Life Happens

THE Relationship Blog


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Life happens. Life is full of highs and lows and lots of the same stuff day-in and day-out. When you are married or in a long term relationship, we try not to think of the possible crises. We avoid the subject of how you will deal with lows because they are too scary. The truth of the matter is that life happens.  In a relationship, we can be affected by the highs just as much as the lows. This week CoupleDumb will tackle how a couple can stay strong during crises and how to deal with the unimaginable.

Cognitively, we know about mortality. We understand on a cerebral level that all things come to an end. We joke that there is nothing certain except for death and taxes. And yet, we are completely surprised when confronted with the prospect of death. Denial is how we get through life. If we sit and dwell at the inevitability of life then we would all be basket cases. This is why a little denial is a good thing and yet, that same denial can stymie the process of grief to a point where it becomes pathological. Now, we are not talking about grief as the emotional process that only takes place after a death but as a healthy course of action in dealing with any loss. The most important kind of loss that a couple can deal with is the loss of denial.

When we get together everything is springtime and lollipops. The sex is amazing. The talks are always long and deep. The snuggling happens naturally and all is right with the world. This is where forever is real and tangible. As we grow in relationship, we develop that healthy denial of inevitability. We do things to establish roots even though a bus can run us over at any minute. We get 30 year mortgages, we have children and invest in their education, and we even talk about traveling the world when we retire like elderly gypsies. We try to take care of ourselves. We take vitamins, exercise and avoid pointy objects. Our denial convinces us that we can elude any eventuality. And then, the unimaginable happens.

In my case, I remember that day as the day that Paul hurt his back. It wasn’t that simple. I was told, ‘Pooky, I can’t move my legs’. He was not tossing cabers. He was a CFO who suddenly could not move his legs. While I drove to him, I went over in my mind every possible diagnosis that could cause numbness or paralysis of the legs. None of them were good. When I finally reached him, he was pale and frightened which did not make me feel any better. At the hospital, the time dragged as he created death scenes in his head and I was already wondering how I was going to tell the children that their Dad had a horrible, debilitating disease.

This is when the unimaginable can win and destroy the couple.   Crises hurt couples because they decide to handle it alone but side by side. They fear sharing the conversations that are going on in their heads even though they are probably identical.

At some point, we remembered one of our steadfast rules in our marriage; we are an island in a sea of crazy. We cleave to one another and make sure to buoy the other when we get tired of treading water.  We are a corporation; an entity outside of ourselves and that same company is greater than the sum of its parts. In other words, I am great, he is great, but together, we are amazing!

Remember this when lightning strikes. Don’t focus on the possibility of the storm but prepare, as a couple that there will be rough seas. Communicate the fears and hold on tight.

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