Many marriages are experiencing multiple challenges as we face these ongoing months of the pandemic. Some spouses find themselves arguing more than ever because they are around each other so much more. Others find that they are actually communicating less, having given up their daily time to catch up because they assumed that they would talk at some point during the day.

Many spouses feel under-appreciated and over-worked, and a lot of people are worried that the spark between them is fading. But like anything else in our lives, marriages and relationships take constant work and nurturing to grow.

Here are five habits we can all use to nourish our marriages during this difficult time.

1. Set aside some time and space as a couple. It's always been a challenge to find the time and space to reconnect as a couple, but with so many date night places closed and so few options for childcare available, it has become even more difficult. But now more than ever, couples need that special time dedicated to their relationship even if they don’t have children around the house.

Just because we're around each other most of the day doesn’t mean that we are connecting. If we set aside a time and either find some private space in our homes or go for a walk outside, we will find that there are conversations and ideas that come up which wouldn’t happen in the hustle and bustle of daily life.

2. Practice intentional kindness. It's easier to be kind and giving to strangers than it is to our spouses who we see every day. But being intentionally kind to each other not only creates warmth and safety in the relationship itself, but it also permeates the home itself with generosity and positivity.

Instead of just saying thank you, we may add: That was so thoughtful of you. Or we may offer help for a task that we wouldn’t usually pay attention to. And as much as we can, we can offer our smile. It can light up a room and our spouse’s day.

And even when we don’t say anything out loud, thinking about and appreciating not just what our spouses do but who they are will create an atmosphere of kindness and gratitude.

3. Appreciate physical affection. There are many people who have not experienced any human touch for the last several months. The degree of loneliness that some single people are experiencing right now is unprecedented. If you have a spouse who you can hug, appreciate it. If you are married to someone whose hand you can hold when you need it, cherish it.

Physical affection is essential for our emotional and spiritual health, and there are many people who are starving for affection right now. If you are not, feel blessed and cherish the shelter of your marriage.

4. Maintain your own interests. Being together and feeling unified is crucial in marriage. But it is also essential that each spouse maintain his or her own interests especially when many of us have been spending more and more time in the confines of our homes.

Keep up with your friends. Join that book club on Zoom. Go for a run. Try a new hobby. We cannot expect our spouses to be responsible for all of our emotional needs. Togetherness needs to be balanced with differentiation. Marriage doesn’t mean losing our own interests and identities; it is a constant balancing act of combining our separate selves to create a greater whole.

5. Give the gift of your attention. Giving our spouses our full attention can be a precious gift in today’s distracted world. Putting away our phones and really listening to the details of each other’s day can reveal both challenges and blessings that we would otherwise miss in rushed conversations.

Listening does not have to take a lot of time, but it does require that we be completely present. Ask questions about your spouse’s work and projects even if you personally are not interested in that field or hobby. Being curious and attentive to what our spouses care about is a critical foundation for our marriages.

We may not be able to take that vacation right now or even go to that restaurant we were planning on for our anniversary. But we have a unique opportunity during this pandemic to strengthen and nourish our marriages that we have never had before. If we take advantage of this time we have with each other now, we can create lasting connections for the future.