I remember screaming in the kitchen, storming down the hall to our bedroom, and slamming the door behind me. We were newlyweds, new homeowners, and had decided to work remotely from home. Bradley wanted to work late at night, using daytime for Home Depot runs and house projects. I wanted to work normal business hours. We argued a lot. Sometimes I regretted the decision to work from home and wondered if our marriage would survive.
Now, here we are, twelve years later, and we—along with millions of other couples—are being forced to eat, sleep, play, work and do everything together 24/7.
By God’s grace we’re no longer screaming in the kitchen, and I’ve matured beyond my door slamming days. But Bradley just returned from a four-month deployment, so not only are we navigating his re-entry into daily life, we’re also homeschooling our kids, we can’t see our friends, we’re sheltering in place, and we’re dealing with the added stress of a pandemic.
COVID-19 is affecting our marriage.
Maybe you can relate?
What the World Says About Marriage & Coronavirus
Out of curiosity I typed in “marriage and coronavirus” into my search engine. People joke about an influx in maternity wards nine months after hurricanes and blizzards, so it didn’t surprise me to find predictions of a baby boom following our current isolation. What did surprise me were the articles I found predicting a divorce boom.
CNN, The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, TIME, and New Yorker, all had articles offering practical tips on how to avoid what one referred to as a ‘divorce tsunami’. China has already seen a rise in divorce since the COVID-19 lockdown was lifted in Xi’an; law firms can’t keep up with the number of cases being filed.1
The world says our marriages won’t last unless we blame our frustrations on an imaginary co-worker, use our noise canceling headphones, and give each other enough alone time during the day. Therapists and counselors suggest planning date nights in, goofing off in the midst of your work, and empathizing with one another’s emotions. These tips are helpful and we should definitely try to incorporate practical ways to enjoy each other and work through the unique challenges we’re facing right now. But at some point our attempts will fail. Even the healthiest marriages will struggle to muster up the resilience necessary to survive the coronavirus.
What God Says About Marriage & Coronavirus
Marriage was designed to be a shared experience. God created woman for man so he wouldn’t be alone, and he called it good.2 Being together more than normal might feel frustrating, but regardless of our circumstances, our irritability over differing preferences, or any resentment we might feel toward our spouse in the midst of non-stop togetherness, God says a husband and wife working and living together is a good thing. God says let no man, woman—and might I add pandemic—separate what God has joined together.3
So how do we flatten the predicted divorce curve?
Ultimately, we can’t. Our marriages are just as vulnerable to the predicted curve, but unlike the world, we have God’s power and grace. As we reorient our hearts to God’s design for marriage and embrace Christ’s humility, we can endure this pandemic together for God’s glory.
Remember God’s Design for Marriage
Under the pressures of a world-wide pandemic, we can easily neglect our God-given roles in marriage. When we’re living in the midst of unusual stress and overwhelming grief, we might just need basic reminders: the husband needs his wife, the wife helps her husband.4 The husband leads the wife through sacrificial love and the wife respectfully submits to her husband.5 Both are called to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.6
Marriage between believers also demands conformity to life within the body of Christ. So when we’re tempted to pit ourselves against one another, we remember the call to unity.7 In the face of conflict, we remember the call to confess our sins to one another and extend forgiveness.8 When we’re irritated and feel defeated, we remember marriage is a lasting covenant made before God.9 By reorienting our hearts we can experience a renewed commitment to one another.
Embrace Christ’s Humility
I didn’t ask him to, but Bradley reorganized my pantry last week. Many mornings he rouses the kids by blaring a military wake-up call or 80’s rock music through the Alexa. Earlier this week he changed our homeschool routine with a morning walk to the beach, and his ideas of social distancing are sometimes different from mine. In these moments, I feel so frustrated and I want to insist on my way. Because of course my way is better, right, and—might I add—more holy.
Daily, I’m confronted with my pride. Pride which divides rather than unites. Pride which refuses to delight in my husband’s abilities, the way he sees things I can’t, and his ability to actually make them better. My pantry looks amazing. Everyone laughs as they climb out of bed and enter into a pre-breakfast dance party. Our whole family benefited from exercising on the beach. He’s serving people and loving our community more readily than I.
Many of us vowed to love one another ‘until death do us part’, but it’s actually death which holds us together. Death to our desires, our expectations, our plans, and our time. We must die to self, daily. I don’t have to tell you this is hard, uniquely hard in the midst of a crisis. We’re anxious, afraid, and weary. As the pressure builds, our selfishness and pride become exposed and we can grow angry, bitter and resentful when our spouse doesn’t conform to our ideas of how to face this pandemic.
But we’re not supposed to conform to one another; we’re being conformed to Christ. Christ, who emptied himself, took the form of a servant, and humbled himself to the point of death.10. Christ, who calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him.11 When we’re united to Christ, we have his power in us, enabling us to lay down our rights out of love for our spouse. Laying down our rights is painful and it might not bring about the result we hope for. Yet, we can cling to the hope of knowing Christ more as we share in his sufferings.12
Endure Together For God’s Glory
About two weeks into homeschooling and being at home together, Bradley looked at me and stated these three words: “We’re a team.” A simple declaration of being in this whole mess together enabled both of us to reorient our hearts to the goal. We’re one.
Our marriages are meant to display the united and never-ending relationship between Christ and the Church.13 What a unique privilege we have right now to crush the predicted divorce spike with a firm grip on the unifying and empowering character of Christ.
We need our differing gifts, differing opinions, and opposite ways of seeing the world; we’re better together because of them. We need to be a united front as we parent our children through their fears and learn to navigate the daily challenges of a pandemic. We need one mind as we make decisions and seek God’s wisdom for what’s best for our family. We need to throw off the sins entangling each of us so we can run with endurance this particular race God has set before us right now.14 A race that isn’t going to end anytime soon.
With our eyes fixed on Jesus—who endured the cross—we can endure this pandemic and see God’s glory lifted high in our marriages. Marriages with a renewed commitment to love each other regardless of what comes. Marriages being strengthened through suffering. Marriages standing firm because of Christ within us, the hope of glory. Marriages united in order that we might proclaim the excellencies of Christ.
COVID-19 is affecting our marriages, but through the power of Christ, we can allow it to impact our marriages for the glory of God.