MAKING THE RIGHT MOVES
Because every marriage or relationship between a man and woman or their partner will encounter crises, it’s crucial for you to understand how to handle the burdens of stress, uncertainty, and pain.
No brief summary can cover this complex subject in all its subtlety; however, here are seven important steps that will help you weather the storm:
Step 1: TALK ABOUT WHAT’S HAPPENING
When facing hard times, many husbands and wives tend to withdraw from each other rather than seeking support and solace from each other.
Husbands, especially, may fall silent and “hunker down” alone.
This reaction is understandable in some respects: you may feel so overwhelmed during a crises that you try to conserve your emotional energy as you deal with the situation.
Also, many emotions are difficult to express at such times, such as when coping and suffering with job loss or the illness of a family member.
A better approach: keep talking about the situation you face. Share your frustrations, anguish, and worries. Strategize and plan together on how to solve the problems in your mind.
An ongoing conversation about your crisis won’t be easy or fun – in fact, you may find it emotionally wrenching – but taking this route is far better for both of you.
Step 2: STAY ON THE TEAM
This steps build on Step 1. If you can keep your communication channels open, you have a better chance of staying together together as you face the crisis. By doing so, you gain two great advantages.
First, you give yourself a better chance to strategize about the situation and plan your responses. You’re far stronger as a team than each of you would be on your own. You’ll come up with more (and better) ideas about how no proceed.
You’ll also present a united, more persuasive “front” when dealing with the world (such as in coping with doctors, lawyers, institutions, or whomever else you have to face).
Second, you’ll have a better chance of staying close as a couple. As a man, you always want to know how to stay on her good side.
Crises of every sort are stressful, and stress often serves as a wedge between the spouses. The divorce rate for couples following the death of a child, for instance, is high.
Working hard to stay in touch with each other -through verbal communications and emotional support-is crucial and will pay off in the long run. I urge you to do whatever you can to maintain a sense of mutual emotional support.
Sign#3: AVOID VENTING PAIN AND ANGER AGAINST EACH OTHER
It’s common that when facing a crisis, husbands and wives will vent their frustrations against each other as a “safety valve.”
If you have a sick child, for example, you’re more likely to express your anguish against your spouse rather than against the doctors and nurses at the hospital.
This is understandable but still problematic. Still, I strongly urge you both not to use each other as scapegoats during a stressful time.
Talking over the situation honestly and openly will help you avoid resorting to demoralizing martial warfare.
What should you do if your spouse vents his or her anger against you anyway?
That depends on the specifics of what’s happening. Physical abuse is unacceptable under all circumstances. If you feel you’re in danger of spousal abuse.
Don’t put yourself in danger. If, on the other hand, the abuse is verbal, you face a more complex situation.
Verbal abuse, too, is unacceptable, but it may be more understandable during an acute crises.
My recommendation is, again, to find external support-a pastoral counselor or a psychotherapist-who can help you and your spouse deal with this stressful situation.
Step#4: GIVE EACH OTHER TIME ALONE
Just as you should try to provide support to your spouse, you need to know when to back off. Crises are often so depleting that each member of a couple will need a chance to recuperate from the physical and emotional demands of coping.
Yes, communicating and standing together is important. But so is having time alone. Almost everyone needs a measure of solitude to rest, reflect on the situation, and generally “recharge.”
This is especially true if you’re facing a protracted crisis, such as a family member’s illness, recovery from an accident, or rehabilitation from an addiction.
My recommendation: don’t be offended if your spouse needs to pull back now and then and seek solitude. It’s part of the normal human coping mechanism. Grant yourself this same opportunity. Each of you-and your marriage as a whole-will benefit.
Step#5: KNOW WHEN YOU CAN FIX THINGS
…and when you can’t! I’m all for pushing hard when doing so will make a difference. There will be times, however, when you can’t solve the problem facing you. There are times when you can’t make everything better.
If your spouse’s mother dies, for instance, you can’t undo the death.
You can’t even take away the burden of grief that your spouse is feeling. You just can’t fix the situation.
What you should do at such times? First and foremost, you need to accept that there are some events in life that are beyond our control.
Some problems are too big for us to fix. We’re only human. If you can accept the limits that are part of being human, you’ll take off some of the pressure you’ll feel otherwise. The result is-perhaps oddly-liberating.
Once you accept your inability to solve the problem, you’re free to do more fully what is within your power as a husband or as a wife; to offer your spouse love and support.
Step#6: GET HELP
One of the most common mistakes that couples make during a crises is to try to deal with the situation on their own. I regard this approach as unfortunate for several reasons.
First of all, many issues are too complex to resolve alone. Second, flying solo risks increasing the stress you feel, which can lead to psychological problems such as depression and anxiety, or even to physical health problems.
Third, it’s just not necessary to carry these burdens on your own shoulders. A wealth of resources is available for almost any health – or mental health-related challenge you may be facing.
For instance, almost every major illness in existence-from Alzheimer’s disease to Zollinger-Ellison syndrome-has prompted someone to set up a foundation, research center, or support group to help people deal with it.
Step#7: BE STRONG FOR EACH OTHER
Finally, regardless of sexual preference, I urge you to stay loyal to each other and see each other through the crises. This
is easier said than done, I know. But in addition to offering so many other benefits, one of the extraordinary gifts that marriage provides is the possibility of offering a safe haven in the middle the storm.
If you and your spouse can stay steady with each other, you will be granting each other support and solace of a sort that almost nothing else in life can provide.
This isn’t something that just happens. Loyalty and supportiveness require active choice. I urge you to make that choice.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 28, 2017 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.