is struggling during this time, the therapists at Water’s Edge Counseling would love to help! They have helped many couples work through stressful times to improve and strengthen their marriages. They are passionate about helping individuals and couples work towards restoration in their lives. If we can help you or someone you know, please call us at 912-319-5552.