ThinkstockPhotos-475327624Mark: This past weekend was another tough weekend for Jill and I. We’ve shared before about our son’s mental health journey (and here too). Walking into a hospital Saturday morning after our son overdosed once again and seeing him on a ventilator is not what any parent every expects to see.

Jill: Physically it appears he will be okay. Mentally….well we’re back to visiting him in a psych ward.

Mark: Jill and I have learned to handle these times of crisis pretty well together. We’ve been doing this for three years now. We talk, make decisions together, ask questions of the doctors, and generally navigate it as well as we can.

Jill: However, even here our differing personalities come out.  On Saturday, were having a conversation about some aspect of this particular challenge. We were in a decision-making moment when Mark cracked a joke.  I responded with, “Could you keep the humor to a more appropriate time?”  He said, “I’m sorry. That’s just how I handle the stress.”

Mark: When crisis hits, Jill handles the stress by going into “fix it” mode and I handle the stress with humor.  It’s not a problem until her “fix it” clashes with my “laugh at it.” I confess that sometimes my humor is misplaced and Jill has admitted that sometimes her “fix it” needs to lighten up.

Jill: The issue, however, is that we need to grant each other the space to be ourselves. To handle stress differently. To understand each other and resist the urge to require our spouse to be anyone different than who God created them to be.

Mark: From conversations we’ve had with other couples, we know we’re not alone in this. One of the toughest things to navigate is differences. Add some stress and crisis into the mix and you’re set up for some probable conflict.

Jill: I’ve found a little internal conversation can go a long way in giving your spouse the space to be himself or herself: “He’s not wrong…he’s just different.” Or “She’s not wrong…she’s just different.”

Mark: A proactive conversation about how we each handle stressful situations can also help set up realistic expectations of one another.  How about adding that to a possible “date night” conversation to have? Talking about it outside of a stressful situation can help lay the groundwork for navigating it well in the future.

Jill: Simply expecting your spouse to “not be you” can go a long way in setting the stage for navigating differences well…even during times of crisis.

What about you? How do you handle stress? What about your spouse? 

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