With the ongoing pandemic many couples are stuck at home together more than ever, which for some has been great.

For others, it’s been a real struggle to not get on each other’s last nerve.

After witnessing some of these struggles, Dr. Gary Chapman, author of “The Five Love Languages,” wrote “5 Ways to Be with Each Other When You are Stuck at Home.”

Here are his suggestions to help couples navigate COVID-19 as a couple:

1) Call a truce on throwing verbal bombs. “You can kill your spouse with your tongue or you can give them life,” says Chapman. “Verbal bombs will always explode in the heart and mind of your spouse. Each of these bombs causes further destruction in the relationship.”

Chapman recommends trying to go three weeks without throwing a bomb.

Then work to replace the bombs with affirmation or appreciation.

You might be thinking you don’t have any words of appreciation for your spouse. If that’s the case, Chapman encourages you to think of just three things to appreciate about your spouse.

It could be putting gas in the car, cooking a meal, engaging with the children, remembering to pay the bills, or something else. If affirmation and appreciation don’t come easily for you, try writing out a sentence and practice saying it before you say it to your spouse. For the next three weeks, share one way you appreciate your spouse without expecting anything in return.

“This changes the emotional climate in a relationship,” Chapman says.

“It moves it from death to life.”

2) Tear down the emotional wall. It’s easy to get offended in stressful times, especially if your relationship is already rocky.

According to Chapman, each time a spouse is offended they put a block in the wall. Before you know it, that wall is long, high and thick. It’s impossible to have a long-term healthy marriage without apologies and forgiveness.

Chapman says apologies don’t look the same for everyone and research backs that up. When you apologize, what do you say or do? What do you want to hear and see when someone apologizes to you? The following five ways to apologize can help you out in this area:

• Expressing regret. This is the emotional aspect of an apology. People who speak this language believe it’s important to acknowledge that you offended them. Then you must express your own sense of guilt, shame and pain that your behavior has hurt them deeply. Saying “I’m sorry” is very important to a person who speaks this language.

• Accepting responsibility. In this instance an apology means accepting responsibility for one’s actions and being willing to say, “I was wrong.”

• Making restitution. For an apology to be genuine, it isn’t just about saying “I am sorry.” It’s about making it right.

• Genuinely repenting. The word repentance means “to turn around” or to change one’s mind. And not doing it again.

• Requesting forgiveness. A person who speaks this language believes an apology not only includes, “I’m sorry,” but also asking for forgiveness.

“Forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a decision,” Chapman says. “Forgiveness does not remove the consequences nor does it rebuild trust.” It’s a good place to start rebuilding your relationship.

3) Discover and speak each other’s primary love language. There are five love languages — words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, physical touch and gifts. If you don’t know your own love language or your spouse’s love language, do yourself a favor and take the quiz. This one thing could transform your marriage.

4) Learn the value of teamwork. Even though roles may have changed during the pandemic, you probably have the same objective as a couple — to keep all the balls up in the air and keep your relationship moving forward. If you’re both willing to adapt and adjust and work together as a team it can make the load seem lighter.

5) Have a daily sit-down-and-listen time. Take time out each day and share three things that happened in your life and how you feel about them. You may know what your spouse is doing, but you may not know how they’re feeling or what they’re thinking unless you take time to be curious and find out.

If you want to take things a step further, Chapman suggests a weekly time focused on one conflict or thing you wish you could change as a couple.

Take turns sharing.

No doubt, every marriage faces challenges, but most would agree this year has been a bit extra. If you feel your marriage is off-kilter, utilizing these five strategies can help you get things back on track and enjoy each other’s company while you are stuck at home together.

Julie Baumgardner is the president and CEO of First Things First. Contact her at julieb@firstthings.org

Julie Baumgardner is the president and CEO of First Things First. Contact her at julieb@firstthings.org

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