Care for Relationships as we Shelter in Place

Since the worst of the COVID crisis in China had passed,  there are news reports of an alarming increase in the number of applications for divorce.  One article said that the civil affairs bureau is fully booked with divorce appointments. One social media platform in China started a conversation on social media. They asked: “After the quarantine, what I want most is……”  The most popular answer was, “a divorce.”  One country in Europe is already reporting higher incidents of domestic violence. We have had conversations with singles that are having struggles with roommates.

It turns out that being trapped in a dwelling with another person under stressful circumstances, unknown outcomes and limited resources brings out the worst. It makes sense.

It’s normal for relationships to be tested during this time. Realize that everyone is under stress and not at their best. It’s not just you. Many are struggling, but you can do things to nurture your relationships even in stressful times like this. Give lots and lots of grace. Here are a few thoughts to get you started on how to take care of your most valuable resource – your close relationships. 

  • Be careful with your words. It’s natural that negative feelings boil up to the surface and things are going to come to our minds. We have lots of time to notice everything that’s wrong. Be careful before you say it out loud. You can apologize, but you can’t “unsay” it. Notice the good things and speak lots of words of appreciation and affirmation.

Proverbs 12:18   The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

  • Give lots of hugs. Touch reduces stress and raises positive chemicals in our brain. Research shows that a 20 second hug can increase levels of oxytocin and reduce blood pressure. Be sensitive and ask permission but give as many hugs as you can. Children need lots of good cuddling in a crisis.
  • Give people space. Come up with ways to give space to the other. One family in a small apartment created a private place for each family member in the apartment. For the kids it was a tent, or a fort. For the adults it was a room where they can shut the door. Schedule some time in the day when everyone goes to their private place. Some introverts will have to lean into engaging with people. Some extroverts will have to force themselves to let others have privacy. We need both.
  • Find ways to laugh. Do something humorous or find things to laugh about together. For some reason it’s bonding when we can find humor in the same thing. Laughter really is a good medicine. We have to get creative, but there are ways to have fun.
  • Exercise helps. Adrenaline is pumping when we’re stressed to prepare our bodies for fight or flight, but in this situation it’s wearing. Exercise helps your body process this extra adrenaline. Find ways you can play games or take a walk that gets everybody moving.
  • Watch for over-controlling. Sometimes we get fixated on some bad habits of another person. There is so much in the world that we can’t control, and sometimes we unconsciously pick something we could possibly control and fixate on that.  Try to figure out what’s most important to you and find ways to compromise with others in the house.
  • Remember that anger is a secondary emotion. Anger is good and healthy and normal. It’s never the whole story though. Anger gives us power and relief for pain that’s underneath. Take time to look at the sorrow, loss, or the fear underneath the anger.

Give grace to others. It’s possible for someone to look grumpy or angry, when what they are really feeling is grief or fear. Before being offended, be curious about what might be going on inside the other person.

  • Communicate, but now might not be the time to fix things that have been wrong for a long time. I saw online that someone had suggested that this is a great time to have a marriage retreat and gave questions to work through deep relationship issues. One marriage counselor said that might not be a good idea if the marriage is fragile. It might be better to wait for a time when you can have counsel and support. Find a time later to dedicate to overhaul your marriage or close relationship. For now, communicate as much as you can with kindness and humility.
  • Be careful of major declarations or decisions. Sometimes crisis times push us to good changes, like decisions to stop drinking, to start exercising or to reach out to parents more. There are many testimonies like this. People have also been known to make big commitments, like taking out a mortgage or quitting a team or turning down a job. Sometimes they are considering leaving a relationship. However, these decisions might not make sense after the crisis has passed. For some big decisions, it might be a good idea to get feedback before you make a major course change.
  • Ask for support. Sometimes a little counsel or input can help you see the situation in a whole new way. There are counselors who are meeting people online. Our whole team and especially your consultant are here for you. We can listen at the very least. If we don’t have the answers, we can help you to find what you need. We all need each other. That’s the beauty of the body of Christ. 

I Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil for evil or insult with insult, but give a blessing instead, because to this you were called that you might inherit a blessing.

This article is submitted by Iris Lowder of Pioneers. Pioneers is a Missio Nexus member.  Member organizations can provide content to the Missio Nexus website. See how by clicking here.

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