I don’t care how in love you are. No matter how much naked-couple time you log, how often you finish each other’s sentences—even if you regularly eat up hours marveling at the beauty that is your unique, special snowflake of love, every relationship has its ups and downs.
Rare is the couple that can’t handle the highs. Sure, you hear about the occasional marriage that breaks up over lottery windfalls (or when the female half wins an Academy Award, ahem), but for the most part, good fortune is a breeze. It’s the rough stuff that puts your love to the test. And what could be harder to handle than the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?!
Read on …Horse #1: Pestilence
Thanks to modern medicine, none of us will ever have to soldier through the Black Death or Scarlet Fever, but people do get sick. And if you’re committed to your Smoochy Boo, you’d better learn to deal with it.
Patrice, an illustrator in her early 30s, lost her mom a couple years back and since then, every time her girlfriend gets so much as the sniffles, Patrice spins into a panic spiral. She immediately makes chicken soup, has the doctor on speed dial, and hovers and frets to the point where her girlfriend has been known to fake her own recovery.
I’m just the opposite. When my man gets sick, I find myself rolling my eyes and losing patience after a couple hours. I suspect this is because I was brought up by a woman who believed that unless you were projectile vomiting and had a fever well into the triple digits, you were getting your ass onto that school bus, young lady.
Obviously, neither Patrice nor I are so good with the pestilence. Patrice is getting her head shrunk so she can be less of a stress case the next time allergy season rolls around. Me, I’m just working on being less of a bitch.
Horse #2: War
I would argue that the most important thing a couple can learn is how to fight fairly and effectively. That means no name-calling, no below-the-belt blows and, obviously, no physical violence.
To ascertain whether your relationship can weather the test of war, I would suggest going to Ikea and putting yourself through what is known as the Swedish Test of Torture: aka, assembling one of their more complicated pieces of furniture. With only cryptic drawings, allen wrenches and common sense to guide you, you can be sure that if you and your sweetie are able to successfully assemble a BESTÅ/FRAMSTÅ/INREDA storage system together, without murdering each other, you know you’re good. (Me and mine hire someone to do it—that works too.)
Horse #3: Famine
Lucky for us, the chances of our Fast Food Nation experiencing a full-blown famine are pretty much nil. But with the economy tanking, a lot of us did feel a dearth of employment and the accompanying loss of income. I work at home, so when my man briefly lost his job last year, it was stressful because suddenly we were both in our tiny apartment 24/7. I’m not going to lie—it wasn’t easy. There was a lot of yelling the first week, but eventually we got into a groove. He’d go for a mid-afternoon walk; I’d meet up with friends in the evening. We gave each other a little space (there ain’t much to split up!) and when he eventually landed another job, I actually missed him a little.
Horse #4: Death
I discovered I was dating one Mr. Wrong during my mom’s brief illness, which was quickly followed by her death. We were laying in bed one night and I was crying. I’d just found out that my mom’s cancer—which we hadn’t even known about a couple weeks before—was so advanced the doctors weren’t even sure whether it was “worth” operating on. I guess my sobs were keeping him awake so he asked me why I was crying. I was heartbroken and scared and said, “I’m afraid that my mom is going to die.”
His reply: “I don’t know what you expect me to do about that.”
In sharp contrast, my friend Heather had just started dating her now-husband when her dad fell ill with the cancer that would quickly kill him. John was everything my ex wasn’t—kind, supportive, unbelievably empathetic, and did I mention, supportive? His strength and love never wavered during the entire sad experience and three years later, they remain one of the happiest couples I know.
Revelations: So, yes, while none of these scenarios are particularly pleasant (especially Ikea!), turmoil and strife can not only show you what you’re made of, but help you weed out the unworthy and appreciate the gems.