We are going through an unprecedented crisis right now and many people are wondering how couples survive when times are as tough as these.
It’s a good question. And, while these are particularly tough times, couples are often faced with crises over the course of their relationship. Jobs are lost, kids get in trouble, parents get old, cars are crashed…the list goes on and on.
And, with each and every crisis, couples have to navigate the murky waters that accompany them and try to help each other stay afloat.
So, how couples survive during times of crisis is by keeping these few things in mind.
#1 – Don’t stop talking.
One thing that couples tend to really struggle with is communication.
Remember, at the beginning, when you would stay up until all hours of the night, sharing your history and your hopes and dreams? And now, after a certain amount of time together, the healthy communication has, to a large degree, slowed down.
Instead of talking about what each other wants or needs, couples tend to sink into themselves. Women often want their partners to know what they need without having to tell them. Men often have no idea what their partner needs and therefore are hesitant to try anything for fear of being wrong.
It is important that, when considering how couples survive during times of crisis, couples make an effort to communicate with their partners, not only their wants and needs but to talk to each other like human beings. When communication stops, it can be hard to start up again so keeping the lines of communication open will allow each person to know that their person is there for them if they need them to be and to know that they can, in turn, be there for their partner.
Surviving crises can be difficult as a couple but, if lines of communication are kept open, getting through them can often be easier as a team.
#2 – Respect each other’s feelings.
I remember, at the beginning of this Covid-19 crisis, my partner and I had very different needs.
I needed to read everything about it that I could and share it out loud. My partner didn’t want the constant updates because they were stressing him out. Because he is patient with me and loves me, he didn’t tell me that my updates were stressing him out. Fortunately, one day he wasn’t able to hide his feelings of anguish and I saw what my words were doing to him. So, I stopped updating him and still indulged my need to know everything. Silently.
Things doesn’t always work out this way. Oftentimes couple’s needs are so diametrically opposed to each other that they are completely incomprehensible to the other person. I have heard stories of couples who have lost children and were driven apart because of each other’s modes of grieving. They just couldn’t understand what the other was doing and it caused resentment and further anguish.
It is important to notice, as I did, or ask your partner, what they need in a crisis. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for the other. And vice versa. If you can respect what your partner does and needs, and in turn share your own, you are more likely to be a model of how couples survive in a crisis and not one of many whose relationships just don’t make it through.
#3 – Don’t be selfish.
Many relationships have certain patterns, patterns that make their relationship special. Whether it’s foot rubs in front of the TV or always being responsible for the laundry or getting up early to walk the dog, there are things that people do for each other to make them feel loved.
Often, the first thing that falls to the side during times of crisis is those patterns. Someone who used to do the dishes every night no longer does so because that is when the family comes together on a Zoom call to discuss their mother’s illness. Or perhaps you no longer get foot rubs in front of the TV because your partner is exhausted from looking for jobs all day.
It is important that, if these things are happening, you try not to get selfish and resentful. Of course, you have needs, things that you have always received and need to feel loved, but try to understand that, during times of crisis, those things might fall to the side. I know that it’s hard to do, to stay strong when your small needs aren’t being met, but know that, most likely, it’s only temporary and after this period of time has passed, things will go back to normal.
#4 – Take care of yourself.
The flip side of not being selfish is to take care of yourself. If your needs aren’t being met by your partner, it is important that you practice self-care.
If your feet aren’t getting rubbed at night, perhaps get a massage or see a reflexologist. If you are left with the dishes, build some time into your evening and know that it won’t be forever. If you have to walk the dog, perhaps do so with a friend so that you can chat away, without guilt, for an hour. These patterns might be missing now but they won’t be forever.
If we don’t make an effort to take care of ourselves during times of crisis we can find ourselves full of resentment with our partners, resentment about being ignored and left behind during hard times. We need to love and care for ourselves so that we can stay strong, both for our health and the health of our relationship as a couple.
#5 – Get help.
Finally, if you find that you and your partner are circling the drain during this difficult time, it would be a good idea to get help. A therapist or a life coach will be able to help you deal with the things I addressed above. Many couples really struggle with them and having a professional help you can make all the difference.
It is very, very important that, if you find yourself pulling away from your spouse, you understand that the damage that is being caused by the disconnect might cause irreparable damage, so get ahead of it. Ask for some help. You will be glad you did!
When you look around and wonder how couples survive during times of crisis do you wonder if it’s just you, is it just your relationship that doesn’t seem strong enough to get through this?
I can promise you that you are not alone. Many couples really struggle when faced with difficult life experiences but many of them are successful at coming out the other side.
Make sure you keep the lines of communication open and ask what each other needs, to respect those needs without resentment, to try to put your own needs second and yet to take care of yourself at the same time and, if all else fails, get some help!
You and your partner can get through this. I know you can! And if I can help let me know!
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I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.