When Times Get Tough
by Dr. Virginia Smith
You may or may not be married, but you probably have either attended a wedding at some point in time, or, at least seen one on a television show or a movie. At least in the past, the traditional wedding vows went something like this:
“I ______________(fill in your name) take thee, ___________(fill in spouse’s name) to be my wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part…”
These vows were a part of our wedding ceremony and even though, at the time, I thought I understood what they meant, in all honesty, I didn't have a clue about all of the implications – about how tough times might actually get.
Relationships Will Be Tested – Challenges Will Come
Our lives are full of commitments we make to other people – to a spouse, to our children, to our parents, to our friends, or to coworkers or others. Sometimes, these commitments require very little on our part because the relationship doesn’t experience many hardships. Other times, our relationships are stretched to the limit due to unexpected challenges or curve balls that come our direction. It is during these times that our ability to endure becomes invaluable as we seek to not only survive, but also deepen and strengthen our relationships.
When you find yourself facing a seemingly insurmountable challenge in life – particularly in a relationship, try taking these eight steps to get yourself off high center and make progress through the difficult time so that you can emerge on the other side.
- Identify/name the challenge. Obstacles and tough times are less scary if they have a name. Once you identify the problem to yourself, you can begin to formulate a plan to endure and make it to the other side.
- Accept the situation. Denial doesn’t do much good when you need to get going to make it through your current problems.
- Acknowledge your emotional response. Tough times elicit emotions. By acknowledging how you feel and allowing yourself to experience those feelings, you can relieve some of your pent up stress and frustrations.
- Identify paths forward. Notice that the plural path(s) is used. When faced with a challenge, most times there is more than one course of action you can take.
- Choose the one that honors your core values. You will be more satisfied with the actions you take if they are true to who you are on the inside. An added bonus is that if you are true to yourself, you will live a more consistent life.
- Take a step. Once you have identified what you want to do, break your course down into individual steps and take the plunge. Remember you don’t have to do it all at once. One step at a time makes progress toward resolution.
- Seek support/encouragement. Yes, even if you can endure on your own, the support and encouragement of others will help you endure even when you feel like giving up.
- Make the choice to not give up. It may seem counterintuitive, but enduring is a decision. Even if your feelings and emotions are pushing you to throw in the towel, you can decide to take control of your situation. Instead of letting your emotions rule over you, take charge of your own destiny. In the end you will be happier that you powered through rather than giving up.
Life will throw you curve balls. It is inevitable. Especially in relationships, these challenges can seem overwhelming and out of your control. But, with the decision to endure, you can make it through and come out on the other side stronger and more in control of your destiny. And your relationships will deepen and grow as a result.
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Dr. Virginia Smith is a speaker, author, and life-long educator. A Kamm Distinguished Fellow in Academics, Research, and Leadership, she holds degrees in family services, business, and education with areas of concentration in curriculum design and development.