Life is filled with interruptions. Conversations are littered with interruptions. A career path can be interrupted by starting a family or by being laid off. Completing an education can be interrupted by lack of funds. A winning football drive down field can be interrupted by a 15-yard penalty. You name it, and it can get interrupted, including relationships.
Relationships get put on hold for a variety of reasons in strong, healthy partnerships as well as strained ones. Reasons vary from simple life events such as a short-term illness or accident to more devastating changes resulting from chronic illnesses (Alzheimer’s or spinal cord injury, for example). Whatever the reason may be for the interruption, the roles almost always change between partners. The role of lover may be lost due to a change in physical or mental abilities, while the role of caretaker takes its place and is now a priority. So, while the typical ideas of romance may be altered for a while, couples can find other ways to express love and concern for each other. Hot and heavy sex that was so much fun to look forward to may now be replaced by holding hands, gentle hugs and sharing sweet memories, depending on how permanent and how sudden the interruption may be.
When an interruption appears to be long term or even permanent, then the couple has choices to make. In a new relationship, the partner thrust into a caretaker role may not be ready or willing to accept this change and may leave the relationship. In a more established partnership, a change in roles may be accepted lovingly without question, and the interruption becomes the new norm for that couple. However difficult the struggle is to choose to stay, leave or remain friends but not lovers, a sense of guilt or selfishness for questioning the future may prevent a person from talking through this decision with others. Remaining a steadfast “rock” with unwavering devotion, while gallant, is a difficult task to master without help from family, friends or health professionals. In some cases, a drastic change in a relationship role may lead to unhealthy behaviors such as substance abuse, alcoholism, overeating or other self-destructive behavior. These are understandable attempts to deal with the stress, depression or grief that accompanies major relationship changes. More constructive options could be turning to exercise, support groups, spiritual support and habits that promote rather than destroy overall health.
If saving the relationship is a goal, then it is crucial for both partners to share feelings, hopes and worries with each other. Communication is crucial to any relationship, whether it is interrupted or not, but timing can be more delicate than usual in this case. Approaching the topic of missing sex with a partner that is having a bad day physically will probably not help either person work through the interruption in a positive way. Acts of kindness and open communication may be just as sexy as those previously hot, steamy lovemaking sessions. And, unsolicited acts of kindness are the best examples of your love for each other. Simple gestures of rubbing their feet, bringing home their favorite smoothie or warming their boxers in the dryer on a cold morning go a long way in demonstrating the love shared between two people.
Almost all relationships experience some type of interruption. If this happens to you, we hope you work through it with love, kindness and communication and that, in the end, your relationship is stronger.