COVID-19: Habits of a Healthy Marriage (in Quarantine)
It’s funny to hear the different statements people are making about their marriages during this season of quarantine. My guess is, if you’re married, you probably fall into one of these three camps:
Camp 1: “My marriage has never been better. We are really taking advantage of this extra time together.”
Camp 2: “My spouse even thinks the way I breathe is annoying.”
Camp 3: “My life hasn’t changed a bit. You might not know this, but my work is essential, so my marriage is exactly the same.”
Maybe one fits you perfectly, or perhaps you even fluctuate between these three camps. Maybe you’ve experienced a measure of all of them. No matter what state your marriage is in, we all have room to grow. Whether you’re in the land of plenty or poverty, God isn't done working through your marriage.
I’ve learned that when it comes down to it, every marriage problem can be summed up in one word: selfishness. By nature, we are prone to seek to meet our own needs before our spouse’s. This selfish nature is only compounded during times of stress, and it becomes increasingly more challenging to think about your wife, husband, kids, friends, or anyone else for that matter! Let’s be real: many of us are stressed out.
Regardless of whether your life feels abnormal or normal right now, God desires to use this time to shape you and grow your marriage. Marriage is one of the most powerful tools of sanctification in God’s hands. Here are a few key principles that will help you grow in your marriage and grow you to be more like Christ:
Effort is Essential
Here’s a simple truth: your marriage will only be as good as the effort you put into it. It should not be the last item on your priority list. In many marriages, spouses will only work as hard on their marriage as they assume their spouse is working. This is not a great formula. Let me urge you not to allow your spouse’s effort to dictate the effort you put forth. Jesus gave all of himself for people who could never return the favor. To be like Jesus in marriage, you work hard at your relationship regardless of the effort your spouse is putting in.
Ask yourself: What kind of effort do I put into my marriage? In what ways have I tried to make my relationship flourish?
Take a moment and commit to this: “I’ll put the same effort into my marriage as Jesus put into saving me.”
Your Mind Matters
In the Bible, spiritual growth is often described as a renewing of the mind (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:20-24; Philippians 2:5-11; 4:8-9). To be like Jesus personally and in marriage, you must make a habit of examining your thoughts, taking captive the sinful ones, and replacing them with Biblical truth.
In marriage, sinful thoughts promote division over unity and individuality over oneness. If you desire a vibrant marriage, you will have to put forth a conscious effort in dealing with divisive thinking. Take captive the tendency to forget your own faults but highlight your spouses. Take captive demanding forgiveness when you fail but not forgiving your spouse when they do. Take captive the phrases like: he always does ______, or she never does ______. Take captive the temptation to “keep score” of all the sacrifices you’ve made compared to those your spouse has.
Replace these divisive thoughts with truthful thoughts. Paul encourages the Philippian church to live joy-filled lives in Christ by doing the following:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
If this practice can produce joy in the persecuted Christians of Philippi, surely it can produce joy in our marriages! Take extra care to believe the best in your spouse. Highlight the lovely, commendable, and excellent things they do. Whatever your spouse does that is worthy of praise, think about those things. These patterns of thought will increase unity within your marriage, and when you practice these things, the peace of God will be with you.
Your Words Matter
One of the best ways you can use the extra time at home is by speaking words of grace and encouragement to your spouse. As you work to change your patterns of thought, make sure you’re communicating the commendable and praiseworthy things you see to your spouse. Your words will either corrupt and destroy or bring life and build up. God himself gave life to creation by speaking it into existence. As God’s image-bearer, give your spouse a fresh breath of life through true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy words.
COVID-19 has afforded you a unique opportunity to develop your marriage. This extra time at home will either exasperate the existing problems in your relationship or bring you closer together. God is using all aspects of your marriage, the good and the bad, to shape you into His perfect image. Don’t grow weary! Perhaps at the end of this, you’ll find yourself on a trajectory of growth that extends the rest of your days. For those seeking practical tips for taking advantage of this time, check out a few tips included below.
Read a book together
- The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller
- Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriage by Shaunti Feldhahn
- The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman
- God on Sex by Daniel Akin
- The Mingling of Souls by Matt Chandler
Promoting oneness while at home
- Plan stay-at-home date nights.
- Put your phones in another room and spend quality time together.
- Talk before you watch TV.
- Engage each other’s hearts by asking good questions.
- Choose a vulnerable topic to discuss (sex, fears, failures, triumphs, childhood memories, etc.).
- Watch your wedding video/look at wedding pictures.
- Allow your partner some alone time so that he/she may be more energized when you’re together.
Pray specifically for each other
- Pray out loud together.
- Record your prayers on a computer or journal and let your spouse read them.
- Send a text throughout the day, telling your spouse how you’re praying for them.