Relationships are so fickle. Just when you think it’s clear skies ahead, lo and behold, a storm is brewing.
That’s because relationships are like the weather. Unpredictable, yet we can predict with relative accuracy that the month of August will be hot and sticky (somewhere in the United States), that January will likely require a light sweater, at minimum.
But forecasts become less accurate the further out you go. Sure, we can put away our summer clothes come October, but what if there is a heatwave? Nuances like these can be relatively insignificant, unless, say, you are planning an outdoor wedding and the centerpieces melt into puddles due to extreme heat, or you decide to walk home from work without a raincoat and get hit with a sudden downpour that ruins your brand new purse.
Being unprepared can throw off even the best-laid plans. At the same time, you don’t want to be bogged down by carrying around a jacket you won’t end up wearing.
Very few people enter into a commitment like marriage preparing for a divorce, foreclosure, or sick children. Even the best “weather” predictions can come with a range of surprises. How you choose to prepare for and deal with them can make or break your marriage.
Here are six tips on how to prepare for any kind of weather without carrying around an extra coat:
Set Realistic Expectations.
Anytime we believe that our relationship should only have sunny days, we are setting ourselves up to be disappointed and resentful. If we came in with a mindset of, “the sun will always shine,” we are likely to be unprepared when the inevitable cloudy day comes.
Let’s get real. We aren’t always going to feel chipper toward our spouse. We won’t always agree. So if we want to avoid resentment, it’s best to adjust our expectations and change our mindset ahead of time. Mindset is extremely important. Whatever narrative we tell ourselves will set the tone for our marriage, so it’s important to make sure we understand what thoughts, beliefs, and history inform our stories.
Get to know your Spouse’s Climate.
Odds are that your spouse isn’t going to change significantly. Sure, they may go through many phases, but in general, someone’s temperament and personality are pretty constant.
Did you fall in love with your husband because he was always up for an adventure, rain or shine? Did you think that he’d be content visiting your parents’ lake cabin year after year? Are you surprised that he’s putting his foot down this year and demanding that you go on a cruise instead?
Some of a marriage’s biggest fights are about trying to change our spouse to be more like us, yet we also tend to pick partners who are different than ourselves. And this is a good thing. It’s important to get to know our spouse by asking questions, being curious, and learning to enjoy some of the activities they are into. At the very least, we ought to be willing to take turns exploring our “climates” and theirs. Often we’re rewarded with a closer bond in exchange for our open mind and exploration.
Have a Mission Statement.
Take some time before tying the knot to get on the same page about why the hell you are getting married.
This will be different for different couples. For example, starting a family and having kids might fit some, while having an adventure partner, personal growth and development, security, or pleasing our parents may be the motive for others. Ideally, both my partner and I should be upfront about what we are wanting and what our expectations are. That way, we have a greater understanding of what the other stands for. And the more we know about each other, the better the odds are that we can support each other when the inevitable hurricane shows up.
Invest in your Marriage.
This one is a big one. We wouldn’t live in a flood zone without flood insurance. Yet people tend to neglect preparing for marriage until it’s already in ruins. It is way easier to upkeep a lawn if we work on it daily than tackling it once a year when everything is already gnarled and overgrown.
Going to a couples workshop, or getting a mentor we trust and respect can help with the maintenance and recovery when we run into the unexpected down the line. We can also take small daily steps toward relationship maintenance by making sure we stick to that weekly date night, or put that trip on the calendar.
It seems easy to look back and wonder where things went wrong. It seems harder to consistently put savings in the jar. But ultimately, our “difficult” investment is more rewarding in the long run—especially when that tornado twirls through town.
Because we can’t predict how we will react to everything, it’s crucial to learn the skill of repair.
How the aftermath of a metaphorical hurricane (like a drastic change in lifestyle) is handled will set the tone for how well folks will thrive. It’s important for us to prepare and learn how to repair any ruptures to our bond after conflict before the hurricane even arrives.
We will fight—and often—especially when we have a newborn who has been up night after night for weeks, and a mother-in-law who just happens to be “in the neighborhood” at the most inconvenient times. These are just a couple of the times when we might want to kick our partner to the curb to avoid any additional discomfort in conflict.
It’s “easy” to take our stress out on our perceived threat—our spouse—when in actuality, the threat is coming from within. Our own unresolved wounds can rear their ugly little heads when we are tired, under-resourced, or vulnerable. Therefore it’s essential to work on taking ownership of our own part in the conflict, and to watch for our projections.
The most powerful couples are those who are willing to show up 100 percent in the marriage. That means owning up to our mistakes and looking at how we can each improve the situation.
We shouldn’t be a supporting actor in our own life. We can’t rely on our spouse to remind us to bring an umbrella. We mustn’t blame our spouse when we forget and our hair gets ruined. But we can and should speak up when we are hurt or wanting something. We can’t, after all, expect our spouse to be our mom or dad. That’s just not healthy.
Instead, we can ask our partners to hold us if we are feeling down. We can and should share our deep feelings, even if it will be upsetting to our partners. We absolutely must commit to a higher standard for ourselves in order to allow our spouse to step up.
Make a habit of tracking the weather patterns in your relationship. In doing so, you’ll ultimately be the best coupologist and protect your relationship no matter how catastrophic the storm, or drastic the climate crisis. It’s up to you how you prepare for the impending and inevitable changes. What steps will you take?