We live in sobering and challenging times. In just a few short weeks, the world we once knew is experiencing new levels of uncertainty and disruption. It’s a season of shutting down (except for essential businesses), postponing or canceling plans, and staying home — and no one knows how long it’s going to last.
During this unusual time of stress and social distancing, we at Hope Restored still care for you and your marriage. And we understand that many couples find themselves spending unexpected time around each other.
Extra time together can be a blessing — and extra stressful, especially if you’re not used to spending extended time together. Struggles that exist in your relationship don’t magically disappear. Without the normal routine of time away from each other that a job and social gatherings bring, sensitivities and tensions can rise to new levels.
As you hunker down and wait for the crisis to blow over, what can you focus on to care for yourself?
Understand that a healthy marriage is made up of two healthy individuals
One of our main tenets at Hope Restored is that a marriage can never be healthier than the people in it. Therefore, a good marriage is composed of two individuals on a journey to get healthier. Neither has arrived, but each recognizes that taking care of themselves is super important.
In other words, one of the best ways to look after your marriage under any circumstances is to take care of you.
Taking care of yourself doesn’t imply that you ignore your spouse or your marriage. It does, however, put you in the best position to care about your spouse and for your marriage. You’ll find you will have more to offer each other and your relationship as you practice taking care of yourself.
Here are a few guiding thoughts to help you begin practicing healthy self-care during this stressful period of quarantine.
Monitor your emotions
God created emotions. He experiences them, and He created us to experience them too.
Emotions are not bad. In fact, they carry useful information worth paying attention to, much like the nerve endings under our skin.
If a stove is hot and I touch it, the pain I experience will teach me a lesson that can save me from further harm. Pain alerts me to injury happening that I need to stop or that I have suffered injury that requires attention and care. Likewise, emotional pain informs us of present or possible injury, and that care or space of some kind is necessary
One of the skills we would invite you to learn in a marriage intensive is to monitor your emotional well- being. We believe it’s in keeping with the wisdom of Proverbs: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
Take some time to consider:
- What is your heart feeling around all the disruption and change?
- What emotions surface in you when you watch the latest media updates?
- What fears might you hold around all the unknowns?
- When your spouse (or kids) interrupts your day (for what can seem like the hundredth time), what else are you feeling other than anger?
- When you’re feeling hurt or disappointed in your marriage, what would you desire to experience with your spouse instead?
Some people find this challenging. If you’re like most people, your tendency will be to focus on what you “think.” We would invite you to go beneath your thoughts and begin to pay attention to what you’re feeling.
There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage
Let yourself feel whatever emotions you’re feeling
One key thing about emotions is that we tend to either blow them up or make them smaller. Don’t push them away. Notice what you feel and take a moment to be with it. Give it a name: somber, sad, scared, alone, confused, powerless. Simply putting a name to your inner experience helps slow it down and keep it from welling up into something bigger than it already is. Naming your emotions also helps to keep you from judging or dismissing what you’re feeling.
Whatever you’re feeling — it’s OK. Remember, emotions carry important information that helps us know what’s going on inside of us that needs attending to.
Make some space for yourself
- Take daily walks.
- Spend time in prayer.
- Snuggle with your dog or favorite pet.
- Listen to relaxing or uplifting music.
- Journal or write.
- Go fishing.
- Exercise to upbeat music.
- Read a book
- Take an online class to learn a new skill or hobby.
Whatever you decide to do, telling your partner that you’re not getting away to zone out will be helpful. Look for ways to directly communicate that you’re taking a break for a reason. Your spouse may still not like or approve of your actions, but reassuring them that you’re not just leaving or avoiding problems is a good thing to do. You’re going into a different room or taking a drive to regroup and come back refreshed.
Notice God’s presence
Consider the two men traveling to the village of Emmaus days after the uncertainty swirling around Jesus’ crucifixion. After an encounter with the Lord that grabbed them completely by surprise, they took time to recall the moments their hearts burned as a risen Jesus took them back through the Scriptures to explain his death and resurrection (Luke 24:13-32).
As we go through these uncertain times, take time to notice moments when you experience God’s presence. Try asking yourself, When in the last 24 hours have I sensed, even in the smallest of ways, the truth of Immanuel—God with us? And see if you can notice how your emotions and body feel differently as you sense His presence:
- Do you feel even a tiny bit more hopeful? Connected?
- Do you feel a longing for more?
- Do you feel a little more calm in your stomach?
- Can you find your breath just a little more easily?
- Do your shoulders relax and settle?
- Is there a place in your body that feels looser or warmer?
Whatever ways you notice God’s presence — pause, name it and take a minute to savor it — physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
Your capacity to embrace the truth that God is our center and He is not leaving, will grow as you intentionally let yourself experience it again and again.