How Not to Break Up When the Going Gets Tough
No couple is immune to tough times.
Every relationship suffers some level of stress, loss, transition, upset, and negativity.
What is your marriage facing? Poor health or a career crisis? The loss of a parent or child? Is a financial crisis threatening your future?
Whatever tough times you may be experiencing, it can damage your relationship if you’re unsure of how to maintain a healthy connection.
Early marriage counseling and employing smart strategies can make a significant difference in the quality or even the survival of your marriage.
Here’s how trying times might just make your marriage stronger and closer:
Shift your thinking and behavior without drifting apart
Acknowledge and Accept: admit the existence of trouble and its impact on your relationship.
Often, tough circumstances ruin a perfectly good relationship because we simply don’t tell ourselves the truth. Avoidance can lead to procrastination that delays dealing with damaging stressors on or within your relationship.
It is vital to face hard facts and choose to be present, honest, and mindful of what’s happening in the life of your marriage. This goes a long way in keeping distance, resentment, or indifference from setting in.
Support and Empathize: turn toward each other and remain emotionally connected
Be a friend to each other. Speak and behave in ways that demonstrate your willingness to seek each other out for support. Encouragement and sincere efforts to understand each other’s feelings and viewpoints are vital.
Do your best to be emotionally aware, sensitive, and responsive. During difficult times, knowing that you can count on each other to notice and care about feelings prevents the kind of isolation and suffering that drives partners apart.
Communicate and Evaluate: don’t drown in the circumstances
Talk together about what you’re facing. Discuss the realities and your key concerns. Listen to each other and reflect what you hear for optimal understanding.
Be curious and open-minded with regards to each other’s ideas and solutions for relief and change. Communication that is focused on what you can mutually agree on, map out together, and accomplish as a team infuses hope and a renewed perspective.
Be sure to check in with each other often to be sure your communication remains clear and your agreements still hold. Allow each other the freedom to suggest tweaks and voice concerns along the way.
Prioritize intentional physical contact
Touch each other often. Kiss and hold hands. Reach out to pat, caress, embrace. Choosing to be physically close calms and soothes. It also highlights your connection rather than your struggles.
Touch communicates a sense of belonging, support and safety, ensuring that hard times are much less scary and divisive. If you find that connecting on a physical or intimate level is particularly difficult, consider individual or marriage counseling.
Share your gratitude as well as your gripes
You definitely want to be able to safely air your grievances, worries, and complaints to each other. But you don’t want to do that all the time. Balance your tough experiences and emotions with a sincere effort at gratitude.
Express thankfulness for some aspect of your situation, relationship, or the changes you’ve endured. You’ll likely feel more empowered and in control of your thoughts and emotions. Pay special attention to your partner’s strengths and the growth you’re experiencing. This can help refresh your relationship with new insights and a more positive outlook.
Forgo blame for forgiveness
Resist any desire to weaponized each other’s missteps, mistakes, or irresponsibility. Blame, passive aggression, and punishment won’t do your relationship any favors. Replace condemnation with compassion.
Are you exacerbating the difficulties you face by pointing out each other’s faults? Do you refuse to let go of the past? Are you reacting harshly toward attempts to resolve hurtful choices either of you have made?
When hard things are happening, try to respond with calm and a desire for progress. A measured, relationship-focused response rather than reactionary anger, sarcasm, resentment, or withdrawal preserves your connection. The goal is to deal with each other well and to choose to grow together by accepting (not condoning) each other’s human foibles. This makes space for healthy, forward movement.
The mental and physical stamina you need to navigate difficulty requires sufficient self-care. Understand that coping may look different to you and your partner. Provide opportunities to cope in ways that support and motivate you personally and as a couple.
Allow that one person may need hot baths and time to journal. Another person may prefer a two-mile jog and morning prayer or meditation. It’s perfectly fine to cope in your own ways. Respect each other’s space to do so. Then, take breaks from the stress together too. Make time for fun and new experiences.
To cope well and move forward together, you may also find that individual or marriage counseling is in order. Many couples find that professional guidance is the support they need to shore up their relationship through rocky periods.
Don’t be afraid to reach out early for the help you require as marriage counseling can help restore peace and balance.
About the Author
Dr. Stan Hyman is a licensed psychotherapist and life coach in private practice in Miami, Florida. He works with couples struggling with powerful issues such as infidelity, careers, intimacy, and communication. He also specializes in treating addictions, anger, anxiety, stress, depression and work-life balance.