How National Tragedies Can Affect Your Relationship

grief in relationships

What happens when you and your partner are on a different page?

As with any horrific event, the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT stunned the nation and sent shockwaves rippling through various facets of our lives.

I, for example, am now a bit more afraid to have children for fear that someone could simply take them away. Other people I know, particularly parents, have lost concentration at work because their minds are preoccupied thinking of their kids’ safety at school. But what about relationships? Can they be affected by individual reactions?

Sadly (yet unsurprisingly), it seems that these types of awful events can negatively impact relationships.

According to relationship coach and YourTango expert Jodie Rodenbaugh, “tragedy will bring out past wounds that most times people aren't even aware of.” Meaning, you may not realize how afraid you are of guns or how terrifying having children can be until something like Sandy Hook comes along and wipes the “ignorance is bliss” carpet right from under you.

When people react differently to pain, this may be stressful to the relationship. However you deal with it is your own, but that can conflict with others’ defense mechanisms or responses to tragedy — particularly if you're parents together. It’s important to discuss these types of issues when children are involved.

Clinical psychologist and professor of psychology Dr. Sue Cornbluth says that “the best thing to do is agree to disagree in times of national tragedy if couples have a difference of opinions. However when it comes to our children, we must be on the same page.”

As someone who's single, I didn't think I'd be affected by the Newtown tragedy in regard to relationships. However, I was at a bar and talking to someone I found rather attractive, and somehow the shooting came up. Instead of just glazing over it, we briefly discussed how senseless, cruel and upsetting it was ... to me. The guy said it didn’t bother him, and he wasn’t sure why it bothered me so much since they weren’t my children.

While I can understand that his opinion came from a place of semi-rationality, I was almost instantaneously turned off the second he said, “Yeah, it sucks, I guess, but I just don’t really care all that much about kids.” Needless to say, I ended the conversation, but what if he had been someone I was already linked to?

Regardless of how they may affect your relationship, it's important to simply acknowledge your partner’s feelings and, if willing, talk about them. Rosenbaugh notes, “It takes a huge awareness of past pain and reactions are very typical for our emotionally illiterate society who knows very few choices ... sad feels so bad so some would rather get mad and blaming makes them feel better.”

So instead of getting angry, have a discussion.

How has your relationship been affected by national tragedy? What happens when you and your partner have different reactions to an event?

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