My stomach is churning. My 96-year-old grandmother’s health is failing and I have to go to the hospital to see her. My history is that my father suffered a tragic stroke years ago and I spent months on end in the ICU witnessing traumatizing things on the floor and in my father’s room until his eventual death. Some of those things still haunt me to this day. I dread hospitals now: the smell of hand sanitizer, elevators, latex gloves, bleeping monitors, and the dismal feel in the air. “Here I am again,” I think. I pause outside the door of the hospital with trepidation and force myself to move forward to the ER room where my grandmother is. I am so not at peace with hospitals and, if I’m honest with myself, with all that surrounds death now.
When we are not at peace inside with one thing, or many things, it deeply affects our relationship as well. The evening I found out I had to go to the hospital I lashed out at my husband for something completely unrelated (pretty sure it involved an empty roll of toilet paper he didn’t replace). I chose him as an outlet for the emotional unrest I was feeling inside. Moments later, with a realization of my unacceptable behavior, I did the walk of shame back to where he was to apologize. Almost always, those closest to us are the ones that get hit with the shrapnel of our unrest inside. I don’t know if it’s that they are a safe place to vent out whatever is causing us strife inside, or if it’s just easy, because we know they love us and will take it. But no matter what the reason, this behavior can quickly turn a healthy relationship into an unhealthy one.
It is truly our individual responsibility to work on our issues and not let them damage our relationship. In a way, if you care about your marriage or relationship, then one of the greatest things you can do is to work on your issues and find peace inside with them. Most people don’t know how to begin to seek peace inside with things from the past that haunt them, bother them, and make them sad, afraid, or distrustful. The solution lies in diving deep into our feelings and being honest about what is bothering us. It’s about searching for the one thing (or many) that can help us to let go.
I see unrest or lack of peace as indecision. Peace means deciding to accept. Until then, lack of peace is about indecision and struggle. Literally every difficult thing in life is about choice – really choosing happiness, making a change, forgiveness, letting go – or whatever it is for you. When we stop fighting inside and leave the middle ground, we can have peace within. Couples can help one another to move towards peace within by supporting, understanding, or leading their partner to help. But be forewarned – you cannot do it for your partner.
My personal battle, in this case, was to accept the process of death and all of the ugliness and pain that surrounds it. I had to try to make my peace with the experiences I’ve had with death. In doing so I could move forward, no longer carrying this unrest and discomfort with something that is very much a part of everyone’s life. Making peace with this issue would create peace in my life, my soul, and in my relationships – especially with my husband. Years after my experiences with my father in the hospital, I remained traumatized and needed help processing it all, and I realized that it did affect my relationship.
The real trick is acknowledging the unrest inside you, realizing the impact this is having on your relationship(s) and making a decision to deal with the issue either on your own through journaling, education or self exploration, or reaching out through therapy. Being open and honest with your partner about what you are dealing with – and what you are working on – is crucial. Also, asking your partner to be open about your behavior and how it affects them is another vital part of a healthy relationship.
As human beings we seek equilibrium. We are programmed to desire peace. Sometimes we stand in our own way – allowing the suffering of the imbalance inside by clinging to an unresolved experience: death, event, relationship, or whatever it may be. Letting go of it brings peace. Next time you feel yourself stewing on an issue, just lay it down in your mind and you will physically feel a subtle lift. Our minds are beautiful and complicated things, but surprisingly, we are in control of our feelings and reactions. Taking control means letting go and resetting. You owe it to yourself, and more importantly, you owe it to your relationship.