Between coping with the ever-changing health protocols and thinking about work and family life, you might not realize that you are neglecting your relationship with your spouse. Learn more about strengthening your marriage in the time of the pandemic here.
In this article, you’ll read:
- The pandemic’s effect on marriage
- Being together 24/7 – does it help?
- Ways to strengthen your relationship as husband and wife amid the pandemic
We can all say it – Covid-19 changed our lives in ways we could not have imagined. From the way we work, the way we cope with the challenges and even the way we relate to the people around us. And the person who has been with us and seen us weather these changes is our spouse.
Marriage has been put to the test in this time of the pandemic. We have to learn new ways of parenting while working from home, coping with new health protocols, dealing with sickness in the family – all while taking care of our own mental health.
It all can be a bit much, and it is not surprising if this has led to your marriage taking a backseat, or all your relationship problems being intensified.
But if there is ever a good time to work on strengthening your marriage, now is one of them. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” as they say.
Before we learn about the ways we can bring new life into our relationship with our spouse, let us first look at how this pandemic affected marriages all over the world.
Pandemic’s effect on marriage
Image source: iStock
The pandemic has tanked the global economy, thrown millions of men and women out of jobs, forced families into lockdowns, and taken the lives of hundreds of thousands. So it is expected that married couples would feel the burden in their personal and family life.
It’s hard enough to keep up with all the stress brought about by all these changes. So couples might feel like they lack the energy to work on their married life.
Marriages have been put to the test
Young couples who just got married and then had to face the pressure brought on by the pandemic may have gotten the surprise of their lives. If you entered marriage thinking that it was going to be a bed of roses, then the reality you’re facing with Covid-19 must have shown you that it’s more than just a feeling of bliss and togetherness.
For young couples who have not dealt with a major crisis yet prior to the pandemic, the current situation could have brought on considerable stress and created serious cracks in their foundation.
They experience a lack of independence as individuals
For some couples, working from home and spending most of their time together at home is considered a blessing.
However, regardless of how beautiful their partnership is, couples still need to have time for their own activities and other relationships as individuals.
Given the situation of the world under COVID-19, finding time for independence has proven difficult. And if they don’t have an outlet for individual discovery and release, married couples have found that their own relationships have become monotonous.
According to Moe Gelbart, PhD, a psychologist and Director of Practice Development for Community Psychiatry in Southern California,
“Relationships require each partner to have a certain degree of independence and unique experiences to bring to the relationship table.
Being together most of the time can make the relationship feel stale, with nothing new to discover.”
Image source: iStock
Marital issues are intensified
Your spouse’s screentime habits used to not bother you. But since the pandemic, it has become one of the things that irk you the most about him. Now you roll your eyes at the sight of him on his mobile phone.
Minor differences between couples used to not matter so much pre-pandemic. But the current situation has aggravated these little irritations with all of us stuck at home together. Add to that the stress of coping with Covid-19, minor issues have been intensified and put in the spotlight.
Inability to handle pressure from extended family created resentment between partners
Do your in-laws still insist on seeing the kids on a weekly basis despite the lockdown? Do they expect you to abandon all rules of social distancing when it comes to them?
Some families do not take social distancing as seriously as others and that can create pressure to visit family members, attend parties, or even get together for dinner.
If you and your spouse are not on the same page on this, then it can create problems and resentment that might affect your marriage in the long run.
Financial stress created a rift among couples
And then there’s the issue of money. Even before Covid-19 existed, married couples have been fighting over finances, especially if there are children in the picture.
But because of the financial stress brought about by the pandemic (loss of jobs, closed businesses), it’s no surprise that most couples are feeling the strain.
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Some couples are managing to make it through these times unscathed, while others have experienced serious setbacks.
It may have been very tough for you and your spouse, and you might be on the verge of breaking up. But you have to understand that you are not alone in the fight.
Here are some expert-approved ways of working on your marriage and preventing it from being one of the casualties of Covid-19.
No, we’re not saying to break up. What we are trying to say is to go easy on each other.
The past couple of years has been really hard. The pandemic stripped away many of our regular coping mechanisms – going for a spontaneous walk, sitting alone in a cafe and just watching others, and even ranting to our closest friends about our situation.
So if you’re feeling the stress, acknowledge that your spouse may be having a hard time too.
“Be realistic about the stressors you are feeling and the impact it may be having on the marriage. If your marriage is suffering, it may be related to a time-limited but omnipresent stressful situation that 2020 thrust upon us.
Now may not be the best time to be making huge relationship decisions, like divorce, that have long term effects,”
said Dr. Steven Harris, Professor of Family Social Science and Director of the Couple and Family Therapy program at the University of Minnesota.
“I think the biggest thing for couples to remember is to be kind to yourself and to each other,” he added.
Spend quality time together (without the kids).
“It can be fun to have more family time during a pandemic, but if couples aren’t careful, they can neglect each other,” said Dr. Jason Whiting, , professor of family therapy at Brigham Young University.
Dr. Mary Chong, a member of the Advisory Panel on Parenting for Families for Life (FFL) formed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), believes that having alone time without the children is essential in a marriage.
“Ensuring that couples have their personal time together is also critical, as this allows them breathing space to have adult conversations without interruptions and strengthen their relationship, which is the key foundation to building a strong family unit,” she said.
Ensure that the communication lines are open.
Having open communication and discussion is important to maintaining the relationship and raising kids together while avoiding misunderstandings,” according to Tan Thiam Chye, member of the advisory panel of FFL and obstetrician and gynaecologist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre.
As with any relationship, communication is always the key. Talk to your spouse about anything that is bothering you – whether it is about money, childcare or even your fears as you navigate through this difficult time.
Open up about what is making you anxious at this time, and be straightforward about what you need from each other.
That being said, do it with kindness and respect and refrain from pointing fingers and assigning blame.
Don’t sweat the small stuff, but make an effort to appreciate the little things.
“We tend to fight over so many trivial things in marriage just because we each have personal preferences on things that largely don’t matter,” said Dr Harris.
“When we get too wedded to our personal preferences and don’t see the legitimacy of our partner’s preferences, we can easily become disaffected with our spouse,” he added.
The expert’s advice is to take a more relaxed stance toward things that are actually subjective, to be able to appreciate these differences that make you as a couple, special.
And as you try to overlook your spouse’s most irritating traits and habits, you should also make an effort to recognise the positive things they do every day that we might have taken for granted.
So go ahead and thank your husband for cooking dinner last night, or thank your wife for dropping off the kids at school.
“For any relationship and in marriage, the first (advice) is to love yourself! Learn to enjoy and appreciate your own company before embracing others,” shared Balan Gopal, a volunteer at FFL.
“We have to adopt a give-and-take attitude, as well as give each other adequate space and trust,” said his wife Chan Lan.
It’s okay to have your own hobby, interest and friends outside of marriage. Making sure that you are taking care of your own needs and mental health will help make you a well-rounded individual and lessen the stress in your marriage.
Seek help or counselling if needed.
If you feel like your marriage is stuck in a rut or you’ve tried the methods above and you are still having trouble in your relationship, then maybe it is time to consider couple’s therapy or reach out to an expert about it.
“The Community Psychology Hub Online Counselling (CPH OC) is a joint initiative by the Ministry of Social and Family Development and CPH that aims to support families and couples seeking help on marital or parenting issues,” said Dr Chong.
CPH OC is offered as a free service and allows families to speak anonymously to a counsellor over live chat or email. Visit their website to find out more.
Bring new life to your relationship and allow your marriage to be fruitful and life-giving even in these trying times. You can do it, together.