I’ve spent the last few days preparing for Hurricane Florence and the toll it’s due to take on North Carolina. Lines are 30 cars deep at most gas stations and propane is a coveted, sought-after commodity. Grocery stores have become a gluttonous free-for-all with the masses planning for Armageddon. Friends and neighbors are communicating with fervor on Facebook about where they can find bottled water and Nextdoor is a resource for finding a generator to keep the lights on and the food fresh. Taking preventative measures is a beautiful thing. And, it got me thinking…
What if we took care of our relationships – our marriages – as if a storm is coming? What if at the first change in barometric pressure in our relationship we stopped what we were doing and took notice? What if we watched the weather with our significant other, paid attention to the signs and then actually did something about it?
- In a hurricane, you run around securing all of the heavy shit around your home that can cause damage. Many of us take better care of our garbage cans and our hanging plants than we do each other. When you see a storm in your partner or your relationship, what do you do to mitigate the damage? Or, do you add to the velocity by blaming each other for the wind and the rain?
- We move furnishings and valuables to the highest point of the house when the floodwaters are predicted. We climb step after step, not even sure if it’s necessary. Would you carry your significant other if they were afraid? Would you carry them even if you thought it was futile? How far? How many floors?
- We buy flashlights and set out candles in anticipation of the electricity going out. We charge our phones and external drives so we don’t lose communication. What do we do to prepare for the loss of light and intimacy in our relationships? How many of us begged for our partners to work with us on communication or go to counseling during decades of blinking lights while we weathered the storm with our windblown hair? Those same partners wouldn’t hesitate to buy the 24-pack of batteries or 20 jugs of water at the advice of the local meteorologist yet they don’t take seriously the emotional forecast of the person they are supposed to love most in the world. And so your relationship goes without water and cell phone service for a quarter of a century. And one of you ends up bitter, lonely, and thirsty.
- We are told to never drive or walk through standing water during a storm – that water can be deeper than it appears. Did you know that two feet of water can sweep away cars or human beings? Relationships are nothing if not standing water. And it can be deeper than it appears. Give it the respect and care that it deserves. Don’t be caught off-guard wading through your own private stream and get swept away in the flood.
- We’re encouraged to fill our tubs and empty jugs with extra water in case the supply runs out or is contaminated. We all need reserves to draw on in relationships. My dad used to say his goal was to do one more kind thing for my mother than she did for him each and every day. He was planning for a rainy day. And it worked for 37 years until the day she died and the chance of rain dissipated. My dad never regretted filling the tub.
- We wait in line to gas up our cars and have an extra gas can available for when we run out. All relationships risk running out of gas if we keep driving by the filling station hoping to make it just a few more miles. We are only human and we don’t play well with others (particularly those that we share a home with) without proper fuel. You can’t expect to keep driving without filling up the tank. What exactly that fuel is may look different depending upon the couple but it’s the rare relationship that doesn’t need a gallon of gas, a jump-start or an oil change every now and then. If you ignore those needs, you go nowhere and one of you is out shopping for a new car while the other one cries on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck.
- We ensure that we have a battery operated radio, interesting books, and board games to entertain ourselves during the wind and rain. We offer to host a hurricane party in the neighborhood. We check on friends and relatives. Do you give that much thought to how you spend your time with your partner when the sun is shining? How often do you check in with them? Support them? “Are you alright? Do you need anything? How can I make you feel more appreciated each day?”
- We’re told to take pictures or videos of the contents of our house in case we lose everything. Most of us get busy and we never get around to it. We think we know what we have, that we’ll remember what’s most important. But, do we really? Have you assessed what you value in your relationship recently? How would you feel if that person and what’s special about them were swept away? Do you even know what you’re at risk of losing? Taking note of your valuables (and what you need to do to protect them) should be the first thing you do when you feel a storm coming. And then, act on it. Immediately. If you don’t, the only thing you’ll be preparing to live with is the wreckage and scattered debris.