I'm a Mom and a Marriage Coach: Here Are My 5 Tips For Keeping Your Relationship Intact Through a Pandemic
The pandemic can be tough on couples, especially ones with kids. Here is my advice on making it through these trying times with your spouse.
Like every other parent in the world, my family life changed in a matter of days because of the pandemic. My kid's school shut down, my husband was told he'd be working from home indefinitely, and a romantic getaway we had planned to Houston was canceled.
There we were living in the unknown without answers to what was going on or how long this would last. Our family dynamic began to suffer as we were trying to navigate being together all day long. Weeks went by before I realized that if I didn't come to grip with this new reality and figure out how to have a functioning home and a healthy marriage, we would be in for a long unhappy ride. I repeated to myself what everyone was saying around me, "Focus on what you can control."
With that advice I got my 2- and 4-year-old on a new routine and worked to survive this pandemic with a healthy marriage intact while helping other couples do the same as a marriage coach. Here are five ways to make this difficult time with your spouse a little easier.
Have Open Communication
As the world around us evolved, I found myself at times in a swirl of emotions. A Harvard Business Review article described it as grief. So many of us were grieving the loss of our normal lives. Everyone processes their emotions differently, but for couples, it is important that we use this time to speak to the other about what we're going through.
For me, the duties of managing a home and trying to balance motherhood was causing a strain on my relationship. My husband and I realized our power is in our honesty. We began to share what we were feeling, why we think we were feeling it, and started to really listen to each other. The best thing my husband did for me was just hold me and let me cry when I needed to. He allowed me to vent my frustrations and I gave him the space to do the same.
That's why I encourage couples to communicate openly and then listen without giving an answer. The best time to do this is what we call "bonding time." Couples can try and set aside around an hour or so every day to make time to talk and share what is on their heart; both the good and the bad. Many couples find it helpful to do this is in the evening or first thing in the morning. They turn off all electronics, close the door to their space, and connect as friends. Remember, friendship is the foundation of bonding time.
Give Each Other Space
Time alone is necessary to process your own emotions and feelings. It calms the heart and the mind. And I can tell you if you are a parent, you need time alone even if you don't realize it. Couples need to give each other the opportunity to have this time to themselves. In these moments, one partner could be on child duty while the other gets time alone to do whatever it is that makes them feel better.
Some favorite activities might be hard to do during the pandemic. But I advise individuals to turn off all electronics and just be still, even if it's in a quiet area of their home. Paying close attention to yourself will help you understand where you are emotionally. Allow yourself to feel what you are feeling. Ask yourself how your body is feeling; where do you feel pressure? This is also a time to understand what you need to feel better.
Get Creative with Date Night
Date night is fuel for marriage. I can't stress this point enough. Date night is not just about having fun but about keeping a marriage strong and alive. My husband and I give 52 weeks of ideas for couples that want to renew their passion and intimacy in our book The Eden Experience, and some of these can be done right at home as you're socially distancing. In fact, one of our favorite date nights at home is painting. Get some of your favorite goodies, pull out two blank canvases and paintbrushes, and just start painting. If you need additional help, Paint With A Twist now offers a great option to send all the materials you need.
Not into painting? Date night can be as simple as nature walks or just trying something new together. Each of you can decide on an activity and both should agree to go all in on doing it. Another plus? You learn about the other person even more while getting out of your own comfort zone.
Seek Help as Needed
It's no secret the pandemic has been rough on married couples as they navigate completely new territory. Checking in with a marriage counselor virtually can be necessary and even healthy. I advise couples to check-in with a professional at least once a year to help identify any issues in their marriage, even if they feel like nothing is wrong. This could be a pastor, spiritual leader, marriage coach, licensed marriage counselor, or psychiatrist—anyone that you feel comfortable talking to about your marriage.
- RELATED: What Kids Learn from Your Marriage
As with anything, when you seek to be successful you have to make a plan. Don't leave out your marriage in your goal setting. I learned this through Lara Casey, a mom of three who runs Cultivate What Matters, an online community offering goal-setting tools and daily encouragement. She guides people as they break down big goals into actionable steps. This also includes being intentional about your marriage. Make having a healthy and passionate marriage a goal and then do the steps it takes each day to get there. Every relationships is different, so find what works best for you and your partner.
Bridgette Reed co-leads MarriageAndGrace.org with her husband, Deon, and together they are on a mission to break negative patterns in marriage and relationships and increase passion and intimacy.