Monday, March 27, 2006

Divorce is almost certain with the death of a child. It does not have to be. You may not have chosen to go through the loss of a child, but there are things you can do to choose not to lose a spouse. This entry is about some of those things, and I'll blog more on this topic from time to time.

The first thing I would suggest is to be aware of, and careful with, three step patterns.

The most common three step pattern is the compliment, criticize, compliment pattern. That is, whenever you feel a need to criticize or correct your spouse, you should first say something positive about them, then make the suggestion, and then end on a positive affirming note.

Things to be aware of are:

1. Learn the pattern and learn to use it.

2. Learn the pattern and learn to not use it -- that is, learn to compliment and praise without following up with a criticism.

I've known people whose only exposure to a compliment or praise is as a part of this pattern. When I was first married, I would say something nice to my wife and often she would go "And?" There wasn't any "and." But, she was looking for the rest of the pattern, and there I was, stuck without any criticism to use to follow-up the positive note with.

I was just happy and sharing my happiness with her. She was waiting for the criticism. We've adjusted, and now she doesn't expect criticism to automatically follow any compliment.

You never want your spouse to react to any compliment by hearing only the incipient criticism to come. Be aware and be careful to say positive things without any agenda or purpose other than saying positive things.

3. Learn to complete the pattern. It is important to always end on a positive note.

It is easy, much to easy, to leave on a negative note. You don't want to do that, especially in the emotionally charged atmosphere of loss and pain that is already there when a child has died.

Reprising the words of the song:

I bruise you
You bruise me
We both bruise too easily
Too easily, to let it show
I love you and that's all I know.

All my plans
Are falling through
All my plans depend on you
Depend on you, to help them grow
I love you and that's all I know.


...

(most recently in Chicken Little)

I hope that if you are reading this, it helps you to find a positive note.

4 comments:

Barb said...

I have never been married or had children so I hope it is allright if I comment on what is very personal and painful to those who have.

I remember being in the back seat of a car of an elderly couple in Pennsylvania. They were so down-to-earth and there was something special about the way that they interacted that was so sweet. I seriously told myself to make a conscious picture of this moment in my mind and sadly it is not as vivid as I would have like in my recall. I am not sure if I knew then what I would find out from the daughter-in-law who lived next door to them and was married to their very nice son. She told me that they had a child that was missing and never found. I think the child was around five. She said that they believed that you had to go on with your life. I am not sure what they did or did not do. I just know that there seemed to be such respect and they seemed happy together.

annegb said...

Now I've got that song in my brain.

Bill and I almost didn't make it.

I don't know how we stayed together through all that. I wouldn't have stayed with me, if I were him, that's for sure.

Stephen said...

Barb, always feel free to post or comment.

annegb, what did you think of my advice?

I plan, I think, to give more. It draws a lot less in the way of readers, but it speaks to the core of the reason I'm blogging.

Lisa M. said...

Love your advice.

I only wish I had read it sooner.

Our marriage did not survive, sadly enough.

Not only did our other children lose a sibling, but our lives were in shambles all the way around.

Its a good line of thought, Stephen.