How to Walk Through Crises with your Spouse
by Amy Simon
When our children were 4 and 6, I discovered I was unexpectedly pregnant. At first, we were shocked and scrambled to find the baby gear that we’d gotten rid of. Once we got used to the idea of having another child, we were genuinely excited about this new addition to our family.
Ten weeks later, I miscarried, sending us on an emotional roller coaster. During the first week, I had a lot of physical issues. Would I need surgery or would my body complete the miscarriage on its own? It was just before Christmas, which further complicated things. Would we be able to go out of town like we had intended? Could I handle it physically and could either of us handle it emotionally?
My husband took most of that first week off of work so I could rest. It was wonderful to have him home. We spent a lot of time together as a family, and it really helped the initial healing process. While I was recuperating, he held up wonderfully, cooking meals and taking care of the kids.
As soon as I was physically well, the loss hit my husband on an emotional level. He was withdrawn at Christmas parties, didn’t want to visit family and just wanted to be home with me and our children. He felt irritable and angry.
At the same time, I was feeling angry at the baby for not surviving. I wanted to forget the pregnancy ever happened and move on with life as soon as possible. I wanted to be at parties and around other people so I could forget it all.
People deal with loss and other crises in different ways. When a couple faces something that affects them both, it can be a real challenge to their marriage. You need each other, but you may each need different things at the same time. How do you make that work without driving each other away? Here are some ideas that my husband and I found to be helpful when dealing with our crisis:
Be honest with each other. Tell your spouse what you’re feeling and what you think you need. Sometimes our emotions are so overwhelming that we don’t know what we need. Do your best to sort it out. Do you need space? Do you need to talk about it? Do you want to be around other people or alone? Listen to your spouse’s needs and feelings. You may both have very different needs.
Get to the core of the issue. When Joe and I talked through our needs with each other, he said he didn’t want to visit family and be around other people. I wanted to go and experience the festivities. As we talked more, we discovered that the real issue was that he didn’t think his family would be very supportive. And he didn’t have the energy to do a 700-mile road trip in winter. It wasn’t necessarily being around people that he objected to. And I wanted something fun and exciting to do, even if it wasn’t with his family.
Be willing to compromise. My husband and I discovered that we could fill both of our needs. Instead of driving to see family (which the weather made impossible, anyway), we planned some fun things with our immediate family closer to home.
Make use of friends and family. Sometimes there’s just no way to compromise. One of you wants to talk a lot and the other can’t bear to even bring it up. Look for people besides your spouse who can temporarily fill those needs. But during this time be sure to protect the intimacy in your marriage. Don’t let anything — or anyone —come between you and your spouse. Select a counselor, mentor or friend who can fill in the gap until you and your spouse can be the support for each other. Having others pray for you also can make a big difference.
Amy Simon is a freelance writer and mom of two children, ages 5 and 7 from Wisconsin.