No matter how wonderful your life is, there are times when unexpected and unwanted events occur and throw off everyone involved.
It might be a health crisis that lands you, your partner or another family member in the hospital. It could be a natural disaster like a tornado or earthquake that knocks out power to your home and maybe causes damage to your property. It may be a financial crisis in which you or your partner lose a job or suffer a significant loss in the stock market.
There’s no doubt that a crisis is stressful and difficult to get through. It can also bring tension and conflict to your relationship…
And this is the LAST thing you need!
Added to whatever challenge you are facing, you and your partner might be more irritable with one another. You may somehow blame him or her for this– even if you logically know that’s not fair.
A crisis often brings up a fight or flight response. Your partner might also be on edge and braced for what could come next to disrupt your lives. The adrenaline is rushing and tempers may be flaring.
The good news is that even in the midst of a full-blown crisis, you and your partner can keep your connection healthy and strong. You can more easily move through whatever is going on when you work as a team.
To successfully cope as a couple with a crisis takes conscious intention and a few key strategies that we’ll share now…
#1: Meet your basic needs.
In a crisis, you and your partner are both probably carrying more emotional and maybe even physical load than usual. This might be clearing up storm damage or recovering from a medical procedure. It may also involve a lot of strong emotions that you are trying to stuff down so that you can make it through the day.
We encourage you to make sure your basic needs are being met. Get rest when you can. Stay hydrated with clean water and eat healthy and whole foods. Be sure to also allow regular time to meditate, pray or just let out those feelings you’ve been holding back.
If you aren’t able to get your basic needs met because of the crisis, ask for help. Lean into the support that neighbors, family, charitable organizations and others can give you.
#2: Don’t make your partner the problem.
Being in a crisis can feel helpless and disempowering. This is why some people unintentionally start looking for someone to blame. Unfortunately, this often means that a person will find a way to blame his or her partner for the crisis– even if that’s inaccurate and unfair.
Recognize it when you are blaming your partner for what has happened. There could be some role that he or she played in bringing about the crisis, but this is not the time to point fingers. (It’s likely that you also played a part.)
Drop the accusations and condemnations. It is helpful to take responsibility for your share and to learn from what happened, but this is the time to cope and get through it. Together.
#3: Address the small parts.
Focus on finding solutions. If you feel overwhelmed and helpless, take a deep breath, get your basic needs met as best as you can AND look for something, anything you CAN do.
This might be picking up twigs in your back yard even though you have no electricity. It may be helping clear your neighbor’s yard. This could be finding out how to support your partner during recovery. It may be identifying one area of debt and developing a plan for how to start paying it down.
You and your partner can sit down together and pick out one “small” part that you’ll work on together. Or, you can work together to identify a few “small” parts and then address those individually.
If you can’t find a “small” part of the crisis that you can do something about, then re-focus on self-care. If you can get just a little bit calmer and clearer, when you look at your situation again, it will be easier to find something you can do to bring improvement– even if it’s “little” improvement.
#4: Keep the big picture in mind.
Noticing any signs of improvement is powerful. As you acknowledge those “small” parts of the crisis and you make “little” steps to fix, resolve or cope with them, remember that these are parts of the whole.
These efforts you are making and possible signs of improvement add up to the big picture.
Point this out both to yourself and to your partner. Congratulate one another as you make it through another day and remind each other that things can (and are) actually getting better.