By Heather Riggleman, Crosswalk.com
When you got married, you likely assumed the biggest source of contention between you and your spouse would be either in-laws, or money, or child-rearing. But then COVID-19 showed up like an uninvited houseguest and overstayed its welcome for most of 2020.
It came in and changed our way of life in every area. Gone were routines, places of work, sending kids to school, steady paychecks, and the fear of having to suit up a couple times a month to secure groceries.
I would be lying if I said there haven’t been tears. Sheltering in place during COVID hasn’t come without its unique challenges to our marriage.
At first, we were thrilled to be home together. Chris and I are both homebodies. Our favorite thing to do after a long day of work is to be together. Whether that’s cooking in the kitchen, going for a long walk, or snuggling in our pajamas, it didn’t matter because it was us and our kids.
However, when the “fun” wore off, we had to learn to adapt or die trying. Like you, we were confined to small spaces with our spouses with little to no reprieve. We've got to balance work life and personal life, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Add in the lack of attending church, being supported by our small groups, suspicious employers who question whether you’re doing your job to the best of your abilities and homeschooling children, it can be a recipe for disaster--or even worse in some cases I’ve heard: divorce.
It’s no secret that marriages are under attack in this season more than ever before. One just has to look around to see people crumbling under pressure at every turn. The pandemic stress has produced a pressure cooker inside homes, hurting even strong partnerships and, experts say, likely breaking others.
The number of people looking for divorces was 34 percent higher in 2020, thanks to the virus. The New York Post reports the combination of stress, unemployment, financial strain, death of loved ones, illness, homeschooling children, mental illnesses, and more has put a significant strain on relationships.
The data showed that 31 percent of the couples admitted lockdown has caused irreparable damage to their relationships.
However, COVID didn’t just expose me to a pandemic. It exposed the weaknesses in myself, my husband, and our family unit. Covid-19 lockdown has forced us to confront realities about ourselves and our families.
Here are 3 realities this wife learned.
1. I’m Short-Fused
I was humbled. To my knees, type of humbled. When the pandemic hit, we were suddenly stay-at-home workers, parents, spouses, and home school teachers, overnight. It was easy to get my daughter to follow her assignments.
My son on the other hand, “hell hath no fury like a know-it-all middle school boy with ADHD.” Trust me.
I was in tears trying to get him to stay on task. But then I had to go back to work because there were only two people in my office. So, my husband stepped up to the plate.
He not only ran the house like a boss, he was more productive than ever working from home. Chris also reached our son in ways I could not. He helped our son complete his assignments and stay on task all the while, he acted as cool as a cucumber.
It opened my eyes to my shortcomings and convicted me I needed to learn the art of patience.
As a woman who thrives in a boardroom, it opened my eyes to the gift of marriage. God knows exactly what he is doing when he pairs us with our spouses. Typically where you are weak, you will find your spouse is strong. There is nothing wrong with that, but it does need to be acknowledged.
How amazing is our God, he always knows what we need. He knits our lives together not just in the womb, but in our relationships and family dynamics.
"[Jesus] understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (Hebrews 4:15-16 NLT).
Marriage is a mixed bag of two lives full of shortcomings and weaknesses. It’s also filled with strengths, character, sacrifice and a healthy dose of humility. We all would do well to get on our knees and ask God, “Take me, break me, mold me and shape me,” because just like our souls, God is molding our marriage too.
2. I Didn’t Appreciate The Small Things
Marriage isn’t made up of the big moments. Those moments—like your wedding day, buying a house, becoming parents, or getting that promotion—those are icing-on-the-cake-moments.
Marriage is made up of the little things. The way your husband smiles at you from across the room. When he brings home your favorite candy bar or when he surprises you with a homemade meal.
Marriage is made up of making out after fighting; it’s the way he rubs your feet with his in the middle of the night because he wants to say he loves you even though you hate to cuddle. It’s sharing baloney sandwiches when bills are tight.
Marriage is seeing your relationship through the gospel and learning how to walk on water together. It’s seeing the world in God’s love and freedom. Yet, too many of us have filtered marriage through our personal satisfaction and feelings. No wonder so many marriages are crumbling.
Emotions are a beautiful gift but the Bible tells over and over we cannot trust our hearts. We can only filter our feelings, actions, and reactions through the gospel. Paul wrote us a beautiful reminder:
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.” Galatians 5:16-17
When we choose the Spirit and God’s Word every morning, it’s a great awakening in our hearts as God cultivates its grounds for fresh blessings throughout the day. But it is a choice! We would do well to remember the words of Galatians and look for the little things.
3. I Don’t Need to Hustle
Once the honeymoon phase wears off, we get serious about a lot of things--mainly the future. So, we complete Financial Peace University, rename the cats Ebay and Craigslist, and begin the debt snowball. Somewhere along the way, we pick up side hustles on top of working even more at our jobs.
Why? Because we are concerned about our future wealth. This is a good thing but how good is it you and your spouse become passing ships in the night? How good is it when your spouse begins to resent you for being gone all the time? What benefit is it if you’re both left lonely?
One of the biggest blessings COVID has ushered into our lives is learning to make due with less while enjoying more “us” time.
Overnight, we didn’t have access to grocery stores, restaurants, gyms, the movies, etc. Overnight, the chance to really connect and build deep, lasting bonds blossomed.
We learned how to make bread together instead of running to the store. We learned to “Marie Kondo” our closets instead of cramming more clothes on the rack. We learned how soul-satisfying a campfire was instead of nights out on the town. We learned to really appreciate the bare basics.
Ecclesiastes 3 is one of my favorite chapters but it became a song as we learned the new, truer rhythms of life together under one roof. I love the entire chapter, however, verse 13 stands out for 2020, “It is also the gift of God whenever anyone eats, drinks, and enjoys all his efforts.”
If Your Marriage Is on the Rocks
Perhaps your marriage is one of the ones that had a small fissure that eroded into separation. Don’t lose hope. God is in the business of restoration. If you aren’t sure what to do, find a Biblical Counselor. If you and your partner need more help, turn to psychologists who are offering telehealth individual and couples sessions.
Having a therapist to talk to about some of the challenges arising is invaluable.
Ask God to open your eyes to the gift your spouse truly is. Ask to be reminded of why you fell in love in the first place. Pick and choose your battles.
Make sure you don’t react to everything your partner does that annoys you. If your partner is moody, remember it’s probably not really about you. Give him/her extra slack.
And last but not least, simply take the time to stop, look at your partner and tell them, 'Thank you,' can make a huge difference, too.
Heather Riggleman is an author, national speaker, former award-winning journalist and podcast co-host of the Moms Together Podcast. She calls Nebraska home with her three kids and a husband of 21 years. She believes Jazzercise, Jesus, and tacos can fix anything and not necessarily in that order! She is author of I Call Him By Name Bible Study, the Bold Truths Prayer Journal, Mama Needs a Time Out, and Let’s Talk About Prayer and a contributor to several books. Her work has been featured on Proverbs 31 Ministries, MOPS, Today's Christian Woman, and Focus On the Family. You can find her at www.heatherriggleman.com or on Facebook.