2020 has been filled with disappointments and pain, adjustments and compromises, fears and loss. The pressure couples have felt in their marriage has been challenging. Perhaps that’s why our article in March, Build Your Marriage During the Coronavirus, has been so popular. We all feel it, don’t we? 

And NOW we have the Holiday Season upon us. In a normal year, this can bring its own set of pressures and problems. But this year the stress level is even more pronounced. So HOW do we emotionally navigate the next few weeks in the midst of restrictions, guidelines, and health concerns? Here are four things you can proactively do to build your marriage when things are out of your control.

1. Look up

Many of us have a tendency to focus on or notice the negative. Psychologists call this a “negativity bias.” If we hear 9 compliments and 1 criticism, we dwell more on the criticism, don’t we? In part, that’s why the many changes to our lifestyles, decisions, and relationships due to COVID have been so difficult. It seems as though there are negative factors all around us. 

In marriage, one spouse is often a “glass half full” and the other a “glass half empty” person. However, the two of you can encourage one another to look up and find the things for which you can thank God. This isn’t just an exercise for Thanksgiving Day. It really needs to be woven into the DNA of your marriage so it happens EVERY day.

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. Psalm 9:1

Have fun with this. Make it a contest to see who can be the most thankful! Challenge your kids to do the same. Focus on what you DO have and how God has blessed you even during difficult times. 

2. Take Care

Have you been feeling emotionally drained? Perhaps your physical strength may be fine, but your inner reserves aren’t what they were several months ago. For many couples and families, the loss of the weekly rhythm of attending church, small groups, youth groups, etc. has had a deteriorating impact on our souls as well. Life in 2020 has been disrupted.

With schedules, parties, and plans throttled back, this is an opportunity for you to get the inward refreshment you both so desperately need. As a couple, talk about ways you can infuse your marriage (and your family) with rest and restoration. Some ideas can include:

  1. Pop popcorn, get in the car, and tour neighborhoods to see Christmas lights
  2. Be especially disciplined to watch your church online or go to services
  3. Have a game night with no TV or phones
  4. Give yourselves permission to take more naps
  5. Read a book
  6. Cook a nice meal together (and clean up the kitchen together)
  7. Binge-watch your favorite show (We did this last night!)
  8. Complete a project you two have wanted to get done
  9. Start your exercise goals now vs. waiting until January 1 (endorphins are great!)

Whatever is refreshing, make sure that you and your spouse incorporate it into the next few weeks. Strengthening yourselves will strengthen your marriage. 

3. Reach out

All around you are people who are struggling. What can you do to bring some love and light into someone else’s life? Maybe you can take some baked goods to a neighbor. Perhaps there’s a widow or shut-in you know who would appreciate knowing they aren’t forgotten. 

As a couple, or as a family, take a few moments to pray and ask God to reveal to you whom He wants you to bless. Then, write down the names that come to mind. Begin planning what you might do for them. It may be as simple as a phone call to say “hi,” let them know they’re on your minds and you were thinking of them, or jot them a note. Whatever you do, being a blessing often ends up blessing YOU even more. So see this as a spiritual adventure for your marriage and watch what God does as you trust him.

4. Touch…lots

With increased and prolonged time together at home, it can be easy to develop a mindset of taking each other for granted. You get up and sit down at the computer or help the kids with their school, hop on work calls, manage the home and meals, go to bed and start all over again. It can start to feel a bit like “Groundhog Day.” 

Make intentional efforts with each other to touch and hug as often as possible. Not necessarily sexual touches or touch that is going to lead to making love. These are the touches that say, “You matter,” “I notice you,” “I’m glad we’re together.” We write about the benefits of touch and cuddling here and here.

Be proactive and practice these four steps. This will guide you in a healthy way through this unique and challenging holiday season. And as you follow through, you will be taking significant steps to build your marriage.