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At some point or another, all marriages will go through turbulent patches. The list of reasons why could literally go on forever, but some of the most common reasons are: financial troubles, parenting differences, infidelity, lack of trust, family and friend related drama, lack of communication, career challenges, addiction, personality clashes, depression, physical appearance changes, sickness, grief, moving, or external family stress and pressure. All couples should know when they get married that life is not going to be 100% happy, loving, and Instagram worthy as life has a way of throwing us curve balls when we least expect it. Real life is messy; people change, people let themselves go, circumstances change, kids grow up, people get fired/hired, people get tempted, and people do things that they shouldn’t. We are humans after all and being able to make it through these incredibly testing situations is a battle in itself, but if you can weather the storm with your spouse, then you can be sure that your relationship will grow deeper and stronger as a result.
When my stepdad tragically passed away just five short weeks after my step brother died, I was so overcome with grief that I could barely function. I picked up smoking cigarettes (which my husband despised), I was on all sorts of anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications and was entirely too skinny. I was drinking too much, ate like crap, and was the definition of unhealthy; I was simply at my rock bottom. Through it all my husband stayed by my side and constantly encouraged me and picked up my slack when it came to parenting our daughter and household duties. He weathered the storm with and for me. I couldn’t imagine how he was feeling, after all I was no peach to be around and was so consumed by grief and numbed by medications that I neglected him, myself, our house, and our marriage. I honestly don’t know how he stayed with me but he claims because he loved who I was before all of that happened and he knew that at some point, I would get back to my ‘normal’ self. Many marriages end up failing after the death of a family member because the grief and stress becomes all-consuming to the point that the other spouse gets so neglected that they ultimately leave. They choose to seek shelter instead of weathering the storm with their partner and this is why I am encouraging you to weather the storm for them instead. Leaving can make things so much easier for one spouse, but if what you had before whatever hardship you got slapped with was worthy of fighting for, I challenge you to weather the storm for your spouse. It can be one of the most emotionally and mentally taxing things you can do, but unless you are being physically abused, I say try your absolute hardest if you have hope that things will get better.
My husband has gone through several hardships since my family members passed away and it has been difficult to watch him go through a storm of his own. From career-related issues to deployments- he has had his struggles no doubt. The stress of many pieces to a complicated puzzle left me resentful, impatient, frustrated, and helpless. Instead of being empathetic to his situation and patient with him, I instead internalized his issues selfishly and made it about me. I would verbalize my issues with the way he was handling and dealing with things but in reality, I was essentially kicking him while he was down. I remember feeling that I couldn’t deal with him being stressed and overwhelmed that I would get mad with him over how he was coping with his stress and anger. He definitely wasn’t an angel to be around, but instead of being a caring and compassionate spouse like he showed me during my dark times, I turned into another tremendous weight on his already tired shoulders. I even told him at one point that I wanted to divorce him because we had been fighting so much that I was just exhausted and felt that we both deserved to live in peace. I didn’t make the connection until much later that 99% of what was going on in our marriage, was directly tied to work related stress.When I was strongly considering divorce, it donned at me that I would be leaving my husband when he was at his worst point in life. What type of wife does that? He got me through the toughest times of my life and has always been my rock and I was just going to up and leave him because he was now going through a storm himself? I felt sick to my stomach with my selfish self and knew I needed to work that out on my own. He has done so much for me that I owed it to him and for him to be there when he needed me. I had been so used to him being the mentally stable one, the calm one, the rock, and the lighthouse that he was certainly entitled to go through some shit himself and have my unconditional support and love. Long story short, once I became aware of how poorly I was handling my end of the marriage through his difficult time, I made the decision to change my perspective on it all. It wasn’t a change over-night, but a conscious decision every day to respond instead of react when it comes to marital issues and communication. Once I became aware that I was reacting to everything he said or did, I knew I was in the wrong and operating on a pattern that was beneficial to no one. The first step in overcoming your problems is acknowledging you have one, right? I think taking ownership for your contribution to the problem is so important for married couples. As a whole, our marriage has it’s challenges and as individuals we certainly have our shortcomings. As long as we are aware and strive for constant improvement- we will build resilience together and weather any storm we are faced with.
Here are the 7 tips that helped me improve my end of the marriage when things got tough!
Own your role in your issues.
What are you doing to cause them? How is your spouse perceiving you? Are you an angel to be around? Take ownership of what you contribute to the problem!
Remember your vows.
Remember when you said for better or for worse? I understand that sometimes people will end up divorcing, but my advice to is to fight for your marriage with everything you’ve got. Unless you are being physically abused, you can always overcome any issue or flaw.
Shift your thinking to strength based instead of weakness based.
Find yourself constantly complaining about your spouse’s faults? Stop that shit! Dwell on all the things that they do right. Stop breathing life into your problems and preconceived notions about them. When you dwell on what they do wrong every day, how can you ever see the good?
Don’t compare your spouse to another person’s spouse. You know what they say- the grass isn’t always greener. Again shift your focus from the flaws to the strengths to help you with this.
Focus on improving your quirks instead of dwelling on theirs.
This goes back to owning your role in your issues. Instead of picking apart everything wrong with the other person, do an inventory of your own areas of improvement. Learn to respond instead of reacting when you have an issue with your spouse. Focus on improving yourself first, that way you can
Learn to compromise.
Do you find yourself always needing to be ‘right’ or have the final say? I am so guilty of this. Pick your battles and for heaven’s sake- learn to compromise. Remember that a marriage is a two-way street. It shouldn’t only be about what you want and what you need, your spouse and their needs are just as important as yours.
Remember why you fell in love.
This is the most important one…. When the going gets tough and you are considering separating or divorcing, remember the things that made you fall in love with this person in the first place. Think about all the positive characteristics of this person. Remember what type of person your spouse is underneath all the crap that has temporarily dimmed their shine. If you still love this person at their core and for who they really are- then you owe it to them and yourself to weather this storm.
Where are we now? In a much better place that is for sure but we are not out of the woods yet. After each terrible storm, we rebuild. Sometimes our issues are small and petty, and sometimes our issues are like a hurricane that is builds momentum and destroys all of our progress. I know that if we can hunker down and make it another year so he can retire and we can start fresh in Alaska, we will have made it. I know we shouldn’t be waiting for the future for things to get better, but sometimes our circumstances don’t allow us the luxury of truly enjoying the present moment. So much could happen over the next year that I can’t help but wish we had a fast-forward button because the anticipation and not-knowing adds a dimension of fear, pressure, and anxiety on our lives that rears it’s ugly head in our marriage from time to time.
We are and probably always will be a work in progress, but I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing either. Every marriage should be a work in progress in my opinion! Both partners should be constantly trying to improve their flaws, improve communication, work on themselves, and work on their marriage. If you or your partner are facing a storm of your own, grab their hand and brace for the weather together. Stand strong through it all not only with your spouse, but for your spouse. I promise that once the storm passes, you will both be taking your marriage to the next level in terms of love, support, and encouragement. Remember who your spouse is on the inside before whatever crappy circumstance brought you to this point. Be confident that the situation is temporary and will pass. Braving the weather together is going to make your bond stronger than ever before! After all, there is usually a rainbow after the storm!