Marriage is hard.  There, I said it.  If you have been married longer than 1 day, you probably have found this to be true.  The character traits of your spouse that were “cute” when you were dating are the same things that might now start to drive you crazy.  In times when you’ve felt this way, you might ask yourself: “Why can’t my spouse be more like me?”  Or, maybe when you’ve felt overwhelmed, you’ve believed the lie that marriage shouldn’t be hard.  Regardless of how you experience it, it’s easy to feel drained or discouraged.

Yes, marriage is hard. But it can also be so beautiful.  To have someone that knows you fully and yet chooses to love you…that is incredible.  It takes work, though.  I have found that you can’t ever just coast…you never get to a point where you can stop putting in the effort.  Nobody just arrives at a good marriage; it takes intentionality and hard work, but you’ll find it’s so worth it.

Back a few months ago, before the pandemic, you were probably in one of three situations:

  1. Your marriage was good.
  2. Your marriage was struggling but they busyness of life distracted you from it.
  3. Your marriage was in a downward spiral—maybe even on the brink of divorce.

But then life kind of got put on hold for everyone, and suddenly you found yourself stuck in the house with your spouse, unable to go anywhere.  I don’t know where you’re at now, but I imagine that the pandemic may have taken a toll on your marriage regardless of what situation you were in initially.  Personally, I find that when life feels out of control, my husband and kids are the ones who get the worst version of me.  I have to actively work against the tendency to get stagnant in my relationships with my family in order to grow my marriage and to be the mom I really want to be.  But it isn’t easy.

So, how do you strengthen your marriage, especially at a time like this pandemic when life feels so stressful?  Here are a few things that have been helpful for us.

  1. Show each other lots of grace. Maybe that sounds silly or super elementary, but it’s worth stating because it’s just true.  I’m going to mess up.  I will lose my temper.  I’ll be critical or not word things in a very loving way.  And my husband will do the same.  We have to be quick to extend grace and quick to admit when we’re wrong.  Being stuck together in the house for months on end has given us a lot of opportunities to practice this, but the daily effort pays off.
  2. Enjoy each other. Sure, you can’t do your regular date nights or fun family nights out.  Get creative and have fun together!  When it was still snowing in April, Todd came up with something we call the “Quarantine Olympics” that was more of a family adventure than a marriage exercise, but it changed all of our attitudes. We shifted from complaining about quarantine to doing these crazy challenges around the house and having fun together.  Feel free to steal that idea, but if competitions are not your thing, maybe you can come up with a new hobby you can pursue with your spouse.  Set aside one night a week to invest in your marriage.  Bake together, have a date night in, come up with a list of movies you want to watch together and work through the list, have regular game nights, sit outside on the patio and talk, or go on walks or hikes.  The opportunities are endless, but whatever you do, have fun together!
  3. Build in margins for your spouse.  Like I said earlier, marriage takes intentional work, but how often do you get to the end of the day and you just don’t have anything left to give?  I can’t be the only one!  I have found that I have to be intentional about saving room for Todd.  Sometimes I have to map out my week and think ahead to see if I’ve built in enough margin so that I’m freed up to not just give my husband and kids the leftovers of my energy.  Prioritize your marriage by identifying what leaves you drained and work to rearrange your days or weeks to free you up a bit more so that you’re left with more energy and attention for your spouse.

Whatever your situation, you are not alone.  Marriage can be really hard, and if nobody is talking about the challenges they are facing, you can feel like you’re the only one struggling.  I hope that if nothing else, this blog post has left you feeling a little less alone and has given you a few ideas of how to start growing in your marriage.

My husband and I lead a ministry at our church called re|engage.  No matter where you’re at, re|engage is the place for you to come and work on your marriage alongside other couples.  We would love to have you come check out re|engage—we’ll be getting together on Sunday September 13. Learn more and Re-Engage and sign up here.

In the meantime, if you want to dive a little deeper, here are a couple additional resources to get you started:

Intentional Questions to Ask Your Spouse as You Work to Grow your Marriage:

  1. How did you feel loved this past week?
  2. What does your upcoming week look like?
  3. How would you feel most loved and encouraged this week?
  4. How would you feel best pursued in intimacy this week?

This post was written by Jillian Iannetta