Just a few weeks back I was watching the news and listening to the COVID-19 crisis unfold. I started noticing a phrase being continuously tossed around. The term, “new normal,” is being used in so many contexts to signify our need to adapt to current situations, especially around the requirements of COVID-19. It is also put out there as a way to encourage people to cope with the present situation and to not linger on what could have been or have unrealistic expectations about the future.
Just like so many have reported, adaptation to this new way of life in quarantine has provided a very mixed blessing of things we can enjoy and challenges to overcome. As we are being called to stay at home more and distance ourselves from others, many can find this time in their home and marriage to be difficult. There are a number of resources out there now to help couples in close quarantine. I will provide some of the most popular tips I have seen for married couples to benefit from, and ways couples can have their marriage adjust and even benefit from this new normal.
Dr. Julie Gottman, co-founder of the Gottman Institute, who has studied relationships for more than 40 years, stated: “People who are constrained inside four walls are going to feel stressed over time, especially with the additional fear of getting sick or losing jobs. We know that stresses like this virus are terrible for relationships.”
In the article: “How to keep your marriage healthy amid COVID-19 crisis” (King5.com), Gottman identifies five helpful things a couple can do, such as listen more; show empathy towards each other; focus on the good, not what is annoying; express love towards each other — and take time-outs on occasion.
These tips, which are consistent to what other experts have expressed, are very similar to the advice St. Paul gave couples about love in 1 Cor 13:4-7: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Another popular tip to help couples cope is teamwork. What this means is that during these days of quarantine, coming together as a husband and wife team to navigate the challenges of the virus can be a great tool for success in your marriage. Anxiety can rise in many couples as they face fear of the unknown and not being able to control circumstances around them. When faced with these challenges, many experts have suggested that couples make short-term and long-term plans.
Come together and assess what is your current situation. What are your immediate needs and what are some realistic plans you can make for the short term? Also allow some space to dream together during this time. Is there an opportunity presenting itself that you may have held off on before? Reassess some priorities. Is what we spend our time and money on the best for our future going forward?
When couples do this, it puts them shoulder to shoulder, facing the problem in front of them, instead of letting the difficulties divide their relationship. This is a great opportunity to pray and hope together in the promises of Scripture; Psalm 55:22: “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.”
Finally, one of the best tools to help your marriage during this time of change is to take better care of yourself. As a busy working mom, I know my struggle prior to these days of quarantine was always finding time for self-care. Now that schedules have changed so much many people find themselves with more opportunities to pray, exercise, relax, do a hobby, etc. This influx of time for leisure or just simply slowing down in our lives can be one of the best opportunities for success. By intentionally caring for ourselves during this time of change, we are able to better care for others, including our spouse.
Understandably this time can be very difficult for many and there are fantastic resources available on the Diocese of Green Bay website: gbdioc.org/covid19.
May the graces of this Easter season be with you and your families now and into the future as you ask God to bless the “new normal” in your lives.
Tremblay is Marriage and Life Ministries director for the Diocese of Green Bay.