At 9 a.m. one Monday several years ago, my department was classified as “non-essential.” Just like that, I was out of work.
My mind raced—How long could we last without an income? What expenses could I cut? Did we have enough food stocked?
I needed to gather myself before facing my wife and kids. I had to find a way to protect my family from the seeds of anxiety attempting to take root in my heart. For once, I was thankful for my 90-minute commute.
By the time I made it home, I was composed and optimistic. But it didn’t matter. As soon as my wife saw me, she started to cry.
The time following my layoff was challenging. But one surprising aspect was how hard it was to adjust to being together 24/7.
Now, COVID-19, being quarantined, and “social distancing” have turned everyone’s routines upside down. From finding toilet paper to worrying about every cough and sniffle, everything is laced with fear and stress.
In this environment, small cracks in our relationships can easily widen and large ones feel insurmountable.
When I first was laid off, our marriage was in a good place. But my presence began to upend the routine and rhythm of our home. After a while, I started to sense an unspoken “I’d prefer it if you weren’t here.”
I knew my wife loved me, but I struggled to find a place in my own home.
Quarantined: responding to your spouse
Spending time together can be a cure for relational woes, or it can make them worse (especially if you’re confined together for an unknown time). If we’re not careful, minor annoyances escalate into major fights, and the environment in our home becomes toxic.
“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention” (Proverbs 15:18).
Often, when we can’t control our situations, we respond by trying to control others. But God calls us to respond differently.
“But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:8-10).
It was easy for me to believe I was the one providing for my family when I had a job, but I was wrong. I was never in control. God provided for us when I had a job, and He provided while I was unemployed.
Abraham understood this truth about God. Even though all seemed lost, he called the place God provided the ram to sacrifice instead of his son, “Jehovah-jireh,” meaning “The Lord Will Provide” (Genesis 22:8-14).
No matter how hard I try to control my world, I’ll fail. I am not God. Job, no job. Virus, no virus. God is good.
The more we were able to trust in God, the more we were able to offer grace to one another in the face of tense moments.
Here are a few more ideas for when you find yourself quarantined from COVID-19 with your spouse over the next few days and weeks.
Don’t take it personally
That snippy tone coming your way is probably not about you. Be patient while you find yourself confined.
Instead of responding negatively, take a moment to recognize the stress your spouse is feeling. And if you want to disarm the situation, offer to help.
“It sounds like the stress of being confined by this virus is getting to you. What can I do to help?”
Proverbs 15:1 teaches, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Take a timeout
Being quarantined to your house doesn’t mean you have to do everything together.
It’s important to find time apart to recharge, especially if one or both of you are introverts. Preemptive time outs are an excellent way to relieve pressure and stop a fight before it starts.
Watch a show, read a book, garden, organize the closet or garage, flip through family photos, or take a bubble bath. Not only will such activities recharge you, but the sense of accomplishment will help you feel a sense of control over at least one small area of your life.
Almost overnight, our lives have gone from go, go, go to stay, stay, stay. There are no sporting events. No late-night meetings. Everyone is home. One by one, the distractions that kept us from having time for each other have been removed.
But at some point, this crisis will pass. Why not take advantage of the opportunity and make some memories?
Move the furniture around and have a picnic in the living room. Or try an at-home-painting date night.
You don’t have to spend money on a hotel in an exotic location to make memories. Make sure that by the time this is over, you have something to look back on with a smile.
Invest in your marriage
One of the things we started when I was laid off was a daily “coffee time.” But it doesn’t have to involve coffee. Sometimes we spend a quick 15 minutes and catch up on our schedules. Other times, we get lost in deep conversation.
If “coffee time” doesn’t work for you, here are a few other ideas you can try while quarantined or confined at home:
- Watch your wedding video or review wedding pictures.
- Watch Like ArrowsTM for movie night (available on Netflix).
- Complete FamilyLife’s Art of Parenting® Online course together.
- Start The Art of Marriage®.
- Complete a Bible Reading Plan
It’s been more than nine years since the layoff, but we still have our coffee time every day.
What positive habits will you start?
The challenge of being quarantined and uncertainties of the coronavirus are real, but they will pass.
May we look back one day and say, despite the hardships, COVID-19 made our marriage stronger.
Copyright © 2020 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
Carlos Santiago is a senior writer for FamilyLife and has written and contributed to numerous articles, e-books, and devotionals. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in pastoral counseling. Carlos and his wife, Tanya, live in Little Rock, Arkansas, with their two children.