Communicate, Integrate and Celebrate
Thriving in your relationship in the midst of a crisis
by Julie Jordan Scott
ow well a couple weathers a crisis is usually a good indicator of whether they will survive and thrive, survive and live in blahs for quite some time, or not survive, winding up as another statistic in the divorce court. Thriving as a couple following the death of a parent or child, job loss, illness or major life change can be challenging, but it is definitely more likely when several factors are considered.
My husband and I took a parenting class when our now-six-year-old daughter was two-and-a-half. One of our home work assignments included taking a personality test, which would tell us how we were most receptive to expressions of love according to the "love languages" by which we spoke and lived. My love languages included the need to spend quality time together as well as a need for verbal approval. Ken's love is best expressed in physical touch and acts of service.
So, to make Ken feel loved, I would make him a really nice meal, or pick up his clothes from the cleaner or do something extra and unexpected for him. If I coupled that with some kind of physical affection, I would be covering all my bases and really making Ken feel very very loved!
If Ken was trying to make me feel loved, he would spend a full day with me, engaging me in lots of in depth conversations, paying attention to doing the activities that I most enjoy. He would also compliment me as appropriate, using words to do so.
A difficulty arose for us, though, because before we took this assessment, neither of us had a clue what the other's love languages were! Ken would grab me in a great big bear hug, and I would feel violated more than loved. I would say to Ken "I really love you, Honey" and he would say, "What did I do wrong?" Obviously, we were trying to communicate love in the way that we most needed to personally have love expressed.
Keeping the crisis from taking over
In the period following a crisis, we often lose sight of those intricacies of our relationship. In my situation, our crisis was ongoing infertility. So instead of focusing on our relationship, we were more concerned with test results and dates on a calendar than we were with why we got married in the first place.
When we focus on the crisis alone, what are we communicating to each other? From this perspective, it looks as if we let the crisis get larger than our love for each other. We have handed over all our power to the crisis. We have turned the crisis into some kind of anti-hero from a bad romance novel.
So how do we prevent turning the crisis we face into the third member of our marriage? The solution can be very simple, but actually enacting it can take practice since we are so used to personifying our particular crisis.
First of all, we can make a point to communicate our love to each other in a way that is meaningful to the other person. Be aware of what makes each other tick, so to speak. When you express love to your partner, do so in a way that reflects them, not you! This may take time to adjust.
A good start would be a heart-to-heart over a cup of coffee or tea in a neutral setting. Remember when you were first dating, and you used to woo each other? Back then, we were very attuned to each other: so try it again! Practice makes perfect, so if the first attempts don't bring about the outcome you hoped for, try a little different twist along the same lines.
Next, integrate the way you communicate your love to your spouse in everything you do together. Don't hold it into a little box with a label: "To be taken out only when I feel romantic." Show love when you truly expect nothing in return. Express love and affection just for the heck of it! Focus on your partner's needs rather than your own.
First, you communicate the love you have for each other in the ways your partner is most receptive. Secondly, integrate these manners into every area of marriage, not just the obvious romantic ones. Finally, celebrate the outcome of showing love at this level consistently over a matter of time. I can guarantee you that this will catapult you into the category of couples who survive and thrive the difficult times.
Celebrate your love regardless of the crisis. For us it meant celebrating whether or not we got pregnant. Celebrate the family you may already have. Celebrate your history as a couple by reminiscing about when you first met. Celebrate your marriage each and every day that you are together.
My baby Emma was conceived during one of these periods of celebration. I had resigned myself to the fact that we weren't going to have any children without medical assistance. I had already called to get a Clomid prescription started for when my cycle would begin that month. Early one morning after a friend called to tell me she had had her third baby late the previous night, Ken and I celebrated that hope springs eternal. Ken said, "Maybe we made a baby, too!" and I replied, "Ken, this had nothing to do with having a baby. This only had to do with how much we love each other." I was sure surprised when I got the positive pregnancy test! This was a time when I wasn't supposed to be able to conceive, at least according to the calendar.
Even if there wasn't an Emma, though, I would still have been able to feel contentment because I love my husband. By continuing to base our relationship on love, rather than on our crisis, I know we will continue well into the next century.
Julie Jordan Scott is a Speaker, Writer and "Passion Coach" who works with people to live their lives according to their passion. Does your organization need an uplifting speaker? Would you benefit from Passion Coaching? Visit Julie at her website, http://www.5passions.com to subscribe to her free ezines, read her free ebooks, or contact her about speaking to your group. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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