Every doe-eyed, newly-in-lust couple struggles to imagine their perfectly well-matched relationship hitting the skids. I mean, we all know it’s inevitable, but until it actually happens there is no way to fully imagine it. Also, no one ever talks about how to deal with the hard stuff. No one warned me, you guys.
Almost 15 years into our relationship, my husband and I have certainly experienced our fair share of catastrophic scenarios. Approximately one week after the birth of our third child, for example, I was writhing on our living room floor, sweating from the excruciating pain of hemorrhoids. I should have gone to the hospital, but Robbie was so freaked out over the fact that he was personally responsible for three children and a wife in extreme pain that he immersed himself in a video game and ignored my despair.
Another time, I was so drunk, hormonal, and burned out that I slung clean laundry all over every single room in the house because those motherfu*kers would not help me put it away. I’ve peeled out of our driveway in our minivan, screaming at my husband out of the driver’s side window like a lunatic as our neighbors looked on.
So, yes, I know what’s waiting for these doe-eyed people on the other side, but I really don’t want to be the jerk that stands up at an engagement party and says, “JUST WAIT UNTIL YOU HAVE TO SHARE A RECREATIONAL VEHICLE WITH HIS EXTENDED FAMILY!” I think most people just have to learn certain things on their own.
But seriously, what happens when the sh*t hits the fan? Since killing your partner is not an option, I’m here to offer you some alternatives.
1. Allow yourself to freak out. Sometimes, relationships just really, really suck. Sometimes, you get your soul crushed by the one person who should know better. It’s okay to drive aimlessly for hours and sob, or binge a show (while crushing a pan of freshly-baked brownies), all by yourself. You are allowed to hide in the bathroom and ignore his pleas for you to come out. It’s totally fine to melt down when you’re upset, as long as you don’t cause bodily harm to anyone, including yourself.
2. Give each other some space. Maybe this is a good time to go away for the weekend alone, or even just for the afternoon. Take some time away from each other to regroup and gather your thoughts. Otherwise, you will end up saying terrible things that you don’t really mean, like the time (today) I told my husband that I think he has halitosis (he doesn’t). I was just stressed out and wanted him to stop breathing on me, but once it’s said, it can’t be taken it back. Oops.
3. Force yourself to play out the different scenarios. What is the absolute worst-case outcome of the catastrophe at hand? The things that my imagination comes up with are always far more tragic than anything that happens in real life. Some examples of questions I have asked myself are: Am I going to die? Are we doomed to eternal unhappiness? Will my baby have horns? The answer to all three, so far, is no.
4. Talk it out. After freaking out, giving each other some space, deciding what the worst possible outcome would be (Is he gay? AM I?), figuring out the answer (no and no), and if that potential, worst-case outcome would cause death (definitely not), then comes the main event: communication. Talking about the catastrophe, working through it, and healing from the damage will take time and a lot of emotional energy, but guess what? So does divorce. So, talk about the issue. A lot.
5. Remember that everyone deals with tough stuff. We are not the first couple on Earth to suffer hardship. I often think of the pilgrims when I start feeling sorry for myself. I mean, fighting with my husband in an air-conditioned Home Depot is a lot easier than harvesting corn with our bare hands to prevent our children from starving to death. I’m just saying.
Love can carry us through a lot. I think I’ll stick with that next time I run into a newly-engaged couple.