2020 has been announced as the year of Community in the Hungarian Jesuit Province. Joining this initiative, the series offers an insight into the lives of four couples who share their experiences of overcoming different crises or difficulties. Their example shows that hardship can be turned into an opportunity to grow and strengthen the relationship. These films can be used as a starting point for couples and communities to talk about their own experiences and questions. Even if the viewer has no personal experience about the particular events of the episode, the shared coping techniques and honest stories provide useful guidelines for further discussion.   

 

1. Once it is there, it is allowed to be there

The arrival of an ill child could cause crisis in the family. This episode gives an insight into the patient loyalty and growing attention of the spouses towards each other after a period of disaffection, an insight into finding the way back to each other.

Guidelines for couples or group discussion:

The autism of the third child creates crisis in the family.

The illness can load the family and the relationship of the spouses in two ways:

-one of the parents paying too much attention to the sick child, not leaving enough room for the healthy children and the spouse

-making the illness a taboo, creating denial and secrecy around it, excluding the child from the family

It is worth looking at the positive and negative effects of superstitions, beliefs and faith.

”Inevitable fate”.

What strengths, assets does the couple have in handling the difficult situation?

For example, the recharging power of attention, trying to find ways to connect (”even if he doesn’t understand me, he wants to…”), newly found appreciation for certain moments.

The mother over-extends herself: “I wanted to do everything for him. Everything. I told those exact words to the special needs educator”; “I want to achieve all with my child”. You can’t, says the expert. Realistic goals need to be set.

Finding balance between the relationship, the whole family, and improving and taking care of the sick child.

Changing gender roles, the man finding his place and role in the family. 

 

2. Everyday decision

The risk of burnout is present in any couple’s life. The grey everyday life and the arrival of the fifth child makes the spouses drift apart. Tackling the problem and learning how to work through it is eventually integrated into the couple’s life. They learn a lot about each other, their communication improves and they experience new levels of intimacy. 

Guidelines for couples or group discussion:

This episode presents the relationship of an extroverted man and an introverted woman.

They quickly realise that they have very different skills and needs of communication.

Giving birth to a child upsets their balance. The feeling of anger, shift in the direction of anger (being angry at the other one, eventually at myself).

Asking for help and accepting it is different for the man and the woman. For the husband it is natural, the wife would like to solve their problems without outside help.

A dangerous course begins with blaming each other, scapegoating. From feeling pain they shift to feeling helpless, powerless. They start to build walls to protect themselves from the pain. In order to solve their problems they must open up to each other. They reopen their conversations and start to examine their feeling in depth, not accepting superficial and stereotyped answers. This way their relationship ultimately benefits from the crisis.

It helps their process when they find a slower pace for their communication. In writing they can eliminate the quick, automatic defensive answers. They complete their task as their duty, as being reasonable.

Even though they don’t desire spending time together like taking walks together or having sex, it still has a good effect on them. Slowly reapproaching each other.

Taking care of the relationship: quality time, having dates (designated time, safe space – “Date is a protected time”). Rules of the date: it is forbidden to talk about the practicalities of everyday life. New situations, new experiences help rekindle the love life.

Being aware of the differences in their love languages so they can express and receive affection better.

Nonviolent communication, not accusing each other but expressing our own feelings.

Interesting viewpoint: “Shared work makes us a couple >>created to each other<<”.

Sexuality: consciousness may be necessary in sustaining intimacy, it can’t all be left to spontaneity.

 

3. I love him more than my truth

Experiencing the greatest loss is an enormous trauma for the couple. Is it possible to recover from that?  How is it possible, together or alone? If we start alone, can our paths cross again? What can save us in the most difficult times?

Guidelines for couples or group discussion:

The loss of the child causes crisis in the family’s life. We can think about the dividing power of loss and pain and how it manifests. Does it have connecting power, can it be a cohesive force? How can we find it?

The roads of pain and misery walked alone start to meet, so it can be shared. Trap: questioning who has the right to grief, whose pain is bigger?

In which sentences can the sense of guilt, remorse deep inside be detected? For example, the father says he didn’t spend enough time with his child, or couldn’t believe in her recovery strongly enough.

What needs to be done in order to benefit, learn from a loss, so that it can make them better?

Decision to stay together: divorce would be betrayal, they choose not to forget about their alliance.

The beauty of starting over. It is worth paying attention to their resources, what made them able to reconnect.

In other cases – the risk of having children for the wrong reasons (replacement, consolation).

 

4. I wonder what flower it might turn into

A child is a blessing. Its absence or when it doesn’t come the way we imagined can cause tension.  Desires and expectations make the progress more difficult. Which are the traps that should be avoided? Even though an adopted child is raised as one’s own, it is natural that there is always an “if” left. What can be done about it? An unusual setting creates unusual parenting situations, which can burden the relationship. Gender-specific roles. Is it embarrassing to ask for help?

Guidelines for couples or group discussion:

The stress of waiting for a child. It was harder on the wife. For the husband it comes more natural to accept the difficulties.

Do they decide on adoption too soon? Is it giving up or being reasonable?

After the adoption, due to the pressure from their environment, they try again to have children biologically. Unsuccessful IVF treatments result in a sense of failure and loss, leading to a crisis in the couple’s life.

Strengths of the relationship: similar values, open communication, and humour! As a result, conflicts run their course quickly. When should our thoughts, problems be voiced – the answer is: right away. Later they talk it over calmly, so no thorns will be left and the relationship grows from it.

They can mutually learn from each other, they are outspoken and express their feelings.

When it comes to having a problem with an adapted child, the question often comes up if it would be the same with a biological child. The couple dismisses this thought quickly, they don’t let it get under their skin, they have a rational attitude, technique to handle these kinds of situations.

Respecting the original/biological family, not judging the parents. Gipsy/roma ethnicity as a value.

Establishing main parental roles: discipline from the father, acceptance and tenderness from the mother (in their case).

They recognize the difficulties of the relationship and parenting and seek professional advice and help. It is a great resource, and they know that there is nothing to be ashamed of.

 

5. Love freely

A marriage could be easily destroyed by the appearance of a third person, even if it’s a platonic love. How can a couple manage such situations? How can communication and commitment help a couple in saving their relationship?

Guidelines for couples or group discussion:

A sudden love means crisis in the relationship.

In the first part of the episode the couple reminisce about their beautiful process of becoming a couple. This will function as an important standing-ground later, as their “roots”.

The power of honest and open communication. It can truly work only when the decision to stay together has been made. 

The limits of honesty – is it worthwhile to discuss with my partner who is my dream partner, my ideal spouse?

Can I and should I possess my partner?

Chasing juvenile ideals. Latent desire to run away from commitment, responsibility, problems or monotony of everyday life.

No one is responsible for falling in love but for giving it space to grow.

Two important feelings to reckon with: guilt for causing pain and fear of losing the other one. 

 

The series was made with the support of the Hungarian Media Patronage Programme.