When I was little, I lived for a good summer storm. You could smell it coming, before a single raindrop fell on your face. My mom would say, “We needed a good rain today.” We would go days and days without a good rain, and everything would be dry. Even the blades of grass were crisp beneath my feet, and the side-walks would boil eggs in 30 seconds flat. I remember the anticipation of the storm and the fear I felt as power went out, or the windows shook in the wind. And while I loved counting the seconds between lightning and thunder, the splitting sound of a bang close to my home would create a small amount of terror. Where did I go in the storm? I either ran to my parents or I hid. Storms were necessary, terrifying, and exciting. After the storm, water marks would gently glitter the entire earth and the fresh light was tinted with every color of the rainbow. We would go back outside and resume our wild play. Riding our banana seat bikes, playing hide and seek, coloring the sidewalks with fresh new chalk.
And what of the storms of relationships? What of the pounding wind that can knock us off our feet when things get hard? What of the fear that trembles like an earth quake when loss seems to loom right around the corner? What about the deep terror of interactions that resemble “that one time,” or “that one person.” Our storms can jump out at us in a flash. Picture flash flooding. Like the weather, relational storms have patters. Often we repeat the same issue over and over and over, like hail beating thick across a metal roof. Sometimes the temperature changes after a storm, and what was once sunny and an easy 70 degrees is now -12. You may feel left unprepared for the new cold…no frigid…atmosphere. And how do we respond to the change? We protect ourselves, by adding layers of barriers and protection. Defensiveness. Contempt. Stone walling. Sometimes we just flee as fast as possible to avoid the fight.
I had a friend, who once moved to Florida to get away from the five months of snow. Only to find, she spends much of the year preparing for natural disasters. I had another friend move to Texas to flee the cold, only to find it 35 degrees the week after he moved. There is no place that is without work in the weather. You may be shoveling snow or hammering windows, the weather cannot be perfect all of the time. No relationship is free from a storm here or there. But are the storms safe, or do we flee to find our own space? Is the pattern predictable or do we shift from rain to sun to a blizzard without warning?
In the late 80s I had a secure obsession with all things Amy Grant. Didn’t we all? There is one song that always comes to mind when I thing of Amy.
“And when the storm came through, they found me and you, back to back together.”
When engaging in the storm, working through the piles of snow, are you drawing closer together, or are you burying each other and in that hot tempered moment, hoping for an avalanche? Sometimes we need to find a guide to help us climb over the mountains and through the storm. Someone that is used to the terrain, the way the snow falls. I picture a person layered in REI storm gear, with a lantern and a calm voice, extending a hand. Saying “I see the storm, I see the pattern, it’s ok, your safe, have you tried this trail over here?” There is hope to get through any storm back to back together. Thanks for that reminder Amy.
And sometimes we strip the roof off our house, by burring pain and injury in the backyard. So when the storm comes, the whole house collapses. I can hear it now, one member of the couple says to the other. “ya well remember that time in 1992 when you said…I still don’t trust you.” The roof was stripped off way back then and instead of replacing the tiles (repairing the hurt). IT was buried under the weight of business and distraction and avoidance. We need to prepare for every storm, by repairing every tile. Is there any benefit to the storms? I imagine one benefit of a storm, is the way it highlights all the destruction in the structure. I love towns that close down with an inch of snow. Close your city when your relationship storms. Find someone who can walk through the home with you and notice the spaces that have been missed. Let them help you add some beams and structure, or support. It may not feel hopeful as the wind whips through, but I believe without a doubt that every house is worthy of repair. Find someone with the installation of hope and lean closely into that hope as you do the hard work of repair. Even if you are down to the studs of your relationship, we can always rebuild. We can always rebuild.
As a couple’s therapist, I have seen dark waves and chilling temperatures on the sofa of my small office. I have also seen couples find each other right in the middle of the storm. If you are shocked by or tired from, the dark storms, find a therapist who can see it with you. I hope that you can look back and the end and say the rest of the Amy Grant song:
“Oh how the years go by, oh how the love brings tears to my eyes, all through the changes the love never dies, we fight, we laugh, we cry, as the years go by.”