Henry and Alex Seeley, who founded The Belonging Co church in Nashville, say the lockdown has affected each of them differently, and offered advice on how to work through challenges and any unresolved tensions that have been brought to the fore during the quarantine.
The couple moved to Tennessee from Australia in 2012 and began leading their congregation six years ago after starting off as worship leaders. Now their worship team consists of some of the biggest names in worship music today. During the state lockdown in response to the coronavirus, the couple have had to navigate leading services online and hosting small groups with their church members.
Henry and Alex Seeley shared with The Christian Post how they've been keeping their marriage strong during the quarantine and offered practical advice for couples whose marriages are struggling in this season.
The interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Christian Post: Stay-at-home orders can be challenging for couples who are trying not to take their frustrations out on each other. How have you been able to navigate married life in this season?
Henry: We just celebrated 22 years married. I think the further into marriage you get, the more you just realize the sacrificial element to marriage. I think that really is the essence of it. The further you get into marriage, the only way your marriage can not just survive but actually thrive and flourish, is when you are constantly from that heart posture of serving each other and not looking at what are my needs right now, but how can I serve? Obviously with that, when there's an equal balance of that, everybody's needs get met along the way; you do it with a different expectation.
For Alex and I coming into this season, we've kind of worked from home. The last five or six years, we haven't even had an office where our church offices are right now because our team has outgrown the space and so we work from home quite a bit, anyway. Before that, I've always had a studio from home, so I'm kind of used to being at home a lot. So I think we've really worked out and just got used to that kind of flow anyway in life.
I think during this season, thankfully it hasn't really affected us in a negative sense too much. I'm a bit of an introvert, so being at home for a month straight, that's no big deal. Alex has had some hard days where it's like, "I just need people, I need more people than just my immediate family."
Alex: I haven't been frustrated at my husband or the kids. I've been frustrated, but I've had a husband who's been sensitive to understand "My wife needs people; my wife, she's highs and lows." So because we've had a strong foundation in building who we are as a couple, this actually hasn't disrupted our normal. When there has been a moment, I've been pre-warning people so that people don't take it personal.
I think what it's (quarantine) been doing, it's been revealing the foundation of what marriage was built on. It's a real great indicator to see whether it was built on true relationship and conflict resolution and honoring, serving one another or whether the business of life masked a lot of our issues. I think it's a really important time for family and marriages to get it right. I thank God that honestly, I think we've had one fight, it was more of a meltdown, in the 42 days that we've been locked down.
CP: What advice do you have for couples in crisis on what to do to reestablish that foundation the proper way?
Henry: Don't ignore it. As crazy as this season is right now, I think it's the kindness of God on a lot of levels. Obviously, the illness has not come from God, this is not God's doing. Even the shutdown is not God's doing, but God will use any situation He can to get our attention.
I think it's so important, and we've encouraged people to do this, in every space in their life, use this time to assess — while you've got some time right now — where are the weaknesses? What are the weak areas? Where have I just ignored things because I've been so busy just working or pretending that everything's OK, both as an individual and if they're married, relationship. So I think don't ignore what's going on.
Also, don't allow the heightened sense of this close proximity to negatively affect the future but use it to say, "Alright, where are we? Where do we have tension points right now? Let's not argue about them. Let's sit down and work through them. Let's invite the Holy Spirit to help us in the center of our marriage to deal with this stuff."
Because God knew if you're a couple that's married before the Lord, God's in covenant with you. So there's no reason for it to not work. It just means that you've got to get in and do a bit of work, especially in a moment like this. I think as Alex said, so often we're so busy with other things with life, with work, with all these other distractions that you can go 10 or even 20 years without ever really dealing with some of these things that need to be dealt with. Use this time to just kind of get in that place with the Holy Spirit and ask Him to help in those areas.
Alex: I would just say, look inward rather than outward. Don't look at your spouse's issues. Look at your issues and ask, "What am I reacting to? Why am I getting offended? Why am I getting frustrated?" Write it down and then in a calm, cool, collected way, not in the heat of the moment, sit down and say, "I think these are areas that we need to work on and first admit fault. Be the first to say sorry, and be the first to go, "Hey, this is my issue but I think together we need to deal with it."
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you with displaying the fruits of the Spirit. I think the nine fruits of the Spirit are really important in this season of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control is really important. I think honestly, we can come out of this a lot stronger and a lot more like Christ.
Henry: I think oftentimes, it's easy to forget that you're on the same team. I think a lot of couples kind of fight from their own side of the playing field in marriage. One of the things I'm thankful that we were taught, even before we got married, is you're on the same team. You're not on opposing sides.
From day one of our marriage, we haven't always lived that out perfectly by any means but we've always come back to that place of, "Hang on, we're on the same team, why are we fighting against each other? We should be fighting for each other and for this marriage, so let's get on the same page here."
Honestly, it's been one of the keys to our marriage. I think it's been one of the keys to us raising our kids. Again, we haven't done a perfect job of raising our kids, but we've raised our kids really well, in general, and our family's peaceful for the most part because there's never been two sides. And the kids haven't had the option to go to dad if they don't get the response from mom that they want. We're always on the same side. So I think that's just a really huge part of marriage, just realizing that.