In the parenting journey, just as in life, nothing is guaranteed. The unexpected happens to all of us, but there are some things that not only come as a surprise, they turn life on its head. And in those moments, marriage is often the relationship that takes the hardest hit. Divorce rates among families with disabilities, infant loss, or special needs are high, and it’s no surprise. When the rest of your circumstances demand a fight, it can be hard to stick up for each other.
So how do you love your partner well when everything else feels uncertain? The number 1 relationship counseling app shares insights from their interview with Jay and Katherine Wolf of Hope Heals.
First, choose faith not frustration. In times of upheaval, we can lose sight of the person we married, opting to focus on their flaws or our own frustrations in the relationship. Recognize the stumbling blocks couples face in tough circumstances – things like disenchantment – and choose faith in your spouse instead. Jay Wolf, father of two and husband to Katherine, who was disabled by a sudden brainstem stroke in 2008, says, “So often part of our disenchantment is that we think, ‘This isn’t what we signed up for.’ We roll over in the bed after however many years have passed, or kids have happened, or financial issues, or medical diagnoses, or whatever the catalyst is that creates change, and say, ‘Who is this person that I am with?’” If the heaviness of your circumstances has caused you to feel disenchanted with your spouse or your relationship, it doesn’t mean you have to stay that way. Intentionality goes a long way to finding that spark again. As Jay puts it, “This is your person, and you get to say, ‘I’m going to show up and learn who you are again and love this new person you’ve become.’”
Next, see potential not imperfections. It’s easy to focus on all of today’s problems, and perhaps even easier to shy away from a future that seems overwhelming, but viewing your relationship in terms of what it could be – creating a hope-filled narrative for the future of your marriage – will always leave you willing to invest more. Jay’s wife, Katherine, says, “Yes in marriage, you marry someone’s problems and their past, but you also marry potential. You marry what they could become.” Take some time to envision your relationship in five years, then use a hopeful perspective as you imagine what your bond could look like by that time.
Lastly, chase selflessness not happiness. “Expecting your marriage to make you happy is setting the bar way too low,” says Jay. “Marriage has the opportunity to make you things that are so much richer and deeper than just happy.” When life doesn’t go according to plan, it can be easy to focus inward, acting out of a desire for personal joy. But healthy marriage is about giving, and in return, receiving more than you need. That act of selflessness will ultimately result in true happiness. As Jay puts it, “With marriage, the goal should be something that is transcendent, about us getting outside of ourselves and our own feelings.” If you’re a mom who’s struggling with a diagnosis, disability, loss, grief, or an unexpected twist in your story that will alter the rest of the way, know that you’re not alone. And also know that there is support for you and your partner as you work through the unexpected times.
Lasting helps couples who feel stuck move forward together. Through a convenient and affordable app, they’re making a way for people to receive a research-backed marriage counseling program right where they are. Learn more about Lasting and the Wolf’s story below and download Lasting for free today.
Nicole Hannel is a content writer for Lasting. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and 2-year-old daughter and can most often be found with a mug of tea in one hand and a book in the other.