How to come together as a couple during a crisis
When life is good, being married and keeping a relationship together can sometimes seem hard enough to do. And it can especially feel impossible when you are combining two very different people with very opposite pasts.
But, when life is added in, and the storms begin to swirl, it sometimes seems as though there is no way to stick together and survive the mess. Trust us though, when we say it is actually possible, and there are so many examples of couples out there with inspiring stories to share.
So often in times of crisis, when you are both experiencing incredible discouragement, pain, hurts and disappointments, it can be easy to turn against each other rather than join together and fight as a team for your marriage and for your future.
But all good things in life are worth fighting for, and we believe your marriage is on the top of that list. Because we want you to know that you aren't alone, we went straight to the source -- real life couples who walked through the fire and came out stronger and more in love because of it all.
"My husband and I went through the painful and incomprehensibly complicated trauma of me testifying against the perpetrator who attacked me at knife point and raped me a decade ago.
The process was almost two years, part of it living across the country in and out of court rooms. We found a way to enjoy time with each other, to go on dates, to lean on friends and family. He respected my boundaries and supported me without question; this helped me heal and built a strong bond between us that is unshakable. I encouraged him to have guys' time to decompress and escape for a while so it did not consume us 24/7. Now I know that whatever life brings us, we know how to lift each other up and give each other the support -- and space -- vital to a happy and healthy relationship." - Marnie Goodfriend
"It's incredible when they look you in the face while you are conquering a fear, and stand behind you and push you through to the finish. God's given the strength to both of you, and sometimes for him, it's the strength to support, and to you the strength to allow them to help." -Sheryl Wingate
Tips for growing closer
In talking more with Shelby Riley, Marriage and Family Therapist, we asked if she could share some tips for couples on how to grow closer through trials:
Most people in crisis need someone to be calm, safe and somewhat directive. Ask your spouse if they want a safe person to vent to, or if they want actual advice. Depending on the level of crisis, some people really do need suggestions about how to proceed, but I think it's important to ask permission to give advice before giving it. Often people interpret advice giving as a message that they are weak or stupid and can't figure things out for themselves.
Being a safe partner means being calm and curious. Don't let your emotional reactivity allow you to act in a stressed, judgmental or anxious way. Soothe your own reactivity so you can be present, calm and soothing for your partner. Ask questions from a place of curiosity: "Tell me more about why you're worried about that" rather than a place of judgment: "Why in the world would you do that?"
The other helpful thing a spouse can do is help to give their partner perspective: This feels like a crisis and it is really important, but will this impact our lives 10 years from now? Ten months from now? Ten weeks from now? Holding respect for the problem while offering to strip away the catastrophe aspect of crisis situations can help your spouse get calm and think things through in a different way. Lastly, offering up your unconditional love and support can go a really long way.
Most importantly, we believe that if we can just remember the reasons we came together as a couple, and cling to that passion we had in the beginning to fight for them and for the marriage, you too can come out stronger and more in love than ever before.
And hopefully, through the pain, there will be a lesson and a beauty that you can then share with others in your life.