We’re sitting at home writing this on a weekday with our ten and eight-year-old doing school assignments online. Today marks the beginning of a two-week Coronavirus quarantine of our school system here in Paulding County, Georgia. It seemed a little drastic when we first heard about it. But, when we really investigated the reasons for it, we agreed it might be best. A quarantine is “strict isolation imposed to prevent the spread of disease.”
While we pray for this social isolation to allow the germs to dissipate, we are aware that there are times in our marriage, we might need a voluntary quarantine. Let’s be honest. Occasions and conversations arise that we are so passionate about individually, that we can vehemently engage in arguments that pass venom and hostility back and forth between us. When we’re in the heat of a disagreement that could inflict injury on our marriage, it’s a good idea to take a “time-out.” Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” That’s easier said than done when we’re furious. So, what does that look like?
1. Recognize the need for a quarantine.
When the sparks are flying, and we cross over the line of trying to solve a conflict and begin attacking each other, it’s time to call a time-out. Only you know your warning signs. It may be clenched fists, yelling, or feeling like you might explode. At the other end of the spectrum, you may get really quiet, feel like withdrawing, or start shutting down. This is the time to be self-aware and recognize your need to press pause. When we have stopped talking about the issue and have started attacking each other, it’s time to move into quarantine.
2. Request a time-out.
If you realize you are starting to spread a “virus by conversation,” call a time-out for yourself. You need to take the initiative and say something like, “I’m not thinking straight, so I need to take a time-out.” However, DON’T request it for your spouse. “You need a time-out,” typically doesn’t go over so well. Even if you see your spouse needs it, just ask for it for yourself.
It’s also essential to grant a time-out if your spouse asks for one. As long as you set an appointment to pick up the conversation at a later date, this isn’t avoidance. Some people have disagreed with us by pointing out that the Bible says, “don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” The spirit of this verse means don’t sweep it under the rug. Requesting a time-out is creating “social distancing” from each other until it’s safe to be around each other again.
3. Calm Down.
This is not a time to retreat so you can build a better case against your spouse. This time-out is designed to help you clear your head and get calm enough to discuss your problem rationally. You’ll also want to guard against turning to unhealthy sources like alcohol, pornography, or even a phone call with a “yes-man” who will refuel your fire.
Find healthy ways to de-stress. Whether it’s turning to exercise, sleep, watching TV, gaming, or godly counsel, make sure it’s healthy. One of the best ways to calm down is by seeking the Lord. He has an amazing way of calming us when we pour ourselves out to Him through prayer, journaling, Bible study, or worship. Silence and meditation are great ways to clear your head.
4. Re-evaluate the conversation.
Once you are clear-headed and calm, think about what you are really trying to communicate with your spouse. What do you most want? How can you state that with “I” rather than “you” messages? Try to think through your spouse’s point of view and what they are feeling. This relationship is important, and we need to be open to understanding our spouse’s heart on the matter. The goal in conflict is to come up with a win-win solution. Thinking through ways to compromise is a great start to rationally solving a problem. But, approaching the conversation with an end game of “winning” or beating your spouse ends in relational defeat. Remember, you’re on the same team.
5. Continue the conversation.
At some point, a social quarantine has to end. In marriage, once we’ve dealt with the corrupt corners of our hearts, it’s time to come back together and restore health to the relationship. Avoiding the problem won’t help. Resuming the conversation with humility and an openness to hearing what your spouse has to say and trying to understand them will go a long way toward finding a win-win solution. You may want to choose a public place to talk so you are aware of using good communication skills.
One of the safety tips our family is choosing to follow during our Corona Virus quarantine is frequent hand-washing. An active part of taking a time-out from an argument should be examining and cleansing our hearts. As we clear our heads, our prayer should echo King David’s in Psalm 51:10. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” If we are both willing to clean up our hearts and let God give us a “right” spirit, it will be much easier to answer conflict gently. Calling an occasional quarantine might restore healthy communication and breathe life back into our relationship.
Enjoying the Adventure,
Daniel & Bonnie