I love this image. It looks so lovely and serene, doesn’t it? A couple, arm in arm, sitting peacefully on a rock viewing a splendid display of fireworks across the water. Imagine you are there with your partner. Suddenly it’s not quite so serene – in fact the loud unexpected booms and dazzling colors might make you jump a little and shield your eyes, they might give you bursts of joy or make you a little scared. And you might grab onto your partner in reaction, or perhaps just squeeze their hand at a particularly fabulous one. “Whoa, look at that one!” you might exclaim, and your partner would hopefully respond, or comment on their own favorites. The fireworks might even get your heart pumping, especially the incredibly bright finale that always seems to cap these displays. The smell of sulfur might drift across the water as you waited hopefully for another, then with a sigh, you would pack up until the next Fourth of July when you’d be sure to be out on the lake again.
Now extend this image as a metaphor for those fireworks in your relationship. We all encounter them, although maybe haven’t labelled them as such – for example, a new marriage, a new baby, a new job, a new city. Huh? Why are you calling those fireworks? They don’t resemble fireworks at all! Yes, but from my perspective as a couples counselor, these celebrations still generate disruption which needs adjusting to. The things I’ve listed can be seen as beautiful and fabulous from the outside, but when you’re in them, there can be lots of noise and upheaval, even amidst the joy and splendor. And the reason I like the image so much is that it takes the team of the two of you to get you through. You have to figure out together the different tasks and responsibilities and routines in each firework, whilst at the same time making sure to grab onto your partner for stability and reassurance.
And here are some other fireworks that might occur in your relationship: an older teen leaving home for college, a young adult moving back home, a newly blended family. If you’ve experienced one of these, you know that these events absolutely need adjusting to, no matter the celebration around it. And teamwork, again, is the foundation for this adjustment, a foundation that we often lose sight of.
And some others: losing a parent, losing a child. These are biggies that, depending on the nature of the loss, can lead to years of processing, both before and after. Remember, metaphorically you are sitting with your partner on the rock, across the river from the big display. Only now it seems like the big display is wreaking havoc in your heart. We so often isolate ourselves during these times, not caring about the huge resource that our relationship can provide. Don’t forget to reach out for the reassurance that is often only a movement of your hand away. Connect when and how you can.
And how about this all-too-common firework: the discovery of an affair, or the announcement that your partner wants a divorce. Perhaps a more apt metaphor for this is an explosion. These events can certainly feel like explosions in your heart and life, leave you feeling like your whole being is scattered and demolished. But did you know that the research shows that 40% of partners who ask their partners for a divorce change their minds? Or that many couples recover from an affair and end up with an even stronger relationship? Couples counseling is an invaluable aid to this recovery.
No matter the firework, couples counseling can help. Couples counseling can support connection in your partnership. It can support using your partner as an invaluable resource for adjusting to these tumultuous events in your life and your life ahead. It can get you and your partner through to the point where you see the smoke residue wafting away on the breeze and the lake calm again. Because when the fireworks end (and they always do), there you’ll be on the rock, ready for home.