Cynthia L. Eppley, MA
In the Beginning
There may have been a time in your marriage when you would have liked to spend every waking moment with your beloved. In the days of fresh love, rapture enchantment and devotion marked your days. A wedding was followed by a honeymoon that you wanted to last forever. Was there ever anyone so handsome, so responsible, so rugged and strong?Was there anyone so delicate, so beautiful, so radiant, so emotive? And then the honeymoon becomes the marriage. And now we have Corona.
What were we expecting?
The Best of times, the Worst of times The dailyness of days brings out the best in us, but also the worst in us. It is a time to see what is within our hearts. Jesus put it succinctly: “It is out of the fullness of the heart that the mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45.
Our hearts are revealed in actions as well as speech. The luster of the honeymoon period is soon replaced by our true selves. Add responsibilities, mortgages, work, and perhaps children, and we soon see that it is what is within us…that comes out of us.
It is not a pretty sight.
The Long Haul As this quarantine in going on over 30 days, people are becoming a bit more….shall we say, irritable? Short tempered? Grouchy? Moody?
Using a sense of humor helps. Try these on for size:
- “Can You blink a little more quietly, please?”
- The next time your wife gets angry, drape a towel over her shoulders, (like a cape) and exclaim: “Now you’re SUPER angry!” Maybe she’ll laugh. Maybe you’ll die.
- I bet by now a lot of husbands are ready to build that she-shed……
In this Pandemic, many couples have varying degrees of work, responsibility and child care, to name a few. But chances are:You are together more hours of the day than usual. None of us planned to be with our spouse all of the time.
Or, you may find yourself responsible for much more than before: between childcare and working from home, the work has seemed to triple.
Little annoyances may come to the fore.
We begin to keep a running total, a tally system; who does what? This would be easy to set up in our heart and in our head.
But these are harmful dynamics that need to be nipped in the bud.
1. Our marriages are a Covenant before God. (Eph 5)
Remember that your spouse is a gift from God.
In the midst of quarantine, the Pandemic is stressful. Corona is our enemy, not our spouse.
2. My own heart is the greater problem. What is it that I want? What will I desire to have above all else?
Our heart is an idol factory. During this demanding season, it is working overtime.
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?. (Jeremiah 17:9)
This is a time for unity within our marriage. No more tallies of chores and jobs. This is the time to be more flexible.
Perhaps he has routinely done most of the childcare. Now may be the time for her to pick up this responsibility. Perhaps we both need to be more creative, more willing, and more eager to help. Would it be possible, on some days, to even do more than your spouse?
3. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
John Gottman did a study on marriages that addressed 4 major problems in marriage. He called them: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
- Criticism: Verbally attacking your partners personality or character.
- Contempt: Attacking your partner’s sense of self with the intention to insult or psychologically abuse them.
- Defensiveness: Viewing yourself as the victim in efforts to ward off a received attack and reverse blame.
- Stonewalling: Withdrawing from a relationship as a way to avoid conflict in efforts to convey disapproval, distance and separation.
Am I responsible for these behaviors? These are harmful dynamics. Perhaps we can look at the plank that might be in my own eye at this time.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? (Matthew 7:3)
4. Give Grace Grace has been defined as when God gives us what we don’t deserve. Are we able to hold back a blistering retort? Are we able to give support and kindness, understanding that we are all under much stress, different schedules, and a long haul?
5. Listen with your eyes, your ears, and your heart. Look for clues that your spouse is stressed. Are they short tempered, irritable, or depressed? Move towards your spouse with empathy and kindness. Assume nothing.
6. Validate A key feature of building trust in any relationship is to validate the other person. While “we are all in this together” our individual experiences may be very different. Recognize their experience and emotions and give it credibility.
7. Ask questions. Jesus most often asked questions to understand others. When we listen well, we can respond in an empathetic manner:
- “Help me understand.”
- “What can I do to help?”
Obviously, entire books are written on marriage dynamics. We are not able to address all of the issues here. But we need to be aware that there are specific stressors swirling around us and within us.
Ultimately—God is in control
In the midst of uncertainty, lockdowns, and pandemics we can trust God our Father. Encourage one another!
God is our refuge and strength, Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and he mountains quake with their surging.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46: 1-3, 10-11.)
In the midst of all of this, the good, the bad, the ugly: God can use this to change us to be more like Him.
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of―throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” ―C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity