Dear Emuna

I’m surprised you haven’t received more letters from desperate COVID shut-ins – not just the elderly but parents of small children and married couples whose relationships are at risk. I fall into the last category. I always thought we had a good marriage but these days we are constantly getting on each other’s nerves. Almost everything he says and does irritates me and when he suggests we go out together to get a break from the claustrophobia of our living situation, I feel like running the other way! I don’t want to go with him; I want to go out without him!

This certainly isn’t the relationship I wish to have. How can we make our way back to the good old days?

Healthy but still a COVID Victim

Dear Victim,

In this case, you are only a victim if you allow yourself to be one. You get to choose who you want to be in your relationship and how you wish to respond to the current challenges.

You express a desire to make your way back to the good old days. I don’t think that’s a realistic goal. In life, we never want to go backwards, we always want to go forwards. You can’t erase the past 8 months (much as many of us would like to try) – it’s with us to stay – the good, the bad and the ugly. And hopefully the growth as well.

These are definitely difficult times but you and your husband have allowed the times to control you and it sounds like you have fallen into some bad habits. It’s time to take back the reins and work on new and better behavior patterns. You won’t go back to what was but hopefully you will go forward to something better.

Begin with prayer: tell the Almighty that you want your marriage to improve and ask Him to give you the strength, the wisdom, the insight and the patience required to accomplish that.

After laying that foundation, it’s appropriate to implement some practical tools. Every time you are tempted to criticize your spouse, find something positive to say instead. Depending on how often you are tempted to criticize, this could be a serious challenge! But the results will be amazing. You will totally change the tenor of your conversations and your husband will go from feeling diminished and belittled to feeling loved, praised and appreciated.

If you only do this, the change will be dramatic. Every time he does something annoying, think of one of his positive qualities. Remind yourself why you married him.

These are basic strategies for success in marriage at any time. But we aren’t living in “any time”. We are living in a world with unique, new challenges and it’s up to us to rise to the occasion.

While I certainly know of many people who have been brought low by the challenges inherent in this pandemic, I also know of many others who have risen to the occasion, who have used the opportunity to deepen their relationships and to better develop their spiritual lives. Even in the face of the coronavirus, there are opportunities for growth and for pleasure in the company of others particularly our spouses.

Some couples have found this enforced time together to be something wonderful they never anticipated. I think if you sincerely adhere to the suggestions above, you may go from being one of the most negatively impacted couples to most of COVID’s true success stories.