Let’s face it. As a result of state shutdowns and shelter-in-place directives, family routines have been shelved, but thanks to dozens of great suggestions shared on social media, many moms have figured out how to keep the kids entertained and productive.
But for many of us, very likely we’re missing out on regular date nights with that other person who’s home a lot more than usual since we can’t rely on babysitters and restaurants and movie theaters. Even walks through our favorite downtown shopping district are off-limits in this era of pandemic and social distancing.
What are some ideas for keeping us off our phones once the kids have gone to bed and instead focusing on time with our husbands with a deliberate intention to nurture our marriages?
- How about choosing a book you’ve both wanted to read, or perhaps one is already familiar with and has always wanted to share with the other, and then taking turns reading to one another?
- Wait for a clear night and lay a blanket on the ground and study the night sky. There are some great apps you can use to help you identify planets, stars and constellations.
- Watching/listening to documentaries or biopics that BOTH of you are interested in, and then interviewing the other about things that you’ve learned for the first time?
- Watching/listening to sermons or Bible conferences—so many amazing options are out there. Ligonier Ministries is making all of their teaching series free., and Open Culture has hundreds of university courses to audit for free on subjects such as art, the Classics, the sciences, sociology, and even classes from solid theological seminaries such Westminster and RTS.
- Play cards or a board game, or do a puzzle—but if your littles are little, make sure you keep it out of reach!
- Sign up for the myriad of other courses that are being offered online right now! There are folks giving dance instruction, teaching American sign language, providing painting lessons, plus countless gyms and fitness centers are directing at-home workouts for free or minimal fees.
- Visit a museum or a state park through a virtual tour—perhaps a favorite place you visited when you were dating or honeymooned!
- Watch a concert online—from symphonies to contemporary music, you can find just about anything if you search for your favorite musicians or groups on Facebook or Instagram and sign up for video notifications.
- Or take a “survival trip”. Dress the kids in their pjs and head out just before bedtime. Pack a late night picnic basket with favorite beverages and drinks (or drive through for some ice cream!). Drive around until they fall asleep, park in a well-lit spot and enjoy your time together.
Making Marriage the Winner in this Age of Coronavirus
Perhaps the most important activity we can do with our spouses during this unexpected blessing of extra time together is to be deliberate in our effort to get to know them better.
I recently rewatched It’s a Beautiful Day Neighborhood, the movie about Fred Rogers’ encounter with troubled journalist Tom Junod (Lloyd Vogel in the film). The way in which Mr. Rogers focused wholly on everyone he talked to, and how he made it his singular goal to make sure each person heard from him how they were unique and worthy of love and capable of making good choices. How their fears and questions and doubts needed to be freed from the entanglements of baggage, and how forgiveness was the balm for any anguished soul. Yes, there are critical biblical ways to understand these matters, and if you think I don’t think they’re important, you haven’t read enough of my writing on this blog or its predecessor. Run Mr Rogers’ principles about personhood through the doctrine of the imago dei and apply the results: Love your neighbor, and pray for them.
This goes for your spouse as well, your closest neighbor.
A simple way to love your spouse better is to spend time discovering things you may not know about them, explore how they think so you can understand them better, ask questions. Noting that Jesus asked 307 questions that are recorded in the gospels, Mike Bechtle at Focus on the Family quotes Martin B. Copenhaver from his book, Jesus Is the Question:
“Those questions were intentionally designed to affect people at the heart level. If He had only told people what to do, they would just be getting more teaching. But by asking precise and appropriate questions, He allowed them to discover the answers they needed.
Jesus’ questions to the Pharisees challenged their hypocrisy; His questions to people in need were based on His compassion.
One person came with honest questions, and Jesus ‘looked at him and loved him.’ (Mark 10:21)
He showed concern in some of His questions: ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ (Luke 18:41)
In marriage, the goal of our questions isn’t to show who’s right. It’s to build trust between each other, which comes through compassion. But how do you ask the right questions?”
Here are some methods Bechtle recommends to get the most out of your discussion time:
“Ask one question at a time. To encourage deeper discussions, make sure you ask open-ended questions rather than questions that can be answered with yes or no.
Don’t interrupt or defend yourself while your spouse is talking. Your only goal is to hear your husband or wife completely.
Listen just to understand, not to formulate your reply.
Explore your spouse’s thoughts by asking a deeper follow-up question. It shows that you’re listening and takes the conversation to another level. But don’t add questions that take the conversation in a new direction.
Tell your spouse you want to think through what he or she said, and that you’ll come back later with your thoughts.
Taking time to ask questions in this way demonstrates that you’re more interested in hearing your spouse’s perspective than correcting it. That builds trust, which opens the door to even more effective conversation in the future.”
If you’re not quite sure where to start, Bechtle offers these questions and follow-up questions.
- What are some things that we used to do that you would like to do again? What did you most enjoy about those things?
- What things about our life together make you happy? How frequently do you notice those things?
- What’s something you’d like to do together that we’ve never done? What makes it so inviting to you?
- What was the last thing I did for you that you really enjoyed? What made it so pleasant for you?
- Which of our couple friends or acquaintances do you admire the most? What is it about their relationship that impresses you?
- What is the best part about being together? How does that make you feel?
- What makes us a good team? What could we do to be an even better team?
- When was a time you felt that I listened to you really well? What would you like us to discuss but have been hesitant to bring up?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how am I doing as a husband or wife? What one little thing could I do that would move that up a notch?
“Conversations become more impactful when you ask follow-up questions,” writes Bechtle. “When you listen carefully and continue exploring your spouse’s perspectives, you’ve shown respect and care. You’ve made it more about your husband or wife than about the issue.”
And finally, he addresses negative information or underlying motives that may emerge that should be examined.
“What if negative information comes out? That could be challenging, but those issues will eventually surface anyway. If you regularly ask meaningful questions, you’ll build the intimacy needed to have those tough conversations when they occur.
Pick a time in the next few weeks when you’ll try the techniques explained above. Make the environment comfortable and natural, and simply try to see things through your spouse’s eyes.
Here’s the key to asking powerful questions that can strengthen your relationship: Care deeply, listen deeply. Then watch your relationship grow!”
Read all of Mike Bechtle’s article here: “Nine Questions to Ask Your Spouse to Strengthen Your Marriage“