My husband and I were walking yesterday, and I noticed this vine starting to bud with new growth. Despite all that is happening with the Covid-19 virus and its impact, spring is coming. It reminded me that even in the hardest of times, growth is possible. The tender shoots also made me wonder about how our marriages could grow during this time of sheltering in place.

I just received a lovely Instagram post from my niece and her husband on their wedding day 23 years ago. Her text read, “I wouldn’t want to self-quarantine with anyone else!” Perhaps you feel the same way. Being in close quarters for a prolonged period of time can test even the strongest of marriages. When you feel stressed, it is normal to get a bit edgy. The person who usually gets the brunt of our shorter fuse is our spouse. What can you do to keep love alive and make the most of this time of enforced togetherness?

Here are 11 tips to nourish love during uncertain times:

  1. Take good care of yourself. No one can manage your internal stress but you. Stress takes its toll on relationships. Get the sleep you need. Take a longer bath, perhaps with some soft music and candles. Get your exercise. Quiet your anxious thoughts by intentionally focusing on what is good and true and beautiful. Guard your mind from too much media.
  1. Go for walks together. Getting outside is a daily activity for my husband and myself (keeping our six -foot distance from others on the trail, of course!) Enjoy nature and take in the beauty of your surroundings. The views are lovely and in the morning the birds offer a serenade!
  1. Do home projects together. If you’re like us, you have some closets and cupboards that haven’t been reorganized in a long while. Make a list of all you would like to accomplish to get your home in shape over the next 3-4 weeks. Collaborate on prioritizing the projects and dive in. If you have kids, invite them in on the action and make it fun by putting on dance music and celebrating completed tasks with a family game.
  1. Couple Time. Set aside 20-30 minutes daily where you can have uninterrupted conversation as a couple. Let this be a time to express your feelings. Worry, fear and stress are expected and normal reactions during quarantine. Don’t criticize each other for expressing these feelings. Share your hopes, insecurities, concerns for the children, and frustrations. Be there for one another. Pray for each other, our country, the world situation, those health workers on the front lines. Also, notice together the sweet moments of your day.
  1. Express affection. Assuming you are both healthy, touch is one of the main ways we soothe each other, especially during challenging times. The act of embracing floods our bodies with oxytocin, a “bonding hormone” that makes people feel secure and trusting toward each other, lowers cortisol levels, and reduces stress. Holding hands, hugging, massaging, kissing, and embracing all communicate, “You are important to me, you are loved, and I care.”
  1. Do a Couple’s Devotion together. Order a couple’s devotional from Amazon and start a daily morning devotional together before the kids are up. My personal favorite is Devotions for a Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas or try, #Stay Married: A Couples Devotional by Michelle Peterson. There are also some great marriage devotional plans on YouVersion.
  1. Reminisce together about some of your favorite memories from when you were first dating. Notice how you feel about each other as you talk about your early days. Remember some of your favorite dates or vacations as a married couple. Browse through old pictures that highlight your favorite moments together.
  1. Express appreciation. We often take our mate for granted, even in the best of times. Additionally, a crisis tends to amplify the positive aspects of relationships if they are strong and the negative aspects if the marriage is struggling. It is especially important during this season of uncertainty that we focus on the positive efforts of our mate, express our gratitude and extend grace when they are stressed themselves.
  1. Have virtual dates together where you set aside more extended time to be together playing games, watching a romantic comedy, cooking a special meal together, listening to music. Who knows, we might have a baby boom early in 2021 due to all this coziness!
  1. Community is important during this time of being sequestered. You might consider setting up a Zoom conference call with your friends to share a dinner date or happy hour together. My husband and I do this at least twice a week with friends. It does wonders to help you feel less isolated, more connected. We are also sharing fun ideas through texts with friends about how to use this time well. Zoom is free for 40 minutes, or $15. per month if you set up a lengthier conversation.
  1. Reach out as a couple. If you have an elderly neighbor or relative or friends who are single and weathering this quarantine alone, call or Facetime them to give them a word of encouragement.

This is a hard time, no doubt. As I see it, we have a choice. Do we merely endure this season and hope we like our mate at the end of it, or do we intentionally use this time to deepen our connection and make choices that will help our marriage thrive? I hope you choose the latter and like spring, enjoy the new growth that has taken root!