What’s keeping you sane at this insane time? How is social distancing going?
For many of us who are married, and not key workers, it involves spending a lot more time in a small space with our beloved than we did previously. It may also involve sharing that space with our offspring or elderly relatives. Rob and I have reached that stage in our lives where it is just the two of us, no longer in full-time paid work and with only the special memories of parents.
When we first fell in love, the prospect of spending 24 hours together and shutting out the world was probably incredibly romantic. We’ve now been married for 42 years, and in many ways there is no one I would rather be stuck indoors with, but romantic? Mmmm…I’ll have to think about that!
For me, Facebook has come into its own recently, or maybe that’s as much due to my small group of kind and witty contacts. The other day one of them posted a mini quiz to see how well you know one another. So, to keep romance and fun going in our relationship I tested Rob with the first question. It was: ‘What makes me happy’. Without a blink of the eye he replied, the silliest of grins on his face, ‘spending time with me!’ What about flowers, a golden sunset, breathing fresh mountain air, or even a well-prepared meal and glass of red wine!
It is true. I do enjoy his company, but all the time? Especially with the threat of some dark pestilence striking me down if I venture too far from my front door or make anything but ‘absolutely necessary’ trips out.
Last year we lived in the confined space of our motorhome for five months before moving into our new home in a different part of the country. The biggest lesson we both learnt then, even when the rain was lashing down outside, was that we are constantly faced with choices in our relationships. I can choose to take offence at something said, or not. I can choose to snap back a sarcastic comment to a repeated irritating behaviour or ask myself if this is really my issue. I can choose to be negative about everything suggested or try to think of the positive. I can be the first to say sorry, even if my part in the offence is small.
All the above is very useful currently. I’d love to say that it has become my ‘go to’ response, but I am still learning.
So, what other tips are on offer for this time of ‘lock-down’? Here are some that are working for us:
Have a special evening once a week.
Plan it and prepare for it. We like food and cooking, so we have started having a country-themed meal – last week Spanish, this Italian. We dress smartly as if going to a posh restaurant. This makes us feel different and special, affecting the way we feel about ourselves and one another, especially as we seem to be wearing sloppy, comfortable clothes all the rest of the week.
Plan your own day and decide what you want to get out of it.
Discuss it with one another and decide when you will come back together. If you are working from home then that is probably more clear-cut, but it is still good to set your own agenda. This makes time together special and gives you something to talk about.
Keep in touch with friends and family.
There has never been a time when this is easier. They need to hear from you and you from them.
Read a chapter of that book that you have promised yourself a long time ago that you would read [maybe about marriage!] or try some new blogs or podcasts that stretch the brain and introduce you to new concepts. Again, this is great conversation fodder.
Be deliberate about grabbing a bit of extra prayer time. It is easy to see this as a time of restriction, but how about looking at it as a time to go deeper into your relationship with God? Lectio365 [you can download the app] is a great start.
Enjoy some exercise time together, if you can.
A good stride out not only gets the blood moving but gives a time for deeper conversation.
When Rob and I were newly married we were challenged by a wise elderly saint who asked the question: ‘Are you fun to live with?’ This is something we have come back to many times in our relationship and constantly brings us up short.
Am I always fun and positive? No, but I am a work in progress, by the grace of God. I can choose to be positive and hopeful, standing on God’s promises. This time will pass, and I have a choice to make it a time of building not destroying my marriage.
Heather is married to Rob and they are part of the TfM Leadership team.