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In most weddings that we attend there is a portion of the ceremony when those getting married exchange their vows. And for many of these exchanges, each person declares their commitment to the other across a variety of fortunes and trials throughout life. However, while those declarations of devotion are important and romantic, they do not cover the full scope of moments in a marriage in which it is important for us to show up for our spouses. Listed below are five meaningful moments for us to show up for our spouses that we probably weren’t thinking about when we took our vows.
1. In times of grief:
Feelings of grief can show up in expected and unexpected moments. Whether it is the deep pain of losing a friend or family member, the death of a pet, transitions in friendships, receiving an unpleasant health diagnosis, moving, or having to miss a major life event in a friend’s life, your spouse will need your emotional presence and support as they move through their loss. Do what you can to validate the feelings they do share with you, and watch for the nonverbal signs that may indicate that they are having a difficult time. Grief manifests differently from one person to another, and can look different from one situation to another, even with the same person. So ask your spouse how you might be able to best support them in that particular moment. Even if they are not able to tell you specifically what they want or need at that moment, simply being present with them in their pain is often comforting enough.
2. In the midst of an identity crisis:
Feeling lost in life or uncertain about things that formerly appeared to be the most stable truths to build a life upon are very common experiences in life. Perhaps your spouse is grappling with a career change they never anticipated, or struggling with transitioning from singlehood to married life, becoming a parent, or shifting to an empty nest. Your spouse may not express their struggle as plainly as asking, “Who am I without…?” as they stare off into the distance with a face of concern. However it is essential for your spouse to know that you are there for them as a “place” of stability, support, and encouragement in the midst of navigating these trials.
3. When they venture beyond their comfort zone:
Perhaps your spouse is going against their introverted nature and decides to organize and host a gathering at your home, church, or local community center. Or maybe they are challenging themselves to try out a new activity that they have felt interested in for a while, but have been too nervous to follow through on. These may not seem like major endeavors to some, but you may know better with your spouse. Use that knowledge and awareness to show your spouse that you are supporting and cheering them on as they face their fears. Who knows, maybe empowering your spouse to overcome some of their fears may lead to them doing the same for you.
4. When they are standing up for themselves:
These moments can be incredibly powerful opportunities to communicate to your spouse that you have their back and are on their team. Whether your spouse is creating or upholding a boundary with a family member, confronting a friend who has been taking advantage of them, or setting limits at work with a boss that has been asking too much from them, it is important for your spouse to know they are not “heading into battle” alone. Regardless of if your spouse struggles with assertive communication or not, it is always helpful to support them as they use that skill set, and remind them that they deserve to be treated with respect.
5. When they are working toward a goal:
Making positive changes to their lifestyle, integrating new skills (for more effective management of thoughts, emotions, or relationships), or pursuing/completing an advanced degree are times/seasons when your spouse may thrive or fall short depending on your support. Communicating your belief in their ability to accomplish challenging tasks can have a profoundly positive impact on their daily and overall experience.
As you and your spouse walk through the highs and lows of life together, you will surely encounter times that reflect the declarations you each made in your vows, as well as challenges you may not have considered until reading this blog. The real struggle is that we don’t always recognize these circumstances coming ahead of time. My hope is that with a little more awareness and knowing more specifically how to recognize some of these situations, you will be able to step up and show up for your spouse when they need you to.