When sh1t happens
If you are couple and have experienced together a sick child, moving home/city/country, financial losses, death or endured some kind of chaos or trauma, you will know the relentless strain external circumstances can place on a relationship. Two people experiencing turmoil simultaneously can be the nail in the coffin for any relationship.
That kind of force has the potential to do one of two things. Either it will be the catalyst for the two to unite or divided they will fall. Having been through my own personal nightmare of a year, I can say that when sh1t happens and the going gets tough, the tough would do well to manage their own anxiety, stress and levels of overwhelm without letting it poison the relationship. When it feels like one is drowning, looking after, supporting and nurturing another person and a marriage is not really possible. There just isn’t the strength or energy to be ‘supportive’. To be ‘patient’. To be ‘tolerant’. To not be uptight. Of course you are uptight. You are in the middle of something traumatic and emotionally overwhelming. Being ‘oversensitive’ goes with the territory. We tend to take things more personally. Our anger or resentment of the situation subsides briefly and normally bursts out of us with the wrong person, at the wrong time and for the wrong reasons. Coping with feelings of helplessness, desperation, panic and fear as well as getting all the stuff done in a day that needs to get done without collapsing in a big pile of emotional mess AND not taking it out on your partner… well, that is no small feat. Surviving emotional trauma is the graduate degree in the university of life.
Getting through one day at a time without resorting to your drug of choice or any other escapism tactic is the way to get through the dark times toward better days. Just one day at a time. And in that one day, notice all the things you have to be grateful for. Remind yourself how lucky you are for aspects that are working well in your life. Be mindful of all the blessings you have received in your life so far. Show appreciation for the simple pleasures in your life. When we shift the focus from worry, doom and gloom to the uplifting, empowering and encouraging things in our lives, we get through each day with more strength and resolve. As our attention shifts from the fearful talk in our minds to the warmth we feel in our hearts, we seem to build a greater capacity to remain centered amidst the chaos. Like the eye of the storm.
We only need to turn on the news or read a newspaper and learn of all the atrocities happening in the world to figure out we wouldn’t trade our set of problems so easily with another. If you really want a reality check on how good you got it, take a walk through a children’s hospital or visit a night shelter. That is a very quick way to sober up to the fact that it could always be worse. I know because just when you think it can’t get worse, it does.
Having been through it myself and supported several clients through some very difficult times of their own what stands out for me the most is that gentleness and compassion with our Self is our best chance of surviving the chaos. It requires digging real deep, connecting to the adult inside and reminding oneself at least every 5 minutes “this too shall pass”. Being kind to yourself means surrounding yourself with people that support and uplift you, not those whom belittle, drain and exhaust you. Being gentle with your Self means looking after your body with frequent exercise and quality nutrition in order to process all the excess cortisol (that makes us tired and cranky) produced by an overworked adrenal system. Nurturing yourself means feeding your mind with inspiring and motivational content, not depressing or anxiety producing information. Compassion for your Self requires some respect for your current state and limiting your exposure to experiences that will only worsen your frame of mind. It means being vigilant and disciplined about what an already overwhelmed ‘body mind spirit’ will be exposed to. If you don’t do it, who will? Your partner is more than likely unable to be your rock when chaos hits. It’s about self preservation. Each to his own.
As long as neither spouse takes out their fear and anxiety on the people closest to them a.k.a their partner, the relationship can pick up and resume its health when you get your life back or some sense of your Self back.
The good news about hitting rock bottom is that it is a very good foundation upon which to build your future. And if you have managed not to destroy your relationship in the process, it is an ever better place upon which to rebuild a marriage. A stronger, more powerful updated version of the old one.
When sh1t happens, it is an opportunity to clear out the superfluous people, activities and stuff that add no real value in your life. It is a marvelous way of highlighting and acknowledging the precious things that bring us huge pleasure. It is a cunning way of forcing us to be more appreciative for our past and current blessings. And if you can ride it out with grace and elegance, it can be – paradoxically – the best thing to happen to your relationship.