Preparing a marriage to withstand a pandemic
Not everyone is feeling the love — relationships strain under social distancing restrictions. In China, where the Covid-19 outbreak originated, divorce rates spiked in several cities post lockdown. Australia has been in some form of lockdown since late March, with experts predicting we will see a similar surge in the coming months.
Why can spending more time with our partners put our relationships under strain?
Paul Grimmond, Dean of Students at Moore College, spends his days pastoring students who are undergoing similar stresses to those we are facing during Covid-19. Students often move house to study and leave their existing church community. They also face a cut in income and transition from working to full-time study.
Paul says times of extreme stress will cause some people to naturally withdraw, while others will become more reactive. “You might notice something your spouse does which is annoying, which you would normally shake off. Instead, it feeds into a negative picture about your spouse"
“It will be possible to grow through this”
“Our natural anxiety levels are raised, but we also have fewer external ways of dealing with our emotions. Where do these anxieties go? To the people who are closest to us.”
Paul recommends as a couple finding things that remind you of what you enjoy together, which build your marriage and help you come towards God - together. “Make it achievable and manageable - one night, once a week. Avoid the extremes of either running away or becoming overly proactive”.
He also recommends getting in touch with a professional service like Anglicare or a local Christian councillor. “This doesn’t make you ungodly, or not a Christian. Acknowledging you are human and need help can be a circuit breaker.”
Whatever your COVID-19 experience might be, Paul is clear that the gospel offers hope for every relationship: “Through Jesus and the work of the Spirit change is possible and it will be possible to grow through this”.
“Change is possible”
So how can you invest in the foundations of your relationship during a pandemic?
We asked ten Christian women, from different life stages, to share what has helped them strengthen their relationships.
1. Keep the fun in the relationship
“We all need fun in our relationships! We love to write a ‘fun list’. You start with each person writing a list of 10 things they’d find fun. Share the lists and commit to doing at least one of those every day.” - Katie
2. Invest in each other's faith journey
“Read the Bible together. Start with Song of Songs or listen to a sermon series.” - Andrea
3. Have a date hour
“Date nights can be super hard right now, especially if you have little kids around! We try to do things that are free and can be done in an hour. A few things we have enjoyed are having an international theme night, for example, French night: make crepes, put up some red and blue streamers and watch a French movie.” - Sarah
4. Pray for each other
“Pray for each other separately and together. You would be surprised how much that can help you build empathy for your spouse! Missional Mums have just released a set of prayer cards for a couple to pray for their marriage.” - Claudia
5. Do something low pressure together
“My husband and I are finding it really helpful to go for a morning walk together. It makes it easier to raise any issues or concerns we’ve been having - the pressure if off a little when we are outside." - Naomi
6. Build some new habits
“I think the biggest thing at the moment though is trying to create new habits that we have time for now, like reading the Bible together everyday, or praying together everyday.” - Janice
7. Explore professional resources too
"I love the Gottman Institute Facebook page! Our counsellor put us onto it." - Vanessa
8.Listen to a marriage-related podcast
“I enjoy the 'Fierce Marriage' podcast and "Marriage After God". I don't always agree with everything they say, but it helps me to think about marriage and keep it on the agenda.” - Angela
9. Invest in your sex life
“I am still raving about the Patricia Weerakoon book we read - The Best Sex For Life. I’d recommend everyone do it!” - Fiona
What are you finding helpful to invest in your marriage during COVID-19? We would love to keep sharing resources & recommendations with our community so feel free to let us know in the comments or by messaging us here.
The women who have shared in this post are known to Sydney Anglicans, but names have been changed. Some responses have been edited for clarity.