Healthy marriage when you’re together

Covid 19, Pastor's Life, Personal Development, Podcast

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Like a lot of us, I’m stuck at home today. I’m blessed to be trapped here with my family. In fact, we’ve done a lot of things to try to make this new reality more enjoyable and more fun for all of us. And that’s why I’m here with you today. We’re going to be talking about how to keep your marriage healthy when you’re together 24/7.

We’re going to talk about how to make a plan for making the most out of this time when you’re together, how to build a rhythm, some things you want to avoid, and some things you can do to make this as enjoyable as possible. You can remember these four habits with the word “PLAN”: Play together, Listen for emotions, Appreciate daily, and Nurture rhythm. We’ll start with playing together.

When you’re beginning, it’s really important to set up your day. You want to get a rhythm in place where you’re starting your day happy to be together, you’re ending your day happy to be together, and there’s set moments throughout the day when you know you’re going to be together and the point is just to be enjoyed. That doesn’t mean that you’re together all the time. You have to set a time to be alone, set a time to get your work done, and you’re going to have to have some conversations about this. And that conversation is, “What are the expectations here? How much time, realistically, do you need on your email? How much time do you need for video conferencing? How much time do you need for this or that? How are we going to work out a plan?”

But the non-negotiables in that plan – with getting everything else done – have to be to start your day happy to be together, end your day happy to be together, and to carve out at least 20 minutes somewhere during that day where you’re going to have fun and just play together.

A second habit that can help us when we find ourselves locked into this situation where we’re spending a whole lot more time together than we’ re used to is to listen to the other person well.

The easiest way I know to enforce that is this: don’t be a problem listener, don’t be somebody whose first words out of your mouth are problems. Listen for emotions and, when you’re talking to people, start with relationship. Be relational first and then bring the problem into it. We sometimes call this an “envelope conversation.” That is, take your problem and stick it in the envelope of relationship by leading with the relationship and ending with relationship and discussing the problem in the middle. It can help to have a game plan about how to talk about the difficult things that arise.

A third habit that is connected to this is appreciation. Let’s just face it: to keep our joy levels high and to keep our emotional capacity as large as it can be, I need a lot of joy and the fastest way to grow joy is through appreciation. That can be just my own personal appreciation but it can also be expressing appreciation – you know, thanking my wife for what she does, thanking my kids for the things that they do.

Appreciation is entering into an experience and feeling it, entering into that feeling for a little bit.

Give yourself permission to stop and smell the roses along the way. Give yourself permission to enjoy things along the way, because there’s always going to be problems and big issues. There’s always going to be weight. So to help counterbalance some of that weight, we’ve got to take those moment in life to enjoy the things that there are to enjoy.

If I can do that relationally, so much the better. I need to not only tell my family how much I appreciate what they do, but we can share this appreciation together. I make sure that I’ve got enough time to get all my work done and then I carve out these 15-30 minute segments throughout the day to be relational with other people and to experience appreciation for the people in my life.

The last one is nurturing a rhythm. Again, one of the things that establishes that rhythm is knowing how you’re going to end your day. One of the things that I found throughout the years is that it’s easy for the bedroom to become the “bored-room.” For a lot of couples, when they get in bed at night it’s the first time that they’ve been alone and quiet all day. So guess what you talk about? You talk about all of your problems, right? You get in bed and you’re like, “Man, I wonder if we’re going to have enough money for retirement. I wonder how long the kids are going to be out of school. I wonder what’s going to happen with this.” And we just start to discuss problems.

If you’re going to bed at the end of the day talking about problems, it’s going to release a lot of cortisol in your body. You’re going to find yourself having greater anxiety, it’s going to be harder to sleep, things don’t go well, and frankly, it doesn’t do wonders for your sex life either. So you’re looking at all this going, let’s not end our day talking about problems. Let’s end our day with appreciation. Let’s put a wall around the bedroom that says, this is a problem -free zone. When we talk about problems, we’re going to talk about them someplace else. Let’s talk about them on a couch, let’s talk about them before we get in bed. Let’s resolve those and agree that we’re going to keep the relationship bigger than the problem.

If you can add that to this rhythm of saying, hey, we’re going to have established times in our day where the whole family will be together, we going to set times where we’re going to be taking care of work that needs to get done, that can be really, really helpful. Those moments can be as short as five minutes, they can be as long as an hour, but they punctuate your day and they give it a rhythm that allows you to rest. That keeps relationships high and keeps you enjoying being together.

So as we’re all dealing with this new reality of being at home 24/7 and having a lot more time around the kids, a lot more time with each other, it’s really important that we learn to nurture rhythm. If you just remember the PLAN (Play together, Listen for emotion, Appreciate daily, and Nurture rhythm that is punctuated by play and by rest), I think you’re going to find that not only will you survive this 24/7 experience but you’ll actually find your joy increasing and your relational attachments getting stronger.

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MARCUS WARNER (M.Div., Th.M. and D.Min. Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is the president of Deeper Walk International. He is a former pastor and college professor who has written several books on topics ranging from how to study the Bible to spiritual warfare, emotional healing, and leadership. Marcus has done training events for organizations such as Navigators, Willow Creek Prison Ministry, and Moody Church. He has traveled the world with Deeper Walk equipping people on the front lines of ministry with practical tools for dealing with root issues that keep people and ministries stuck and unable to go deeper into what God has for them.

Website for the book:

This content originally appeared at for the Moody Publishers Rethink Rhythms. Find Joy. campaign. Used by permission.

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