5 tips for remaining connected to your spouse when life is chaotic

Published on May 10, 2022

I’ll never forget the day I got the call. My dad’s heart had failed. 

The left chamber was no longer able to pump blood into his organs. They, too, were shutting down. In the three frantic hours that followed, with no flights available until the next day, Christi and I packed up all the belongings required for a six-week-old, a two-year-old, and two emotional adults to make a seventeen-hour, straight-through-the-night drive from Missouri to Hershey, Pennsylvania. 

With thirty minutes of sleep in a forty-two-hour span, we arrived in Hershey in time to see my dad coming out of surgery, where he had received a heart pump to do the work of his left chamber.  

A hard season

Though we didn’t realize it at the time, we had entered the most chaotic season of our young married lives. The next three weeks were beyond difficult. Christi was living with her in-laws while caring for a screaming two-month-old who didn’t sleep and a needy two-year-old. 

I wasn’t much help, as I spent most days driving an hour back and forth to the hospital and tried to work on the days in between. To add chaos to chaos, Christi and I flew out for a job interview I had for an executive position with a company on the other side of the country. 

It was the first time she had left our babies behind, and the trip was a disaster. On the day we arrived, Christi melted into tears during a meeting with the head of the human resources department. Just the impression I wanted to make, bringing an unsupportive and overwhelmed wife. 

Here we were, in survival mode, our time pulled toward our high-maintenance babies and my dad’s needs, while facing a possible reprieve with a job that could give me a sense of identity I felt I was missing.  

But Christi wasn’t well. Truth be told, we weren’t well. I felt alone, unable to see into what she had just been through.  

In the previous five months, Christi had given birth, gotten little sleep, and been unable to breastfeed our daughter. Suffering from debilitating and chronic back pain, she had endured the seventeen-hour drive to Hershey, the three weeks living with in-laws, and the gut-wrenching trip across the country for a job opportunity that didn’t pan out.

5 lessons about connection during the chaotic: 

1. Name your opponent 

Your spouse is not your opponent—your spouse is your greatest teammate. 

When life gets chaotic though, we tend to make our spouse the opponent. You have an enemy who wants to steal, kill, and destroy your marriage (John 10:10) by keeping your real opponent in the dark. 

When Christi and I first had children, a colicky baby became an opponent that warred against our marital intimacy. Later it was my dad’s illness. Your opponent right now may be good or bad: a job loss, financial difficulties, a sick parent, a new baby, deployment, or a recent move. 

What is your current opponent right now? When we fail to name our opponents, we start fighting against our spouse, rather than the opponent. 

2. Fight for your spouse’s heart 

Proverbs 4:23 says to “guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” I believe when we get married, we become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24), meaning we develop one marital heart. 

To guard my marital heart means I must pay attention to what’s going on within Christi’s heart more than what’s going on between the two of us. If I focus on what’s going on between the two of us, I start thinking about how I was wronged more than what she might be feeling. 

This is how easy it becomes to make our spouse our opponent. Instead, when I fight for Christi’s heart, I am no longer fighting against her. 

3. Talk about emotions 

Emotions are the gateway to the heart. When life is chaotic, we tend to only have conversations about the business of the day, instead of talking about how we felt throughout the day. 

Instead of sharing a high and low point within your day, begin increasing your emotional vocabulary by sharing with your spouse one positive emotion and one uncomfortable emotion you felt that day. 

4. Schedule sex 

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7:5 to not deprive one another from sex unless you both agree to abstaining for a limited time to fast and pray. 

When times are chaotic, sex often takes a back seat in the relationship. This is another way we give our greatest opponent a foothold. Trying to have spontaneous sex during chaotic times inevitably means someone will be tired and the other spouse is left disappointed. 

Instead, come into agreement with one another about how to keep things light, play together, use nonsexual touch to stay connected, and schedule sex. Having fun together leads to sex, and sex leads to having fun together. Make it a priority to have fun when times are chaotic. 

5. War in the supernatural 

Jesus said, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NLT).  

We can’t be naive to think we won’t have chaotic times as families. What’s happening in the supernatural world is more real than what’s happening in the natural world. Instead of focusing on what’s going on around you today, remember the authority you walk in with Jesus as your Savior. 

If you don’t pray with your spouse on a regular basis, don’t allow shame or embarrassment to stop you from intimately warring for one another in prayer. Jesus has already overcome the world. 

Let’s walk in our authority in him and stop trying to do it on our own.  

Excerpts taken from J. Straub and C. Straub, Famous at Home: 7 Decisions for Putting Your Family Center Stage in a World Competing for Your Time, Attention, and Identity (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale Momentum, 2022), p. 7–8.  

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Dr. Josh and Christi Straub

Dr. Josh and Christi Straub are speakers, authors, and marriage and leadership coaches. Together they lead Famous at Home, an organization devoted to equipping leaders, organizations, military families, and churches in emotional intelligence and family wellness. They host the weekly Famous at Home podcast, lead a yearlong coaching cohort called The Leader’s Heart, and have written children’s books on emotional intelligence titled What Am I Feeling? and What Do I Do with Worry? and on family discipleship titled Homegrown and 25 Days of the Christmas Story. Josh is also the author of Safe House: How Emotional Safety Is the Key to Raising Kids Who Live, Love, and Lead Well. Josh and Christi love spending time on the lake with their three sweet kids and their feisty goldendoodle, Copper. Their latest book, Famous at Home: 7 Decisions for Putting Your Family Center Stage in a World Competing for Your Time, Attention, and Identity, releases May 2022.

Read more about Dr. Josh and Christi

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