A number of years ago, I witnessed a ballet piece entitled "After the Rain." I've seen this piece at least 5 times onstage since and every time I cry. In 9 minutes, the two dancers convey the richness of a relationship in a way that words can't express. Something about it just gets me. If you want to watch the piece, here's a link:
The title, "After the Rain", could mean many things to many people. To me, it's referring to the period of time after a hardship is over. The cancer is in remission - now what? Your partner got sober - now what? You left that abusive relationship - now what? Your partner returned from a deployment - now what? You're going back to work after being unemployed - now what? So often, we assume that once the rain has passed, life "goes back to normal." Yet for those who have truly endured some rain in their lives, they know this isn't the case. The old "normal" doesn't work anymore. Something has to change and adjust, often quite drastically, after the rain has passed to figure out what life is now. And if you think that relationships become sunshine and rainbows after the rain is gone, you're wrong. This can be the point where many relationships fall apart.
Why do we expect things to be okay after the rain has passed? And what can we do to make sure our relationship survives the storms of life? It's a natural response to hope that things will adjust quickly and easily after the hard situation is over. There is an initial honeymoon period in many cases where there can be a lot of joy and relief - relief that your loved one (or you) is still alive, relief that things may be looking up. Where we make a mistake is assuming that this is going to last, when really it's quite short-lived. We under-estimate how hard the re-building process is going to be, thinking that we don't need to communicate about or change as many aspects of life as you really need to. When we adjust our expectations, we prepare ourselves to do the work that's required to make a change after the rain. Our society tends to hold this view that work is something you do for 40 hours a week, not something that you do when you're not at a job. This is why it can be hard for people to live as healthy a life as they may desire - it takes work and commitment. Our culture highly values leisure and entertainment which has benefits and is important. It also means we expect things to come easily that often don't. We expect that once the rain has passed, everything is okay, when it's really not. When the rain passes, that's when the work just begins in many cases (and it's round-the-clock work).
So how do we not only weather the storm, but re-build after it's passed? Well, therapy is a fantastic place to start. Our culture also holds this view that therapy is something you do when things are "really bad." It's a last resort for many people when they've reached their breaking point. We understand the person who seeks out therapy when they get diagnosed with cancer, but not someone who would go to therapy after they're told by the doctors that they're cancer-free now. This stigmatizes and deters people from getting help when by society's standards "things should be better now." People can face a lot of judgement for getting help after the rain has passed because it's misunderstood. The more normalized therapy is, the more likely people are to start it sooner and to stay in it longer if they're benefiting from the process. It's also essential that if you are the partner of someone who was in the rain, that you start the conversation. Guess what? You weren't having an easy time either. Chances are you kept that inside a lot because you didn't want to fear making things worse for them. Now is the time to start talking with your partner about what their rainstorm was really like (because they probably didn't want to talk about it much when they were in it) and to acknowledge that this may be hard for them and you as they change. Talk about your rainstorm too because they may not know your story as well as you think they do. It can be the most beautiful thing in the world to heal together, and it also won't be easy. It's going to be as hard - if not harder - than the rain was. Be up front about that so that it doesn't become something either one of you are hiding from. And finally, love each other fiercely. There may have been a time where you didn't think your relationship would hold up or that either of you would make it out of what you endured. Luckily, you did. You're here. More than most people, the two of you are not taking things for granted because you know how life can throw a curve ball. Show it to your partner in your actions and words every day that you love them. This is harder than it sounds as life may start feeling more chaotic and you both may be completely re-learning who the other person is now, after the rain. Give it your best shot to show them, especially on the days where it's hard and you don't want to.
Rain is not something to run from and when it passes, we move into a new way of being. Embrace the struggle and you will finding healing.