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Riding the Big Waves of Emotion
in Marriage, Together

communication death stress Mar 23, 2021

If emotions are like waves, our local community got hit by a tsunami this week.

We like to call Boulder our "souls' home." It’s where we were both born. It’s where we met, during our senior year at Boulder High. It’s where we got married 15 years ago. It’s where we've raised our daughter for the last eight years.

So you can imagine the shock and horror we experienced when we started receiving texts from friends and family members throughout the world asking if we were OK.

Ten members of our community died on Monday. Their only crime was shopping at the very same King Soopers we have frequented numerous times.

We experienced shock. How could this happen?

We experienced deep sadness. Why does this keep happening?

We experienced anger. Why are we unable to work together toward a solution to this epidemic of mass shootings?

We also encountered a deep challenge in marriage during this time: How can we process these intense emotions without taking out our pain and grief on each other? 

Here are a few tools we’ve been experimenting with this week.




1. Holding the space.

When listening to your partner reveal such deep and intense emotions, it’s tempting to go into "solution mode." We've found, however, that the greatest gift you can give is to simply hold the space, to be open and available, listening deeply.

What does this look like? 

  • Paying close attention as they reveal their experience
  • Reflecting back what they have reported to you. “I really get how this triggers you and that you're struggling to make sense of it all."
  • Asking what support looks like for them. "How can I be there to support you?"


2. Radical generosity.

The surprise hug. The unexpected kiss. The Post-It note that says “I love you." These small acts can always transform the experience of marriage. And yet, times of crisis amplify the impact of radical generosity. Going out of your way to do something kind for your partner helps preserve the connective tissue of love during these challenging times. In times like these, we all can use a reminder of where we’re safe and loved - and creating that experience in marriage is a true gift.


3. Taking action together.

Sometimes, there’s no action needed, all you have to do is stay connected while processing these big waves of emotion. Sometimes, however, taking action together is a skillful response and a powerful way of staying connected.

In the case of a tragic event, for example, it’s asking questions like:

  • What needs to be said?
  • Whom could benefit from the donation of our time, energy, or money?
  • What causes can we support that might prevent this from happening again?


The goal of these practices is twofold. On one level, the goal is to stay present with these powerful emotions so that you can be of service to your family, community, and the world.

On another level, the goal is to stay connected with your partner, even in the midst of life's chaos. It's to transform these challenging times from a reason to pull away and guard your heart when it feels vulnerable into a reason to stay close and connected. 

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