5 Habits to Quarantine-Proof Your Marriage
If your ability to connect with your spouse after this year is as effective as a grade school glue stick, no-shame, you’re in good company. My wife and I have a couple years of marriage in our pocket, a daughter at home, a boy on the way, and no respectable Netflix binge options left. Typically, at this point in the Chicago year, like squirrels, we’ve gathered quite a good list of entertainment nuts to incubate our minds for the next several months of hibernation, but we burned through our supply a year ago. What was left was me, my wife, and this vacant gap of space on the couch we called “our marriage.” This forced us to find a way to break out of the “how low can you go?” limbo, dropping our standards for quality entertainment at the expense of a deeper connection. With a new year ahead, let’s ensure the one thing we have by our side gets a little better – these five habits will help.
1. Daily 15 Minutes Face-to-Face (no screens)
Raise your hand if you have started to speak to your spouse as though they were a printer and not a person? Let me explain. Communication is a beautiful tool in marriage, but over the past year we may have grown dull in our ability to use it in the way it should be used. Communication is weird like that, we can think we are doing it well, but without even recognizing it, our spouse ran out of ink, and stopped responding the way we thought they would. The communication went south, but how? We stopped having “heart talk.” Heart talk is not only communicating logic, but also feelings. When we get lazy, the easiest way to talk is “head talk,” because it requires no maintenance (in the short-term), it’s all logic, all transaction, no connection, like a printer. Fifteen minutes a day, face-to-face with our spouse isn’t meant to be another transaction, it’s meant to keep current on thinking AND feelings. Communicating feelings and logic in real time keeps either from getting too large – which is critical when sitting under the same roof all day.
2. Find that Love Tank (again) and Fill it<
Do the thing that you roll your eyes at when you see high schoolers doing it. Write a love note, hug for too long, text them “I love you” from the other side of the house or plan a date (wait, do I remember how to do that?) Just find a way to notice each other again. Relationships are like a car, when we fill them up with the right kind of gas, you can make it to some pretty cool places. But when we get caught with our electric car at the diesel pump, our phone isn’t even getting charged. Before we even realized, the car we thought was taking us to Cali only made it to that weird motel in the middle of New Mexico. What we fill our marriages with determines whether we end up at the destination or fall short – this one doesn’t take much, but trust us, a little gas goes a long way these days.
Go on walks and hold hands while doing it. I hate this one, but there’s something here I can’t deny. Believe me, there is nothing magical about walking around the block with sweaty palms rubbing together, you figure out whether you’re a “between fingers” or a “handshake” hand holding couple. Why though? Because a quarantine-tested marriage is one that can grow closer, not further apart. The goal should be leaving your home in 2021 closer than you entered it in 2020, even if that’s on the sidewalk. I get it, it’s a little too symbolic for some, like myself, but there’s another element. It’s all about the non-verbals. My wife and I get in our best arguments on walks, but holding hands still says; I am present, I am listening, and I am walking in the same direction. That’s why we think this one is an important one.
4. Weekly Phone-Free Evenings
Okay, okay, before you scroll past this idea just hear me out. The way we have begun to communicate with the outside world might be impacting our marriages more than we think. Our phones allow us to treat relationships in what I would like to refer to as “the goldilocks way” – Not too much, not too little, just right. Let’s all admit the uptick in phoneuse during quarantine has allowed us to table some difficult relationships, conversations, and quite frankly people. This is the challenging thing about social media and texting; digital distance gives us what we want of people when we want it, no more, no less. But people are messy, relationships are too. Before we forget what a pulse feels like in our own home, let’s drop the phones one night a week and pick up the conversation with our spouse sitting in the other room.
5. Rest Together
Somehow, we all got busier when the government told us to quit seeing each other. Instead of being on the clock 8hrs a day, we just became 24hr employees with no pay increase and some of us were promoted to full-time child-care as well. Whether we think we can do it or not, a day of rest a week is like exhaling for a marriage that has held its breath all week. The endless to-do list gets put on hold, and both of you do the things you love doing together, just one day a week. Practically speaking, this may mean doing grocery shopping on a different day or working late another night in order to have a full day free. Don’t let this life keep spinning without taking time to enjoy the one person you are doing it with.
This all might look and sound great on paper, but our goal for this new year is to set habits that vaccinate our marriages from becoming transactional printers, cars without gas, miles apart, digitally drained, and burned out. Biblical principles have a funny way of hiding in plain sight, but they are what breath life into these practices. There is no guarantee these habits will soak your marriage in love, but they will put you under the spout where the water comes out.