Can a Relationship Survive This Much Stress?

Category: Weekly Columns

How much stress can a new relationship survive?  I am fond of quoting the cliché that most of us would rather keep our own problems vs. trade with someone else.  Yet, lately, I wonder.  Okay, I’ll keep our troubles, but it does raise the notion of enough is enough.

I just had a ski accident in which I fell so hard that I was knocked unconscious.  There were apparently no witnesses and I still don’t remember exactly what happened since the only thing I recall is waking up on the emergency toboggan, zooming down the mountain, being loaded into the ambulance, and taken to the Emergency Room.  After a bit of prodding, I knew my name and began to feel the hurt in my shoulder.  Later, all my memory returned except for the accident itself, which remains a mystery.

I should be grateful that I wore a helmet, since the concussion was mild, though the injury to my shoulder wasn’t.  Two broken bones, a lot of bruises elsewhere, and a rousing headache were mine after they “relocated” the shoulder (which I also forgot, fortunately).

Loren (my wife), in her fear and panic, and not being there, proceeded to criticize me for being too old to do this stuff anymore (she’s right).  It seemed the culmination, for us, of just one too many stressful incidents.  We’ve been married less than six months, and dating less than three years, and the number of stressful incidents in our lives seems to occur too frequently.

The short list includes two surgeries for her last year, this accident, and another hospitalization for me just months before we got married, along with the economic collapse of her business (real estate), the diminution of our respective savings and retirement accounts, my emerging teenager’s full-blown attitude, a forced move when our landlord gave us notice, and the subsequent scramble to find a place that would accept three dogs, packing and moving when we did find an acceptable place, and finally one of our dogs nearly killing our neighbor’s dog and requiring isolation and a potential indefinite prison term (the dog, not us).  And, that was just the first month of our marriage (just kidding).

Laughter is supposed to be the best medicine but we haven’t felt like laughing much lately.  We know better than to feel sorry for ourselves, but the onslaught of all these events have worn us down.  I didn’t even mention the health scare that Loren’s father had and, more recently, the brain tumor discovered in her mom, which will require surgery (but is likely benign).  How much are we supposed to handle?  I tend to believe God gives us just the right amount so we should be flattered that he thinks so highly of us.  But, I’d rather be further down on his list and have a few months go by without incident.

The lessons the boys got from our economy collapsing are probably good –learning to save, learning to delay gratification, maybe reading a book instead of going to a movie, etc.  For us, I suppose the lessons relate to appreciating our health when we have it, our parents when they’re alive and well, and each other — regardless of the ups and downs.

I know my parents endured multitudes of troubles far greater in comparison to ours, yet they rarely played the feeling-sorry-for-themselves card.  So, I suppose my recent accident can be a reminder to me of my good fortune in surviving with just my arm in a sling vs. a Christopher Reeve, Sonny Bono, or Natasha Richardson-type accident.

Our economic adjustments pale in comparison to those losing their homes, now, in foreclosures, losing their jobs, or the mass unemployment and dislocation of so many during The Great Depression.  I picture those great black and white photos of the migrant workers and that one of a woman looking so forlorn and lost, holding a hand to her face, and think how bad is it for me and us?

But, we do bicker, we do find fault. We’re not seeing the good in allowing our formerly comfortable lives to make our behavior, at times, spoiled and unappreciative of the blessings we share.  So, I’ll go on record with some of the things I do appreciate about my life, that have nothing to do with the Dow Jones average or my next car or vacation.Let’s start at the top; my wife’s pies.  Really, what else in life can compare?  Or her amazing salads, short ribs, roasted chicken, Chinese cooking, and more.  How about my dogs’ unconditional love?  The look on their faces when I get home is complete adoration.  Holding my wife on a cold evening, with a fire going in our bedroom fireplace, and feeling her silky smooth skin is a treat beyond compare.  And, when I come home from mentoring my fatally ill friend, with his genetic disease which will cut his life short around 30, I look at my two boys with heavenly gratitude for their good health, mental acuity, and great looks (from me, of course), even if I want to strangle my teen more often than not. 

Our relationship will survive this round of stress.  We’ll learn; we’ll grow; we’ll fight; we’ll make up.  Life’s good, even with my arm in a sling.