26 September 2011
Coping with personal crisis in a new relationship
Being in love is a wonderful feeling but it isn’t an antidote to personal crisis. Here are some tips to help you weather the storm and hopefully come through stronger and more in love than ever.
Being in love is a wonderful feeling but it isn’t an antidote to personal crisis. Sometimes life deals us blows – bereavement, redundancy, serious illness – that threaten to break a relationship apart because the intensity of feelings involved can seem overwhelming. Couples who have been together for a long time will have developed strategies for when the going gets tough but if you are in a new relationship it can be much harder to know what to do. Here are some tips to help you weather the storm and hopefully come through stronger and more in love than ever.
If you are the one dealing with the crisis
If you are the person who has been hit by a personal crisis it can feel all consuming and the last thing on your mind is dating.
Whatever the nature of your difficulty it is important to not get completely engulfed in the feelings you are going through. Often people want to isolate and shut the world out and it is perfectly OK to do that, for a while. If your relationship is very new you could tell your date what has happened and say you are going to take some time out to deal with things; they will understand if they are the kind of person worth your love.
If you are a bit further down the road and have developed a strong connection with the person you are dating you may still want to take some time out but it is also important to realise that they could be a source of support while you go through this difficult time. Don’t shut them out, even if you feel terrible, and like you have nothing to offer, connecting with someone outside of the situation can be extremely helpful.
Keep it simple, going for a walk together or meeting somewhere quiet and beautiful will give you a break from your problem and allow you to talk about other things. The relationship will benefit from this because it shows you want to be with your partner even when you are at your most vulnerable.
Remember even in the face of personal tragedy it is OK to enjoy moments of happiness, if someone has died it doesn’t mean you have to die too. By allowing yourself to receive the love and support available you will be much more able to cope with whatever situation life throws your way.
If your difficulties continue for a long period of time, or you find yourself turning to alcohol or other addictions for relief from the pain, it is a good idea to get some outside help.
If you are supporting someone through a crisis
It can be very difficult to know what to do or say when someone close to us is hit by crisis. If you are very new into the relationship and your date says they want to take a break while they deal with the situation, accept it and offer reassurance that you will still be there when they come through.
If your relationship is a bit deeper your partner may still say they want to take a break which again, you must accept. It is important that during that period you keep reaching out to them, letting them know you are there and that your love is constant. You can do this via text, email, phone calls or even traditional letters and thoughtful gifs. It can be very difficult to sustain, and you don’t want to overdo it, but it is really important that you don’t disappear and wait for them to get over it.
If you feel that your attempts at contact aren’t welcome back off a bit, try not to take it personally and don’t let it stop you from trying again. Listen but don’t give advice – you can make gentle suggestions for self-care – get a bath, eat some food etc – but your main role will be that of a sympathetic listener. If you want to suggest meeting up make it somewhere quiet, by the sea, or in the countryside or wherever your partner finds uplifting. Don’t be afraid to tell them what is going on in your life, it can be useful to take their mind off things.
Recognise your limitations
It is enormously heartbreaking to watch someone you love suffer under the weight of severe depression, grief or illness. It can make you feel so useless. It’s really hard to accept that – at the end of the day – there’s only so much you can do. But you can save yourself a lot of unnecessary grief if you acknowledge that you aren’t in control. You can’t fix this person’s life.
You can only show them love.