Navigating Relationships through Stormy Weather: Using Tragedy to Transform Your Partnership


By: Equality in Marriage

It could be the death of a loved one, a national tragedy or the slow economy. Regardless of the nature of the event, tragic circumstances in you or your partner's world can have a major impact on your relationship. After 9-11-01, there were many stories about a renewed devotion to family and partnerships in light of the tragedy. However, a recent survey shows that, a year later, most Americans feel the primary relationships in their life have not been strengthened but remain the same.

It is natural after a major life change or tragedy to gain a renewed appreciation for the important people in your life. It is harder to turn these feelings into actions that actually strengthen or grow these relationships. Tragic circumstances can tear partners apart, but it can also be a milestone that helps you focus on your relationships and improve them. Here are some tips for using tragedy to transform your partnership:

Focus on Healing:

Whether it is one or both partners that have experienced a loss or tragedy, it is both partners job to work to be there as a support network. Often times, the reason traumatic events tear partners apart is that one or both go through the mourning or recover experience in isolation and come out feeling detached from the relationship. If you have experienced a hard time, make sure you communicate with your partner about your feelings and let them know how they can support you and where you need space. If it is a situation that primarily affects your partner, make your self available to listen and try and identify ways you can help without interfering to heavily in the recovery process.

Document Your Appreciation:

Even beyond getting through the tragedy itself, hard times can create an opportunity to improve the relationship in its entirety. We get so busy with careers and obligations that sometimes we forget to stop and really take inventory of the reasons a partner or loved one is so valuable to our lives. When tragedy strikes, our routine is derailed and perspective is easier. Take a few moments to make a list of the things you appreciate about a significant other or family member. Take time to be specific and look past daily routine and really capture the essence of why this person impacts your life.

Focus on What YOU Can Do:

While there are many great things about the important relationships in your life, there are always things that can be improved. Too often we float along in relationships thinking that eventually WE will make time for each other, eventually WE will talk about that issue, etc. When you documented all the valuable qualities of your loved one, you acknowledged that they are brining something to your proverbial table. Instead of waiting for a time to come when events change and certain situations improve, make a list of things YOU can do to make more quality time, make your loved one's day easier or brighter, etc. If you approach your partner or family member with a thank-you for their contributions and a list of things you are willing to do to improve the relationship, then they are more likely to respond on a similar level and also contribute to strengthening the value of that connection.

Remind Yourself:

When something terrible or mind-boggling happens, the world can seem to stop. Inevitably, some of the impact of the tragedy will diminish and the traditional routine will creep back up. Make sure not to lose momentum. Set weekly dates for additional quality time together in your calendar or Palm Pilot. Put reminder notes about your commitment in your office space or somewhere at home. Create monthly or bi-monthly checkpoints where as an individual or as a couple you evaluate your progress on the commitments you made together.

Even bad situations can have some good hidden within. One of these "goods" is the impact it has in helping us focus on the truly important things in our lives. The Equality in Marriage Institute hopes you can turn that focus into action and strengthen an important relationship in your life in the years ahead.

Educating men and women on the importance of equality in marriage and divorce, www.equalityinmarriage.org

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