Political Stress/Hurricane Stress - need your help on this one -

Smart Marriages ® cmfce
Mon Sep 27 16:24:36 EDT 2004

Message-ID: <BD7DEF44.8420%cmfce at smartmarriages.com>

subject: Political Stress/Hurricane Stress - need your help - 9/04




This is a BIG one and it's by a reporter I know and trust. PLEASE contact
her if this fits your marriage, or pass it to a colleague or family member
that you know is struggling with this issue. It seems couples are getting
quite polarized as the election approaches. Let's try to shed some light on
this hot topic. What's different about it this time than in past years? -

I am looking for couples who don't agree politically, and at least one
spouse finds that difficult at times. It does not have to be an unhappy
marriage. In fact, it can be an overall happy marriage. But I would like
to speak to couples (or one spouse) who have found it a challenge to have
different political leanings, at least some of the time. Interviewees must
be willing to use their real names.
Please contact me directly via email at tdelias at aol.com

By Margo Harakas
Staff Writer
September 27 2004

No sooner did Frances pass than the phone began ringing.

A woman was fuming, upset that in the hours before the hurricane, her
husband had scurried about tending to work-related hurricane matters instead
of securing the home front. "You care more about work than me," she told her

Another caller complained that her husband had generously pitched in to help
neighbors and friends with their preparations, pushing his own family to the
end of the line. "Why aren't you thinking about me and the children first?"
she scolded.

Valerie Kanouse Balsama, a Boca Raton divorce lawyer, is witnessing the
matrimonial-splintering effects of natural disasters, in this case,

Stirred up by the winds is a parade of new clients, all saying they can't
"stand their spouses any more."

One even brought in photos "of personal belongings being deliberately cast
out in the torrential rainfall" by the offending spouse.

Balsama, an advocate for marriage preservation, understands the triggers for
the emotional upheavals.

"There's a lot of work that goes into preparing for a hurricane," she says.
"People have stressed lives already, doing close to the max what they're
able to do. Superimpose on that all this extra work ... "

And then there's the very real threat of the hurricane itself, as it
thrashes its way across the landscape, damaging homes, flooding communities,
toppling trees, cutting off power and water supplies.

It's not that hurricanes sever marital ties that aren't already strained,
says Balsama, who founded the nonprofit interdisciplinary think tank The
Council for Marriage Preservation and Divorce Resolution Inc. Rather, she
says, "it exacerbates and pushes to the forefront the intensity of the
issues, the lack of communication and incompatibly."

Even where divorce is not an issue, the intense emotions of gearing up and
facing a perhaps life-threatening storm can induce strains even in a strong
relationship and provoke family bickering.

Sitting in a darkened, boarded up house, without electricity, perhaps
without water, hearing the roaring wind, feeling the pressure, and fearing
what it might do to your loved ones and your property is traumatic, says
family psychiatrist James Cocores.

In some ways, he says, it's like a hostage situation. "You're being held
against your will in a state of fear for long periods of times."

Nerves fray. People "start picking on the people they love the most."

Cocores, medical director at Southcoast Psychotherapy & Education Associates
Inc. in Boca Raton, and Balsama often work together with couples to salvage
marriages. In the past few weeks, both have seen a marked increase in
marriages in crisis.

"We as human beings take too much credit for what we think is control of our
lives," Cocores says. But with a hurricane, "you're readily reminded you are
not in control of anything."

Not realizing that men and women communicate and approach problems in very
different ways can add to the problem. Women, for example, may want the
house secured and all preparations made well in advance. Men, on the other
hand, may take a more laid-back approach.

Too much togetherness in uncomfortable circumstances can also be trying.

We may complain about the daily distractions of going to work, getting gas
and shopping, Cocores says, "but I've seen absolute meltdowns at home
because, frankly, people are not accustomed to being with each other this

Not in shuttered homes without electricity and other inconveniences.

The stagnant, musty air and increased humidity raise another MEDIA
issue. "That humidity," Cocores says, "gets to the central nervous system."

So do processed foods that substitute for a healthy diet. "They contain all
sorts of additives that are known to increase depression, irritability and
anxiety," he says.

So how do you deal with it all and minimize the tensions? Balsama and
Cocores offer these suggestions:

Share tasks. In preparation for the hurricane, the more organized partner
should compile a to-do list, from which family members can choose the tasks
they feel best suited to handle.

Don't assume, and don't nag. Be upfront and say, "I'm going to need help
with this." Afterwards, reinforce by saying, "That was a big help, thank

Communicate. Share thoughts, ideas, needs and desires.

Practice patience. It's a choice we make.

Turn off the TV. Tune in no more than every hour or so for a 10- or
15-minute update. Spend the idle time talking, sharing family memories,
playing board games or reading to each other.

Return to a healthy diet, to exercise and sunshine as soon as possible.
Sunshine is a natural stimulant.

Develop an attitude of gratitude by focusing on the positive aspects of your

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