12 May How to Help Your Marriage Survive the COVID-19 Virus
The statistics coming out of China are alarming when it comes to the spike of divorce resulting from the COVID-19 virus. Being locked down for long periods of time with one’s spouse will challenge every relationship and reveal weakness and cracks in the bonds of matrimony. That person who we were once google eyed and willingly committed ourselves in life vows can feel so distant when we find ourselves being annoyed at even the simplest of things.
For some, these annoyances can become dangerous and destructive as the temperature of frustration rises. We know that elevated levels of violence and spousal abuse have been reported wherever shelter at home orders have been established. Children often are negatively impacted watching their parents go at each other. The internal wounds inflicted by these battles can exceed those of the outward battering that sometimes results as anger gets out of control.
Couples need to learn how to manage their stress as lock-downs continue. There are many things that you can do to lower your stress:
- Take time for yourself to gain perspective. Get alone and read Scripture. Meditate on truths from God’s Word.
- Do something that you enjoy. Read a book or learn something new by taking a free course online. Distract yourself from the stress you are experiencing.
- Connect with other people. Much of the stress we are experiencing is because of isolation from important relationships. Pick up the phone and speak with those people, but avoid complaining about your spouse! Venting is not helpful, but does further damage.
- Choose to give space when things heats up. Don’t avoid confrontation, but acknowledge that sometimes space is needed to process problems before resolving them.
- Exercise. Safely get out and move. Physical exercise has the potential to lower tensions that build up in our bodies.
All these things are helpful but don’t address the underlying issues that are causing the stress during lock-down. A major issue that underlies much of our stress when kept in tight quarters for long periods of time is the reality that our spouse is wired differently that we are wired. You don’t see things the same way.
We have conducted relational intelligence training for more than 10,000 people across the globe (Soulmates for Life or TeamLIFE workshops) and I am amazed that we have empirical evidence that 9 out of 10 people chose to marry someone who is wired the exact opposite of themselves. We utilize the SDI (Strength Deployment Inventory) to measure not just behaviors, but to measure what motivates us. We are not just different in how we behavior and the things we chose to do, but we are fundamentally motivated the opposite of our spouses.
It is interesting that we intuitively believe that the person we want to live with forever is not like me! As a risk taker I chose a cautious woman to spend my life. My wife is detailed orderly person who chose to marry a guy who can’t organize his desk or put his clothes in the closet. My wife is motivated by order and predictability. I am motivated to initiate change and achieve results. The list goes on and on.
Your list may be very different from mine, but 9 out of 10 people report that their spouse is the exact opposite of them when it comes to both what motivates them and the behaviors they prefer and use regularly. It is no wonder we have problems when we are locked in a confined space for an extended period of time. We are discovering exactly how different we are and we can’t run from it.
Have you ever stopped to consider why you fell in love with your spouse? Yes, there may have been physical attraction involved, but there was more than that. It may have not been conscious, but you saw things in your future spouse that were attractive. They had things you didn’t have and wanted in your life. Ironically, these same traits can be so challenging when they are held up in front of use for 60 days straight and no escape! These differences are not only exposed, but they are exasperated when we overdo our strengths.
Once of my strengths is Confidence. It enables me to tackle problems that appear to be impossible. But when I overdo this strength it looks like arrogance to my wife. I can come across as a know-it-all. Another strength of mine is Risk. I am willing to take risks to gain rewards. I’ll suggest ordering out for food, but my wife sees this as an unnecessary risk that can bring danger into our home. If it was left to me, we would be the first ones into the restaurant when it opens, but my wife will probably not go to a restaurant until the virus is eradicated worldwide. Our approach to life is so different from each other. Somehow this lock-down has amplified these differences for most people.
Rather than letting these differences lead to anger, frustration, or even violence, what if we learned to identify our differences and appreciate the strengths of our spouses? For me this would mean learning to appreciate her strength of being Cautious. I know she is motivated to be Cautious because she wants to keep her family safe and she cares for them deeply. Rather than becoming aggravated by the insistence of washing hands every time we leave the house (even if we do not come near anyone), what if I appreciated her strengths and validated her perspective?
If we can do this for each other, we might see the lock-down as an opportunity to grow in our knowledge and appreciation of each other. If you have taken the SDI or another personality inventory you might have an advantage of insight into how you are different from each other. But if you have not had this opportunity, you can still identify your differences and value them. Love gives preference to one-another.
Try not only identifying your differences but expressing your appreciation of your differences and how they are valued and have contributed to your family. The book of Genesis in the Bible tells us that God created our spouse as a companion, so we don’t have to face life alone. The word used for our spouse is “helpmate”. That word does not mean servant and is not derogatory. That same word is used of how God helps us. God’s design was to give us a spouse that would be able to help us in life, and often times we need the help of someone so different from us. I thank God for my wife and how different she is from me. “Lord, help me to appreciate her and how she is wonderfully made – even when it is so different from me – especially when she is so different from me.”
If you spouse is more similar to you than different, this blog might not resonate with you. That is okay and even great. You may be the 1 in 10 that married someone similar to yourself. There is nothing wrong with you! You may face different challenges as you don’t have the regular input of a contrary viewpoint. Perhaps you would take time in this quarantine to identify how being so similar has caused challenges for yourselves.