Fresh Start in Relationships – Part I
Flowers and chocolates. Dinner and slow dancing. What comes to mind when you hear the words “romance” or “Valentine’s Day”? For many guys, those words cause anxiety. Questions pop into their heads. “What did I do last year?” “What am I going to do this year?” For some wives, those words bring feelings of hurt and resentment. They feel that other women have partners who do far better in showing and expressing love. All four weeks of this month, this blog will focus on time-tested and evidenced-based ways that husbands and wives can strengthen their marriage and make a fresh start in 2021.
This pandemic has caused significant stress in marital relationships in the United States. According to a recent study, Among individuals in relationships, 34% reported a negative impact since the COVID-19 shutdown with their romantic partners, experiencing escalations in conflict in their romantic partnerships, which was associated with negative changes in their intimate and sexual lives (Luetke, M., et. al., 2020. Romantic Relationship Conflict Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and Changes in Intimate and Sexual Behaviors, Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 46:8, 747-762). In the U.S., sales of online self-help divorce agreements rose by 34% in the Spring of 2020 compared to the same time in 2019. Family lawyers surveyed in April and July of 2020 reported a 25% to 35% increase in requests to start divorce proceedings compared to the same time in 2019. It has been especially hard on newlyweds. In fact, a full 20% of couples who had been married for five months or less sought divorce during this time period, compared with only 11% in 2019 (National Law Review, Divorce Rates and COVID-19. 10/16/2020). Why has this pandemic been so hard on marriages? The prevailing theory is that the pandemic has caused couples to spend more time together and face issues which they had been neglecting to address, maybe even for years.
If you are looking to refresh your marriage, first I would encourage you and your spouse to sit down and make a commitment. Here is the first evidenced-based inoculant against pandemic divorce: make each other a priority. If you’re talking to your spouse and your child interrupts, kindly say, “Just a second sweetie, I’m talking to Mommy/Daddy.” Make your time with your spouse more important than your time at the gym or with friends. Let just about everything else go by the wayside if you have to. It is the promise newlyweds make but sometimes forget – to be there for each other. Friendship is the core of every healthy marriage. Be friends. Explore what that means by asking questions and listening to your spouse’s response.
One tool to help you do this is free. If you have a smartphone (Apple or Android), go to the store and search “Gottman card decks.” Based on over 35 years of what makes marriages succeed, it is free and a fun way to turn toward each other, making the relationship a priority. You will be amazed at how much 10-15 minutes a day of talking and listening can rekindle the friendship and strengthen the marriage. Come back next week and I will share more resources for making a fresh start in your marriage in 2021.
See you next time, here at the corner of faith and mental health.
Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Chad Wright