Surviving a crisis together
By Jim and Jeanne Caverly
Normal reactions to an abnormal situation
For the first time in your relationship, you may see a side to your partner that you’ve never seen before. It may seem as though you are living with a stranger. Major conflicts may arise over minor issues. Old unresolved conflicts or accumulated minor irritations bubbling just below the surface might erupt without direct provocation, adding more emotional debris to an already unbearable situation. These are normal reactions to an abnormal situation. To survive and grow closer through crisis requires relationship CPR:
Commit: mutually express your commitment to survive the crisis together. Commit to keeping your relationship intact. Commitment is the foundation of relationship survival. It needs to be verbally expressed by both partners to each other before and especially during a period of crisis. Each partner needs to know that the other wants the relationship to survive. Speak or write your commitment, but don’t assume—assumptions can be inaccurate.
Persevere: when times are really tough, persevere—do what needs to be done next. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re tired, rest. If there’s a bill to be paid, pay it. Don’t try to think ahead, just do the next thing. In time, you will feel better. The intense emotional pain will not last forever. Honor your commitment to your partner and persevere.
Respect: each other’s differences. You and your partner may not handle the crisis in the same way—physically or emotionally. You may have different reactions, different grieving styles and different feelings. This does not mean that one of you is right and the other is wrong-it just means you are different. It is vital to respect and accept your differences. Allow your partner to handle the crisis and to heal in the way that is best for him or her.
Allow yourself and your spouse to heal
At some point you will know in your heart that you need to feel happy again. It may be necessary to give yourself permission to do this. Each of you will probably arrive at this point at different times. Respect for and acceptance of each other’s individuality is crucial during this phase of your healing journey.
C A R E suggestions for couples
Communicate and Compromise: Talk with each other. Schedule a private “talking time” (daily or several times a week) and stick to it. Just the two of you. No beepers, phone calls, TV, or other distractions. Grieve the way you need to grieve, while being as sensitive as possible to your partner’s needs and feelings. Try to reach compromises which give your spouse room to heal.
Activities together: Do something new and do it together. Join a bowling league. Play bridge. Join a support group for the bereaved: “Draw strength from their successes. Learn from their failures.”
Rest: Getting enough rest is extremely important—try not to ‘do battle’ in the bedroom or close to bedtime. Keep your bedroom sacred, free from conflict and tension.
Eat right and exercise: especially when you don’t feel like it! Prepare and eat healthy meals together. Ask your doctor about taking vitamin supplements and using homeopathic remedies for anxiety and depression. Exercise together—walk, hike, bike, etc. Walk 30–40 minutes per day. Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine. Avoid excessive use of sugar, salt, caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.
Relationship CPR works best when the lines of communication are kept open.“Keep talking and keep listening.” Just as CPR does the physical work of the heart, relationship CPR can help you do the emotional work of surviving an unexpected life crisis together.
Commit! Persevere! Respect!
Jeanne and Jim Caverly, married 33 years and still learning, run Crisis Options Consulting and Training. For more information visit www.CrisisOptions.com, email CrisisOptions@mac.com or call 573.7453.