As we were quarantining the other day, my wife, Jamie, turned to me and said, “You know, this is like the family road trip that never ends.” How true, how true . . . I instantly went in my mind to the crowded backseat of my parents’ 1981 Ford Fairmont when I was a child, and the long road trips my family used to take around the US and Canada. The similarities were a little crazy!
- We were all in a confined space . . .
- With family . . .
- For long hours . . .
- Trying to get somewhere . . .
- Constantly asking, “Are we there yet?”
- Our main job was to try to get along and not upset each other.
- It wasn’t up to us when we were going to stop.
- When we did stop, it wasn’t to get what we wanted but just what we needed.
- There were some beautiful things to see and experience, and at least we were together.
- We got tired, grumpy, and we snacked too much because we were bored.
- But we mostly just waited. . . and waited. . . and waited.
There’s nothing like the present to bring up the feelings of the past, especially when we add the pressures of our current quarantine situation: marriage, finances, children, schooling, work, and the list goes on for our own unique situations. Despite all this, we would love for you to take heart! Yes, the stress is real, but you might actually be doing better than you think, and here are three reasons why.
Reason #1: You are not alone.
No one has a playbook for dealing with matters such as the ones we all currently find ourselves in. No one. Even for seasoned believers, all of the mental and emotional resiliency that we’ve built up in our lives to this point, all the truth of God’s character we remember, and all the depth of His grace and love that we’ve tasted is being tested. And this testing can put a strain on our marriage relationship as we all are trying to care for our own heart and the heart of our partner. All marriages are experiencing this to one degree or another. You and your spouse are not alone in the struggle!
Reason #2: You’re learning a new form of kindness.
Being around our spouse and family more than ever is a new experience. As Eric Spiegleman tweeted recently, “My wife and I play this fun game during quarantine. It’s called ‘Why Are You Doing It That Way?’, and there are no winners.” There are certainly many ways to get on each other’s nerves. However, remember that you know your spouse better than anyone else, and you have the creativity and opportunity to be kind to them in amazing ways. It was once said that, “Kindness is love with its work boots on.” The kindness I’m referring to goes beyond being just nice but truly looking to cultivate the best in our partner regardless of the circumstances. This is certainly not easy in these times, but instead of looking for something to do (that will come) look for something to be. A unique form of kindness is vulnerability. (It means being honest about how I am dealing with these four statements in my heart: “I want to be in control.” “I want to be respected.” “I want to be safe and happy.” “I don’t want to feel pain or shame.”) As we mourn the change around us and the lack of control it brings, be willing to be vulnerable with your spouse about how you are feeling and create space for your spouse to be able to do the same. Vulnerability gives us a foundation to come together and to come to God on behalf of each other for encouragement and grace.
Reason #3: This is helping to build resiliency in your marriage for the future.
There is a very good chance that your marriage may never again face anything like these current circumstances. This stress is unique, but the daily struggle with it can build grit and resiliency in your marriage. Every tough decision you make together, every moment that drives you to prayer, and every time you have to trust your spouse to come through for you in light of your own exhaustion, builds the muscle of our faithfulness to each other. When different challenges come in the future, you will be able to look at each other and remember that you came through this season together and God was sovereign throughout. Your faithfulness doesn’t have to be pretty; it just has to be consistent. I know that you need another “To Do” like you need another hole in your head, but follow this one suggestion: Look for specific ways to celebrate your spouse’s resiliency. Let them know you saw their struggle through the day and that you are proud they did not give up. Even though they may be worn down from their physical, mental, or emotional work, you witnessed it and cheered them on.
In the end, successful resilience is rooted in God’s saving grace for you.
I have always loved Paul’s encouragement and desire for the believers in the letter to Colossians 2:1–8. His message was that their knowledge of the Gospel of Christ would help them separate truth from lies or “deceptive philosophies,” and that they would “be encouraged in their hearts” and “united in love.” Consider it this way—as you lean on Jesus in this situation, you are caring for the Body of Christ by taking care of your spouse. At the end of the day when you fall exhausted into bed, or when you wake up in the morning for another hour of the long family road trip ride that doesn’t end, look deep into your spouse’s eyes, to their very soul, and say “I love you. I am with you, and Jesus saved you. So, let’s face the next day together.”