– by Keith & Sarah Condie
We feel blessed to have had each other during this period of restricted social contact. For so many we know, social isolation has been just that – living alone, removed from the normal relational connections that encourage and nourish.
Even so, being in close proximity to your spouse nearly all of the time can be a challenge for the best of marriages. A May 2020 Relationships Australia study on the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions found that 42% people experienced a negative change in their relationship with their partner.
But even small choices and actions have an impact. Each week for the next three weeks, we’ll be sharing 4 steps you can take to promote a healthy and strong relationship. This is part 1.
1. Be alert and sensitive to each other’s differences
You may have heard it said that, “we’re all in the same boat” in relation to this pandemic. But as a friend of ours helpfully reminded us, “No, we’re all in the same storm, but each of us are in different boats.” This means that for each of us, our unique temperament and personal history shapes how we respond to this particular challenge.
In times of grief and stress like what we are all experiencing at the moment, our normal patterns of response are amplified. It’s almost as if we become one and a half times the person we normally are. One of you may withdraw under pressure and have a stronger tendency to crawl into your shell and not want to talk much, while the other of you might be desperate for company and crave together time – walking, talking, watching movies….
2. You still need to check in with each other
Just because you are continually inhabiting the same limited geographical space doesn’t grant power to read each other’s minds. Don’t assume you know how the other is travelling during this unusual time. Be curious! Be a gentle detective who wants to uncover the mysteries of the other so you can stay lovingly well-connected.
3. Don’t take each other for granted
Notice when a meal is cooked and appears magically on the table to eat and say thank you. When the washing gets done and the house tidied, express your appreciation that these thankless tasks get done. Try and tell each other one thing that you appreciate about them each day. This will help you notice the positives in your partner.
4. Listen, listen, listen
To listen well is a challenge at the best of times, but during periods of stress and uncertainty … it can disappear out the window. We have both found how easy it is to get distracted, lost in our own thoughts, and fail to pick up on longings and fears that when shared, draw us closer together. When your spouse is sharing something of significance, try to avoid shifting the conversation to yourself or telling them what to do. Stay in their moment and seek to be understanding and empathic. Remember the wisdom of Proverbs 18:13: “To answer before listening, that is folly and shame.”