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What Does "For Worse" Look Like?

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Their love survived...the death of their child continued...

In 2002, the Franklin, TN, couple was dealt another blow when 3-year-old Jillian developed the same disease. Jessica was terrified for her marriage as well as for her daughter. "I'd heard the statistics about divorce rates among couples who'd lost a child, much less two," Jessica says. "It prompted me to ask a friend's prayer group—they'd been praying for Jillian—to pray for me and Irvin, too." The group suggested the Pasleys try a therapy retreat to reconnect. The couple was surprised to find it helped immensely, teaching them to appreciate each other's unique coping skills. (Another reason to rejoice: Jillian's prognosis has since improved.)

"We had already lost our child and our dream of what our family was going to look like," says Jessica. "Were we going to lose each other, too? No. We explored every possible option to save our kids. Our marriage deserves that, too."

Their love survived...unemployment

Anne Crowley and Michael Hall had high hopes for their future when they moved from Washington, DC, to San Francisco in 2001 to open a new branch of the architecture firm where they both worked. But a year-and-a-half later, their fast-track careers derailed when a dispute between Michael and their boss forced them to resign. Faced with scarce job opportunities, steep living expenses, and two young children at home to provide for, the couple found themselves fighting about money—constantly.

"He'd want to spend two bucks on a coffee and I'd argue we should make it ourselves," says Anne, 40. For Michael, 41, who'd agreed to look for a job while Anne stayed home with the children, the pressure to solve their financial crunch was often just too much to take. "Sometimes I'd come home exhausted and she'd want to vent about her day, and I'd have to tell her, 'I can't handle your stress right now. I'm all filled up,'" Michael says.

Things went from bad to worse when Michael came home to find his wife holding a letter informing them that their former boss had filed a lawsuit against them. "The first thought that entered my mind was, Is my wife going to leave me?" Michael recalls. "I already felt guilty for leading my family into this mess; maybe she'd be better off without me." Michael withdrew emotionally—and only days later, with his wife's coaxing, did he reveal what was haunting him. "It just broke my heart," Anne says. When she told him, "Of course I wouldn't leave you," Michael felt a weight lift. "It's one thing to know it's true, and still another to hear it," he says now.

After that, the couple made a pact to solve problems together. And slowly, they found that they could bond without spending tons of cash—by, say, taking a walk in the park rather than heading to a restaurant. "Once we realized how little we needed to get by, we stopped worrying—and fighting—about money," Anne explains. Armed with this newfound confidence, in 2003 the couple moved back to Washington and took an even bigger gamble, opening their own architecture business. But even today, the two are careful to not let their money concerns overrun their relationship. "For example, Wednesday is our date night," says Anne. "If a client wants to meet us then, we usually tell them we're not available." Protecting their intimacy, they've learned, is as important as building their business—if not more so. "That year we spent struggling clarified what really mattered," says Anne. "We know now that as long as we have each other, we can get through anything."

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