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The Meltdown – Another Ticket to Marital Intimacy


Things go wrong. The oven malfunctions, the appetizer burns, and your snooty in-laws arrive to a smoke-filled house. You’re leaving for your brother’s wedding and the baby throws up on the perfect silk dress you shopped for months to find. The flight home from the conference your boss made you attend is late. You miss your own birthday party.

A meltdown is yours to have. The sweetheart who wants to earn points (or what my hubby and I call Frequent Foreplay Miles) shows support with, “That really sucks!” and leaves you to rant ‘n rave until you realize you’ve crossed the line from justifiably upset to childish.

There are times, however, when the meltdown is up for grabs and goes to the first taker. Example: Hubby Dale and I were traveling by rent-a-wreck from Point Nowhere to Point End-of-the-Earth in Patagonia. Mid-way, the the car died. Just as I opened my mouth to lament that we would be robbed and left to die where our bodies would never be found, Dale had a 10-on-the-Richter-scale tantrum. He pounded the steering wheel, turned the air blue, blue, blue, then got out of the car and began maniacally kicking it. Dang! I had been too slow on the uptake. He called dibs on the meltdown. It was my turn to stay calm. I didn’t try talking him off the ledge. I didn’t point out that his behavior wasn’t solving our dilemma. I let him enjoy the moment, supporting him by throwing in a few expletives of my own. He called losing-it-dibs. Fair is fair.

Although I didn’t get to have my meltdown, I’ve gotten good laughs from telling the story of when mild-mannered Dale went postal. And when I tell it, I get to throw in my highway robbery fears. It worked out. It usually does.

Here’s the rule: When what goes wrong happens to both of you, only one of you gets to have the meltdown. The other one stays calm. Someone has to deal with whatever it is that went wrong. Trust me on this. It’s the best way to avoid an argument and the quickest way to get your crazed sweetie back to the world of the sane.

Jean knows how to work the system. Richard’s meltdowns are preceded by a throbbing vein in his forehead. When one of the kids spilled cherry Kool-Aid all over the family room sofa and Richard’s vein began to throb, she seized the opportunity to get the new sofa she’d been wanting and beat him to the punch. She figured Richard would more readily agree to a new sofa if it was she who had the tantrum. She was right. Smart woman.

When things go wrong and you respond with a meltdown, the last thing you want to hear is that your behavior is ridiculous. So, the next time your love bug has a meltdown, return the favor. Giving your partner space to be less than perfect without being holier-than-thou judgmental is a great way to sustain intimacy by saying, “I love you, imperfections and all.” You’ll earn Frequent Foreplay Miles and we can all use those!

shela dean is relationship happiness coach, speaker, and author of frequent foreplay miles – your ticket to total intimacy. her book and advice have helped many couples in their journey towards improving intimacy and strengthening marital bonds.

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Listed: September 18, 2009 12:02 am