1. Get rid of your expectations.
This is good advice in any season of marriage, but especially during a pandemic when everything is up in the air. Expectations will likely leave you feeling disappointed and create bitterness in your marriage. Instead, focus on what you can control … yourself. You are responsible for your attitude and your words, not your spouses’. Be the kind of spouse you want your spouse to be. This is a sucky season, don’t be one of the reasons it sucks for them.
2. Replace those expectations with a whole lot of grace.
This season is so hard and it may affect our moods differently every day. Our patience is running thin and we can say things in the heat of a moment that we quickly regret. Don’t hold a mistake over your spouse’s head for long, and especially don’t sweat the small stuff. Talk about it, accept their apology, and be super quick to forgive and let it go. If your spouse is having an off day, roll with it and chip in a little more so they can rest or get some alone time. Maybe even have a code word and a game plan for when either of you are not feeling yourself so you can mentally prepare to step in for each other as needed. Be willing to give your spouse the same amount of grace that you need when you have an off day.
3. Out-serve your spouse.
I know that might sound a bit backward, especially if you already carry a big load of household responsibilities, but when we go above and beyond to love our spouse and notice and meet their needs, it speaks much louder than anything else. Do things without being asked. Find little acts of kindness that are meaningful to them to show that you care.
4. Prioritize daily focused time with your spouse every day.
My husband and I are pretty committed to this. We let our kids watch a show or have them play independently so we can spend at least 30 minutes a day hanging out, just to talk and connect. Most of the time we’re too exhausted to really make this time intentional after our children are in bed, so we make sure it happens sometime before dinner. Find a time that works best for you both. The point is to check in with each other and draw one another out. So make sure it’s uninterrupted. And make sure you both get to talk. Love grows best when it’s safe to share our hearts.
5. Prioritize time alone.
Give your spouse space and don’t be afraid to ask for space for yourself. Creating healthy boundaries is so important when you’re cooped up in the house together 24/7. We all need time alone to rest and focus, make sure you have the margin to do that.
6. Wake up early.
This is helpful in so many ways (especially when you’re up before your kids). When you have time in the morning to mentally prepare for the day before you hit the ground running, it goes much further in prepping you for your interactions with your family. Waking up early helps you to be intentional with your words and actions, helps you to not feel rushed (which tends to cause conflict), and gives you the mindset to respond, not react to whatever comes at you during the day.
7. Invest in a mutual hobby.
And no, Netflix and chill does NOT count. If your spouse shows interest in something, don’t just watch from the sidelines, join in. That time spent together will encourage a friendship with your spouse—the kind that will prevent you from slipping into “roommate mode.” There is no better gift you can give your marriage than to invest in your friendship.
Discover the Enneagram together.
Nothing has helped my own personal self-awareness and marriage more than learning my and my husband’s types and understanding how each other sees the world through the Enneagram. Being able to learn and celebrate our differences and strengths helps us set realistic expectations and give each other loads of grace.
Go to therapy.
Sometimes marriages need an interpreter so spouses can learn to communicate and compromise with each other and remember why they got married in the first place. My best advice is, don’t wait until a crisis. If you feel like you’ve become passing ships in your home, you need a tune-up friend! Don’t be ashamed to ask for help.