7 Ways The Thomas Fire Forever Changed My Marriage (For The Better)

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natural disasters save relationships

When an out of control wildfire chars over 242,000 acres, destroys 972 structures, and forces 88,000 people out of their homes, many couples are forced to come together in ways that leave lasting imprints on their relationship.

My husband and I spent a week holed up with our four-year-old in a hotel room escaping the flames and smoke of the Thomas Fire while obsessively checking our phones for updates and praying that our house survived. Our relationship was tested, but we came out of it with an appreciation for how we were able to show up for each other when things got real.

We were not the only ones. Many of the couples I spoke with post-fire reported significant shifts in their relationships after the shared experience of a natural disaster.

So, come fire, flood, tornado, earthquake, or any other variety of disaster, here's how natural disasters save relationships and deepen the bond in your romantic partnership.

1. Confined spaces force you to face your issues.

There’s no walking away from an argument when you’re cooped up with your boo. So, if an argument materializes, you’re forced to show up to the conversation and talk it out. And because natural disasters are stressful enough, there’s extra motivation to push your ego to the side, meet your partner on neutral ground, and find resolution.

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2. The brightest and darkest sides of yourself come to the forefront.

During a crisis it’s easy to shift from doomsday paranoia to we-will-prevail enthusiasm in the space of an hour. These big emotions remove any veils that may have existed in a relationship and expose the most authentic versions of both partners.

While these truths may be hard to stomach, they can give you assurance that you fully know the person you’re sharing your life with. And if what you see behind that veil shocks you, being physically stuck together offers a great opportunity to discuss your concerns.

3. You can have the conversation about what really matters.

It’s easy to have a hypothetical conversation about your shared priorities when life is hunky dory, but when you’re faced with losing your lives, home, or community, your true desires are exposed. Because it can be easy to shift back to the status quo after a disaster, it’s helpful to write down the priorities you discuss and commit to living a life guided by them.

One couple I spoke with, who lost their house in the Thomas Fire, decided they will sell their now empty lot, buy an RV, and live in various national parks around the United States — their first stop will be Yellowstone. The fire helped them realize their shared desires of traveling and not being tied to one location.

4. You discover the most effective ways to support one another.

We all have different needs when we’re breaking down — some people need physical contact, others need space, and many need encouragement to cry. Different strokes for different folks.

When you and your honey are faced with a disaster, it’s inevitable that you’ll both have moments where you breakdown. These breakdowns are a prime time to practice trial and error in regards to what your needs are when you’re losing it, and what your partner’s needs are when they’re emotionally melting.

Realizing what an emotional salve your partner is for you, and vice versa, reminds you why you fell in love.

5. You get to indulge in high-quality veg-out time.

Amidst our culture’s rat race, it’s rare to get more than a few hours a week of “do nothing” time with your partner. When you’re stuck in that fore-mentioned confined space, there’s only so much work, disaster updating, and tidying up you can do before you’re left with no other option than to take a nap, read a book, watch a movie, or engage in some other chill activity with your partner.

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Because it’s such a novelty to have prolonged veg sessions with your special person, subtle but impactful shifts occur in your relationship as you enjoy the act of just being together.

6. You finally realize the kind of life you've created together.

If your partner is also your roommate, and maybe even the other parent to your children, being faced with losing pieces of the life you’ve created together offers a poignant opportunity to step back and examine the landscape of that shared life.

When couples are stuck in the minute details of their day-to-day existence, it’s rare that they step back and say, “Wow, check out this home, and family, and community we’ve built together. What a stellar accomplishment.” Let the disaster be your catalyst for taking stock of what a powerful and effective team you’re a part of.  

7. Disasters make you appreciate what you already have.

Having your current reality threatened by the overwhelming powers of nature wipes away your petty concerns and allows you to clearly see what’s in front of you: a person who loves you and cares about your well-being, above all else. In a strange way, natural disasters save relationships and are a magic elixir that can fill a relationship with those elusive “honeymoon phase” feels.

When you’re reminded that the presence of your partner is not a guarantee, that the unpredictability of life could take them from you at a moment’s notice, the trapdoor of love that released when you first fell in love will likely reopen, flooding you with fresh adoration for the person you’re choosing to share this uncertain life with.

So, friends, as our climate continues to shift and unexpected natural phenomenon strike challenge and change into our lives, let the upheaval be an opportunity to dive deep into the complex waters of love you share with your partner. 

RELATED: 8 Things All Couples Can Do To Fix Their 'Broken' Relationships

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Bailey Gaddis is the author of Feng Shui Mommy: Creating Balance Amidst the Chaos for Blissful Pregnancy, Childbirth and Motherhood. She has written for Elephant Journal, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Woman's Day, Good Housekeeping, Scary Mommy, and others.