I went canoeing with friends several years back. It was spring and the water was high and strong. As our canoes came around a bend in the river we saw rapids coming up. One of my friends totally freaked out and ended up tipping our canoe in his desperation to get to the shore. Long story short; it was a real mess.
Relationships are like people canoeing on a river. At some point you’ll find yourself in the rapids at which time you can either bail out or work together to get through it. Navigating the rapids is hard, but getting to the other side together feels a heck of a lot better than giving up.
THERE WILL BE TOUGH TIMES
As sure as the sun rises, things are going to go wrong. It’s important to know and accept this. It allows you to adjust expectations. If you carry on in a romantic haze thinking everything will always be fine as long as you love each other, the first storm may wreck you, but, if you accept that storms are bound to happen, you can prepare for them together.
GET SOME PERSPECTIVE
This rough patch you find yourself in is just one part of a long, loving relationship. Every time you navigate a rough patch together, you learn and become wiser.
I like to remind myself that each day is a chance to start things over. We’ve all had bad days. The fact that we can look back on those bad days is proof that they don’t last. Put your focus on the future if it helps. Realize that this present crisis is just temporary. That doesn’t mean don’t work to fix it of course.
FINDING COMMON GOALS
It’s important to remember why you started this relationship. Surely you have some mutual goals or pleasures. Put a focus on those.
Pardon the metaphor, but relationships are a team sport. If you practice meeting small goals and work together toward bigger ones, the shear act of accomplishing together may just remind you why you made such a good team in the first place. Make a plan. Carry it out. Score! (Metaphor done).
USE YOUR LIFELINE
I’m one of those people who loses their glasses a lot. I’ll search until I get into a tizzy. Then my wife will come by and say, “Your glasses are on your head, doofus.” My point?: a) Don’t wait too long to ask for help, and b) sometimes you’re too close to the problem to see it properly.
Maybe you can turn to that friend who has known you both since way back when, or maybe your pastor. Basically, someone who is as invested in your relationship as much as you are. Bringing in another compassionate perspective just might flip everything right-side-up again.
It’s not an admission of defeat when you come to the realization that you need the help of a professional. There’s got to be history and hopes for the future and a real willingness to fix things, otherwise therapy won’t seem worth it. It isn’t easy, but if you both know there’s something worth saving here, don’t rule it out.
CHANGE AND COMPROMISE
Sometimes the rough patch you are facing may be due to problems that repeat over and over. Maybe he tends to drink when he’s upset. Maybe she always falls back on her parents for help. Maybe he spends too much time on his phone. In a loving relationship, all have to be willing to change. Change is good.
I am positive that anyone having a bad time of things would be able to trace the problem back to a lack of communication. Is there something bothering you right now? Make the decision to have the hard conversations. They’re going to hurt, maybe a lot, but it’s the only way to be truly open and honest about your needs.
The hard times are going to come. Those times are going to beat on you, try to break you, but if you have courage, and a love worth fighting for, you can navigate those rapids and paddle off into the sunset.