How to Support Your Partner When Disappointment Strikes

April 5, 2010
Rather than having to figure out how your partner wants to be comforted when he or she must face a big disappointment, lay the groundwork for ways that will make life better when that happens, as it surely will at some time.

holding hands

I am miserable! The cold my husband brought into the house a couple weeks ago has finally found its way into my head. He won’t take responsibility for his actions, and claims I got my cold somewhere else. But my symptoms mirror his to such a high degree that I blame him. We like sleeping together, after 50 years it gets to be a habit, but for now we’ve got separate bedrooms. We’re trying to see if that can stop the germs from migrating from one to another and back again.

In the meantime, as you will know if you read my blog last Wednesday titled Choosing a Practice to Build the Will, I want to see whether I can write in the blog five days a week. I may decide to do something else on a regular basis, but for now I want to see if I can do it even when I feel miserable. Like today. So here I am with a big box of Kleenex, two glasses of water, and not two brain cells to rub together.

Before I got out of bed, I groggily contemplated what I could say that wouldn’t require much effort and remembered the DVD I saw yesterday. “Seabiscuit” is a dramatic story of a horse who was too small, a jockey who was too tall, and a homeless trainer who worked for Charles Howard, the owner of the largest Buick dealer in California. It was a story of the triumphant little guy that raised the spirits of many people in the Great Depression.

The part of the movie I want to mention is the death of Charles’ son, about 10 years old, who was killed in an automobile accident. The Howards weren’t able to stay connected with one another and his wife left.

There weren’t more details than that and, in introducing the article I want to share, I started to write that the divorce rate of parents who lose a child is much higher than average. I remembered hearing it was more than 50% and wanted to be sure I had the correct statistics. However, the first article in a Google search brought me to an article on Bereaved Parents and Divorce in the Healing Hearts for Bereaved Parents website. It reported on a study that refuted the estimate that “75%” of parents get a divorce following the death of a child or children. The finding that only 9% of parents get divored was heartening.

In any case, the divorce of the Howards made me think about the newsletter I received last week from Joyce and Barry Vissell, marriage and couple counselors who have given me permission to use their material whenever I feel it would be helpful. This is one of those times. I can quote them and don’t have to think for myself.

In their newsletter, Shared Heart Column, was an article titled When Disappointment Strikes: How to Comfort a Loved One that I reprinted on Support4Change with their permission. Yes, I know, the death of a child is far more serious than the disappointment of once more receiving a publisher’s rejection (which was the situation with which the Vissells were dealing), but I believe their advice lays the foundation for dealing with really big disappointments down the road and certainly with grief. What struck me about the article was the suggestion to tell your partner what would help when life gives you lemons, and then squirts them in your eye.

I suggest you read the article to see how their advice could apply to you.

I think my husband and I have figured out by this time what works for us, but I believe we could have saved ourselves a lot of heartache, and supported one another better, if we had known what was needed for those times when disappointment strikes.

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