You’re already having a difficult time. Everyone is home all the time. It’s been a challenging morning – trying to work while making sure the kids are fed and have completed their homework.
Your emotional tank is drained managing the kids’ antics: One “forgets” how to pour a cup of water, another pees in his pants and a third thinks he is Spiderman. Then, your husband saunters into the living room and asks, “What’s for lunch?” Something in you snaps.
“You eat whatever is on the plate. Or get your own food. Can’t you see that I am busy?”
“Where is this coming from? It’s just a simple question.” He growls in response as he turns away irate.
You sigh. Is this the same person you used to chat with on the phone for hours on end? (Yes, people actually talked to each other on the phone before there was WhatsApp.) Remember the days when you could prattle on about things that happened in the day and share hopes and dreams? Conversations are now mostly reduced to logistics: This is when we will go to the supermarket; can you help this child with his spelling; or please pay this bill. And you are mostly met with monosyllabic answers or grunts as he continues scrolling away on his phone.
Doesn’t he see all that you’re doing for the family? You’re both tired. You’re both doing your best to survive in the circumstances. It’s no wonder that you have so little energy left for your relationship – and don’t even talk about the almost non-existent sex life. You feel invisible and unheard.
And then… retrenchment and pay cuts loom. What will happen if you get retrenched? Can you find another job? A conversation with a prospective new employer doesn’t go so well. The deals don’t come in as you was expecting them to. The economy is in recession. Will you have enough?
The COVID-19 situation is unabating. You wonder: “Should we resume enrichment classes for the kids?” “Should we bring them to visit the grandparents?” “What if we are asymptomatic carriers and unknowingly spread the disease to our loved ones?” “Is it really safe to dine out or meet up with friends?”
Or worse, a routine doctor’s appointment didn’t go as planned and further tests are needed. You start to worry: “Is it cancer?” “What will happen to the children?” “Do we have enough money to cover the costs of treatment?”
You feel more anxious than ever. There are no clear answers. To make matters worse, there’s no end in sight. Your worries and fears spill over into your marriage.
You try to let your husband know how you are feeling, but you just can’t seem to get the right words out. You feel more alone than ever. The bitterness brews.
And then you’re fighting, again. Voices were raised and tempers, raging. Or maybe it’s an icy battle of wills, trying to see who will cave and make the first move. You don’t even remember what you’re fighting over. Thoughts and words swirl around in your head – “You always…” “You never…” “If only...” Your marriage feels like a dead weight on your shoulders.
Hang in there, my friend. Don’t give up on your marriage, at least not yet.
In those dark moments, remember these words:
1. You are not alone
Don’t let the happy family pictures on your social media feed fool you. Couples are fighting. Couples have cold wars. You are not the only one having a difficult time. There’s a reason why “marriage is hard work” is a truism. Remember, you are not alone.
2. It’s okay to feel...
Angry. Sad. Disappointed. Depressed. Worried. Numb. Lonely. You are not happy in your marriage at the moment. The world is overwhelming. Feel your feelings. But don’t forget that your feelings may not be a direct representation of reality. You may feel your husband doesn’t care about you, but this may not be true. There are other perspectives to hear and uncover within yourself and from your husband.
3. It’s okay to talk to someone
A trusted older couple, perhaps. Or even a marriage counsellor. When we hit a problem at work, we often turn to experts to help us. Why not consult those more experienced than us in marriage?
Talking to your spouse with a third party’s guidance can help you listen to and understand each other better.
4. You need to be brave sometimes
Even though things are difficult, you have the power to choose to connect, share perspectives and listen to each other – or to do the opposite. Choose to be brave and face up to the issues, even if there are no solutions to the problems. Even if sometimes the conversation ends up in yet another argument. It takes courage, intention and maybe a little bit of insanity. But you can do it. Even if.
5. You are getting stronger
As you spend moments reflecting and understanding your emotions, your inner story and your triggers, you will likely begin to take responsibility for your words and actions, and be less afraid of being vulnerable with your spouse. This process helps to make you stronger.
Like fine porcelain being fired up in a kiln, your marriage is getting stronger too – as you choose to see that in spite of your differences, both of you are on the same team.
You may not believe this now, but this season will pass. Hang in there. Things will get better. They may get worse first, but it will get better eventually. A vaccine for COVID-19 may be found, but life may continue to throw up new uncertainties. Whether it’s a new pandemic or a loss of employment, however uncertain life may seem, know that you and your husband can get through it together.
© 2020 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
Sue-Anne Wu is a nature seeker and avid reader. She manages her 5 rambunctious boys (aged 4 months, 4, 7, 9 and 39) with a healthy dose of optimism and several shots of coffee.
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