Going to the gym. Nights out with your friends. Trying out a new restaurant in town. Double dates with your other married friends. Hiring a babysitter. Each of these things required a little bit of planning, a few texts and then they were good as done. You and your spouse could easily arrange for some time outside the house – together or separately – to recharge and come home refreshed.

Sadly, this all has drastically changed since the pandemic. Most working professionals are working from home full time, and if the couple has children, the opportunity to get out of the house is increasingly desirable but equally challenging to achieve. Schedules have to be juggled, childcare has to be arranged, and the ever-evolving public health measures have to be observed.

Even with those factors being addressed, why is it so important for each of you to get out of the house? Because time apart from each other will strengthen your marriage:

  • Each of you gets the opportunity to become healthier individuals – making your marriage healthier as a result. If you feel pressured to be your spouse’s everything, you may feel shame when you realize you can’t be that, but guess what? That’s not actually a biblical perspective of marriage – and you shouldn’t feel bad for wanting to have community and interests outside of your marriage! Our Hope Restored marriage therapy program teaches that a healthy marriage is made of two healthy individuals, each responsible for their own emotional, mental, physical and spiritual well-being. Since the pandemic disrupted every aspect of life, we have had to continually evolve, adjust and sacrifice. This has resulted in the loss of the freedom to do things we love and were accustomed to – things that recharged us and helped us fulfill our responsibilities with a spring in our step. You can rest and recharge by doing something you love – going on a social distance hike with a friend, hitting the spa, running personal errands or just enjoying some solitude. By becoming healthier individuals, you will build a healthier marriage.
  • It allows spouses to then reconnect and share about their experiences, giving them something to talk about other than what's happening at home. Prior to the pandemic, home was where everyone would reunite at the end of the day and share about their experiences with one another. Home has become the epicentre for everything, including work, chores and (for some families) schooling. This could make some spouses feel like they’re living with a roommate rather than a romantic partner. By getting out of the house and doing things on your own, it lets each of you bring home something new to talk about.

How do couples plan this? It’s easier than you might think. All it requires is a bit of intentionality:

  1. Set aside time to take inventory of the things each of you miss doing, and recognize that each of you enjoy different things depending on your personality. If one of you is an introvert, you’ll likely want solitude; consider offering to take the kids out of the house to allow for some alone time, or send the introvert off to recharge in solitude however they want. If one of you is an extrovert, you’ll need to be around other people to recharge. Even if indoor social gatherings aren’t possible, you can get creative. For example, you may not be able to go over to a friend's house, but you could meet safely for a socially distanced hangout on a hike or park your cars next to each other and talk through rolled-down windows; this will work rain or shine!
  2. Make arrangements for each spouse's outing. Look at your calendars, find times that work and stick that plan. Even if the goal is just for each of you to get one outing, it is a start, and you’ll find that it’s easier to achieve than you may have thought.
  3. Express your gratitude to one another for making this possible.
  4. Enjoy sharing all about your experiences with one another!

If this is a hard conversation to have and your marriage has been under strain since the COVID-19 pandemic, we want to support you and your spouse in how to communicate with each other. Here are some free tools as you navigate this trying season:

  • Marriage Assessment Tool. This free survey is a great starting point for communicating your needs to one another. Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley have spent years studying why marriages thrive. They've found there are 12 behaviours that consistently make up great marriages. The Focus Marriage Assessment Tool is designed to evaluate the strength of these 12 essential traits of your marriage – areas such as communication, conflict and commitment. The assessment is free and takes about 10 minutes to complete.
  • Cherish Your Spouse video series. In the meantime, you and your spouse can continue to cherish each other. When you sign up, you’ll receive a free five-part video series called Cherish Your Spouse, featuring bestselling marriage author, Gary Thomas. Each short episode will address a different topic and give you practical advice to help you enter into a deeper level of intimacy and connection with your spouse.

While 2020 has been a challenging year for many parts of life, we recognize that marriages have been significantly impacted, and the added tension of a pandemic may have revealed deeper problems in the relationship – which may be all the more reason to want a bit of space to yourself. The increase of conflict is a natural reason to want some space for perspective. We have two additional video series by Greg and Erin Smalley, as well as one from Dr. Gary Chapman, that you might find helpful in working through conflict in your marriage: 

  • From Anger to Affection. This free five-part video series also includes a free devotional download and engaging questions that you can ask your spouse to help build intimacy and understanding after experiencing conflict with your spouse.
  • Fight Your Way to a Better Marriage. This free seven-part video series will help you take an honest look at one of the most challenging aspects of married life, and provide you with practical, biblically based advice on how you and your spouse can handle conflict better.
  • Finding Hope for Your Hurting MarriageThis free six-part video series with Dr. Gary Chapman offers hope to couples who are struggling in their marriage. You’ll learn how, with the help of God, you can find strength and hope, and learn how to influence conditions in which your spouse can find forgiveness, get professional help, and change his or her behaviour.

Want to read more? We have curated a series of marriage-related articles that we hope will be helpful to you.

If you want further support, you can request a one-time complimentary counselling session with one of our registered counsellors. Know that you are not alone, and we are here to support you and walk alongside you in these unprecedented times. You can call our team at 1.800.661.9800 for prayer and counselling support, Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Pacific time. 

© 2020 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.

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