As a global community we are in a collective state of crisis. The many stressors of COVID-19 have created tension in our relationships. There’s a reason for the many jokes and memes going around about COVID related divorces. Crisis reveals a lot about us as individuals and as couples. But crises also give us opportunities to improve! 

My husband and I had our own opportunity to grow through a season of crisis. A few months ago, we had a car accident. In order to journey towards recovery, we were compelled to identify strengths and weaknesses in our marriage. Now in lockdown and social distancing, I find myself grateful that we have just gone through that experience. I’m now more confident in our ability to weather this new storm as well. Though none of us has had an experience quite like a global pandemic before, we have all had stressors in life — job loss, health challenges, accidents, and the like. But we can come out the other side with our marriages intact and stronger than ever!

Much like the first phase of pandemic, the initial shock of our accident did not seem too dramatic for us. We were a little shaken up, but optimistic that the whole experience would soon be a memory. And then, in the days and weeks following…

  • Our pain grew. 
  • Seeds of anxiety were sown. 
  • Our trust in “The System” crumbled. 

Our relationship in those first days seemed close. We were grateful for safety. We were tender with each other. Also, we were trying to put on a brave face. But our brave faces soon became masks and the source of distance between us. This was our first lesson of intimacy in crisis. 

We learned that we don’t do our marriage a favour when we hide from each other. Now, it feels so freeing to put down the masks and share our pain honestly, together. Our support of each other is stronger, because we are not “walking on eggshells” or carrying our secret pain, increasing the weight of our burden. Free of the masks, our support of each other is now far more effective. We know each other well enough to know that SOMETHING is wrong, even when unspoken. Honest communication means that we know where we each need help and can support the actual need rather than expending precious energy on unhelpful efforts.

As time went on, we sought professional help for some areas of our relationship because a crisis can be too much for two people to bear. Yet, it was in the little everyday matters where we grew together, even as the losses piled up…

  • Travel plans gone.
  • Financial pressure mounted. 
  • Date nights changed.

We learned that each loss and change makes us better. Over and over, we process and share our grief — sadness and anger, and then eventually, acceptance. It takes balance to be honest without pushing each other away. It takes forgiveness to move forward when we do push away.

Now, on the other side of grief, I see the true measure of external accessories — like travel and outings together — to marital happiness. They are beautiful pleasures, but cannot compare to the value of a loving marriage.

Today, we continue to recover from the accident and journey through this pandemic. Even so, I have renewed faith that we can do this. We can walk together through crisis. Because we have learned…

  • To be open with each other.
  • To support each other.
  • To grieve together.
  • To value what matters.

We can do it again, because we have done it before.

Written by Alex Schellenberg

Alex Schellenberg

Alex is an introvert who loves crowds and a recovering perfectionist. She is a seminary student and former ministry leader who loves words and Jesus. In her marriage, motherhood, and friendships, Alex seeks authentic intimacy.