This is a preview. The full article appears in Neil's book: Love, Sex and Staying Warm: Creating a Vital Relationship

Anytime we go through a genuine crisis, our intimate relationships with other people—your spouse or sweetheart, children, family and friends—are affected. Whether those relationships help us through the crisis, or instead go down in flames depends on a host of factors, most of which are within our control.

People in crisis find it difficult to socialize with others, difficult to concentrate and difficult to have any get-up-and-go. Even small tasks or chores feel overwhelming and hard to complete. Libido diminishes considerably, and emotions other than depression or anxiety feel blunted and difficult to access. Normal things that have brought pleasure in the past—watching a movie, going out on the town, dancing, sports, sex and so on—no longer feel pleasurable or interesting. And some people have mood spirals, where their depression or anxiety keeps spiraling downward, and they get lower and more agitated, and then even lower and even more agitated.

A crisis strains a relationship. A person in crisis is likely to be morose, pessimistic, hopeless, sad, anxious, fatigued and less fun to be around. People in crisis typically complain a lot. They say negative things about what’s wrong with their lives, their work, their families, their partners and with the world. They often have flat emotions, withdraw from their vital relationships, and are prone to saying or doing things that are insensitive, hostile, angry or uncaring.

It is hard to feel loving to someone who is giving very little back. It is hard to feel connected to someone who is withdrawn, angry, impatient, negative or simply not present. This is profoundly multiplied if both people in a relationship are going through a crisis together, and neither of them have a whole lot to give to each other.

Here’s what you can do to keep your relationship intact while one or both of you are going through a crisis:

  • Affectionate touch is the one thing you can’t let slide. Touch grounds us and keeps us connected to each other. Whether it’s through cuddling, holding hands, hugging or just sitting next to each other, staying in touch is vital to keeping a relationship connected through hard times. It’s also wonderfully comforting to be held.
  • Develop good control over your words and actions toward others. Don’t take your anger or irritation out on your intimate partner, your children or other people. It will not help you to push other people away.
  • Make yourself go out and play together occasionally. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, play and having fun reduces despair and reminds us that we’re still alive. It also keeps us connected, knowing that someone is here with us through the hard times.

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