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October 15, 2013

Couples Who Survive Disasters Together

by guest blogger Claire Dunning

Couple reaches toward each other in a storm
The word 'disaster' can be defined as an occurrence which causes destruction and distress. In a marriage or relationship disasters can come in all shapes and sizes. Financial disasters, bereavements, emotional problems and ill health are just a few of the things that can turn the life of one or both persons in a relationship upside down. The core values of our wedding vows state that couples should love and support each other through the good times and the bad, and thankfully many couples are able to make it through dark times in their lives together. But moving on from a disaster isn't always so easy and with the divorce rate in America approaching 50%, clearly many couples aren't always able to fully recover. When the event is over and the dust is settling there may be prolonged emotional unease that can last for months or even years and it is at this stage – the calm after the storm – that individuals are most likely to retreat within themselves. Here are some tips on how couples can deal with the aftermath of a disaster they have survived together and go forward to have a happy marriage.

Keep communicating

Communication is a fundamental part of any relationship but when you are distressed or unhappy it is even more important that you share your fears and worries with your partner. During a disaster you may find it surprisingly easy to communicate. Sometimes extreme situations can make many of us forget ourselves and simply say what it is on our mind, but this might not continue when things calm down. Communication is essential for closeness – if you stop communicating, particularly about the important things, then distance will begin creeping into your relationship. If you are able to relay your feelings to your partner then you can work through your issues together. Research shows that in the case of bereavement men and women tend to grieve differently. Women often feel as though men don't speak out about their feelings and this can lead to them becoming frustrated and isolated, while men may feel unable to express their true feelings because they feel the need to appear strong. When discrepancies like this arise, it can really cause long lasting problems so even if you don't feel able to verbalize your feelings, you need to make them known to your partner for both of your sakes. Perhaps writing them down in a letter could be the answer.

Be sympathetic

Sometimes a disaster may be something that happens to one person in the relationship but ultimately will affect both parties. In these cases both of you need to remain sympathetic to each other even if you can't fully understand the problems the other is facing. For example many women are prone to depression during or after pregnancy which is obviously something a man cannot understand on a physical level. Sympathy, knowledge and respect are needed for him to try and help his partner through this dark time in her life and be a support to her. Similarly, afterwards she has to try and understand how her condition has affected his life and be considerate of his feelings. Empathy is an important tool after a disaster because kindness is required to aid recovery. Trying to look at things from one another's point of view will help you to bond and understand what you have both gone through.

Don't isolate yourselves

As much as your main support should be from your partner, do not feel as though you need to isolate yourself from other friends, family or support networks. Overcoming problems should be something you do together, but in certain cases it can be helpful to seek guidance from an impartial source too. If an affair has occurred in the relationship for example, you may find it difficult to speak your partner and could benefit from discussing your feelings and situation with a counselor. Disasters can often cause internal confusion and uncertainty about the future so an impartial third party may be able to help you unify your thoughts and feelings before going back and discussing them with your partner.

Never be cruel

Sometimes disasters can bring out the worst in people. High pressure situations can cause severe amounts of stress and anger that can lead rows and bad feeling between couples. In the aftermath of a disaster do not play the blame game and do not be cruel to one another. If you have suffered some sort of layoff or financial disaster it can be easy to feel aggrieved with the person responsible and you may find that after the heated arguments of the initial event have died down, snide comments and reproachful remarks still linger. All this will do is cause bad feeling, distance and tension between you. If you make the decision to stay together then you have to try and leave blame and accusation behind. If you feel the need to express your disappointment or upset towards a partner then so be it, but try to do it respectfully if you want the relationship to continue.

Move on

If you have overcome a disaster and are still together then you have to begin looking towards the future. Sometimes this isn't easy. Certain disasters may change your life immeasurably and things will never be the same as they were before. But living in the past and dwelling on things that cannot be changed will not help you as individuals or as a couple to move forward with your lives. Getting back to normality may mean gradually introducing some of the things you used to do pre-disaster back into your lives or it may mean creating a whole new sense of normality with a new home or new pastimes. Either way try to remember that you are the same couple and that you have made it through the worst of times together. Do not let the past cloud your future together after all of your hard work.

1 smart person said something:

  1. I feel as if Tammy's Levaquin disaster was the catalyst for the Hoombah, our job transformation, our fitness and many other improvements. By using the techniques you discuss above, such as communicating and sympathy/empathy, we moved past it and our better future is happening now. Your tips really do work and even ought to be considered critical to coming out of a disaster intact. Great post as usual, Rosemary! Have a Pop Tart Wednesday!!!


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