Marriage Monday: 5 Ways to Survive a Crisis With Your Marriage Intact

I have written about marriages in crisis before, but the reality is that many marriages (mine included) come to a time of crisis because the individuals in the marriage were going through a time of external crisis and failed to care for their marriage through the crisis.

In our marriage, we evidently don't do health issues, we do house issues. And, of course, we have had the health issues of our loved ones to contend with. But we have flooded, then five years later had a trench jackhammered through the middle of my home. We have been through unemployment and relocation in the last year alone -- okay, year and a half.  We know some stress.

You do, too, no doubt, and yours will be different from mine. One thing I have learned is we each have our own "freak out level." Don't judge people whose freak out level is 12 steps away from yours -- they are doing the best that they can with the tools they have been given. It doesn't mean they are weak, it means they haven't developed the same muscles that you have. All is grace.

Of course, this should apply to your spouse, as well.

5 Ways to Survive a Crisis With Your Marriage Intact
1) Start With a Firm Foundation: if you're in the middle of crisis now, this is like telling you that you should have learned to swim as you are slipping underwater in rough seas. I don't mean to do that, of course. But if you aren't in the middle of a life crisis, you know that eventually you will have one. A dear friend, Beverly Ross, says: "Prepare in the light for when the darkness comes." Yes, the darkness will come into your life. Learn to communicate with your spouse, know how you handle stress, hows/he handles stress. Have the best relationship with your spouse that you possibly can in the great times so that you will make it through the tough times.

2) Be the grown-up as much as possible: No doubt, crisis brings out the worst in all of us. Besides making us lose our temper and our cool, it can also bring about physical symptoms (headaches, sick stomach, achy muscles, etc.) that add to you wanting to lash out. (Some tricks to help you relax in times of stress.) But remember that whatever crisis you are in, your spouse is to some degree, even if only because s/he wants to help and take the load off as much as possible and may not know how. And sometimes your spouse will blow his/ her top. The words he is saying may be, "Can't you hold the flashlight still??" But the meaning behind it is: "I am stressed beyond belief about how we are going to pay for this." Understand that. Getting into a shouting match about how still you ARE holding the flashlight isn't going to help diffuse the situation. Along the same lines:

3) Bite your tongue as much as possible: One of the ways you may want to "prepare in the light for when the darkness comes" (that I confess I have not) is commit Philippians 4:8 to memory: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things." And then... only speak those things, as well. On the flip side:

4) Speak up as much as possible: Remind your spouse of the positives in the situation (do you have medical insurance? A 2nd car for while the first is in the shop? do you have each other?) Whatever you can think of. Also, as you can, step back and let your spouse know s/he is doing a great job of handling the situation or easing your load or whatever. Notice the little things... and speak up.

5) Take care of yourself and encourage your spouse to do the same: ESPECIALLY when you are in it for the long haul: caring for a sick parent or child, unemployment, whatever, each of you should see the necessity of taking care of yourself physically. It's the airplane analogy of putting the oxygen mask over your own face first before you put it over the person you are traveling with. Why? Because people who have passed out from lack of oxygen are unable to help the people around them get oxygen. Exercise. Get sleep. Eat right. All of those things you don't want to think about when it feels that your world is imploding. 

I know of one amazing mom who is currently going through her third year of chemo treatments for her 5 year old daughter. Due to medical facilities, etc., they decided this year --- in a few weeks' time -- to move 150 miles away, closer to better treatment options. Through ALL of this, she does all that she can to get out for a walk or run every day (it doesn't always happen). I so admire her for this and what it models to her family. She knows that a few minutes of exercise can hit the recharge button, clear the brain, and allow her to be the best mom possible to her girls. Of course, she also encourages her husband to go on his bike rides. They make quite a team.

Crisis will come, but it doesn't have to take your marriage with it. Some wise people allow crisis to forge their marriage into a stronger entity than before. May that be the case for you!

So many of you have great thoughts on this. Other ideas? What to do during times of crisis to make sure it doesn't hurt your marriage?

1 comment:

SheilaGregoire said...

Great post, Sarah! Thanks for linking up to Wifey Wednesdays. For me, the hard part is the biting my tongue. As an extravert, my initial reaction is to speak everything that's on my mind, but that isn't always helpful. So it's a good reminder to take lots of deep breaths and ask yourself, "is this really necessary to express"?

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