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Marriage: challenging in the best of times

[This blog has also been shared on our personal websites, and]

We're all familiar with the marriage vows, and all of us who are married have probably said some form of them. You know, to have and to hold, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.

Sure, those we understand, but a two-week self-isolation/quarantine? Who would have thought of that?

Marriage is often a roller coaster. It offers the couple some of life’s happiest moments that, sometimes, are offset by the challenges inherent in combining two lives. Those challenges also include the unplanned and unexpected vagaries inherent in life.

Pete and Ellen Gigliotti from Two fro Marriage on a cruise ship with sky near Shippensburg PA

A good marriage is one in which the couple has the ability, and foresight, to adapt to changes and to have not just a plan B, but a C, D, etc. It’s also the ability to take lemons and make lemonade, or you’ll be left with a sour taste in your mouth.

The world is now looking much farther down the alphabet for a new plan as we all adapt to the new reality imposed on us by COVID-19. For those of us who are mature (I hate to use the term old), we have lived through many different types of crises that have impacted our lives and our emotions. The assassination of two Kennedys and a King. Murders at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Watergate. AIDS. Sept. 11, 2001. Various wars around the world. Mass shootings, especially in schools and colleges. Other pandemics (though not on this scale.)

Each of these brought its own unique circumstances that make us all look for some reassurances that this will eventually end and we, as individuals, as a nation and as the world, will again return to what has been “normal.”

How we do that is up to us, just as how we manage the current “social distancing” and self-isolation.

Here are some tips:

  • Don’t sleep in. Yes, it’s very tempting to just keep rolling over and going back to sleep, but don’t. Your body is used to a routine so if you’re used to getting up at a certain time, keep getting up. OK, sleep in once in awhile, but not every day.

  • Stick to a “normal” routine. Life is not “routine” now, but you should try to keep to what you’re used to. If you’re working from home, think of it as work and remember, for most, you no longer have those dreaded office meetings.

  • Make a to-do list. We all have things we’ve “meant” to do for years. Now may be the time to do them. Some may be big and some may be small, but it’s nice to be able to check them off your list each day.

  • Keep connected. Technology in its many forms allows us to communicate instantaneously around the world. Take advantage of that and reach out not just to the people you normal interact with, but those you haven’t been in touch with for too long. Here’s an idea: Go through that pile of old family photos and e-mail them to your family, and ask them to send you some of what they have. It’s a great way to not only connect but to have a laugh at the hair and fashion styles you would never wear today. And it’s a good way to remember loved ones no longer with us.

  • Be kind. And do so in many ways. We, and I use that term collectively, are in this together. There’s enough fear and anxiety without adding to the distress.

  • Talk. Your marriage may be talk-starved by the busyness of everyday life, but now is the time to take advantage of the time to have some deep discussions. Plan things. Decide tough issues. Just chat about fun things, possibly even using some of the “open ended” questions apps, books or suggestions online (Gottman Card Deck app has a lot of these). All will open up new lines of communication and excitement as you use this time to get to know each other in a new and fun way.

  • Pick up a new hobby. Everyone has those things that they never get to, although they have the best of intentions. Put together that jigsaw puzzle you saw and thought would be fun. Drag out the scrapbooking stuff you bought and never used and have fun looking through old pictures to put in it. Cook something together. Take a walk. Binge watch something new neither of you would otherwise choose, feeling free to scrap it if you don’t like it. Find a marriage book on your bookshelf and read it alternately to each other. Do something new and different that will enhance your couplehood.

All of these are great and useful, but we need to remember that at a time like this we should turn to family, friends and faith, and look to each of those for comfort.

For other information, please go to Sanctuary Christian Counseling and its coronavirus page with ways to weather this storm at

If you are struggling, consider Sanctuary Christian Counseling’s online therapy, beginning on or before April 1, 2020. Contact Ellen at for information.

For official information on COVID-19, please go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at, the National Institutes of Health at


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