Should I stay or should I go?
This is the most common question we hear as we consult with individuals experiencing relationship trouble. Many of your friends and family will have opinions on this question. If you find yourself asking this question, understand that there will be lots of conflicting opinions and noise in the background. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide what direction to go in your relationship.
There is tons of research on why human beings thrive best in committed relationships. We are wired for connection with other people. Connections help us be happy and stay physically and emotionally healthy. When love dies it is tragic.
As a couples coach, I can help save a relationship when two dynamics are present: the couple still LIKES each other and is COMMITTED to learning and practicing new relationship skills. The couples I work with typically have fallen out of love and have high levels of distrust. If they like each other and are committed to a growth path, it is possible for them to recreate their relationship in a healthy and loving way. As long as these two components are present, it is possible to fall in love again. Everything can be healed and resolved, including betrayals, differences in values or religion, incompatibilities, abuse, addictions, and other challenges.
Sometimes, a couple has wounded each other to the point of no return. In this case, there is usually a “decision-maker” who concludes that divorce or a break-up is inevitable. Relationships typically end when:
- Your partner evolves into a personality disorder that prevents his/her from having an authentic and empathetic connection to you. You know this has happened if you find yourself depressed, anxious, or feeling chronically “never enough.”
- Your negative memories of your relationship have extinguished all or nearly all of your positive relationship memories. There is no hope to hang onto.
- You and your partner have significantly drifted apart into two different directions. You have no or little emotional or physical intimacy. There is no sense of “we-ness” just “me-ness.”
- You and your partner have changed over the years and now have significant and irreconcilable differences in values, expectations, and personal life goals.
- You or your partner strongly desire to be with someone else or the possibility of someone else.
- You secretly wish your partner would get into a fatal accident or die. This wish means that you are unconsciously acknowledging that your relationship is over.
- After giving a good faith effort to couples counseling, one of you does not desire to change and improve the relationship.
If there is hope for your relationship, know that couples counseling or coaching can make a big difference. There are developmental stages to a marriage or a relationship. Most people benefit from learning the necessary skills to successfully navigate those stages. Empathy is a skill that does not come naturally to most folks. Empathy must be learned and practiced. We often learn poor communication in our families of origin. Relationships improve when a couple learns how to communicate and problem-solve in a healthy way. Raising children is difficult and stressful. Intervention can assist you both learn to juggle marital tasks with a collaborative spirit. Most individuals who marry young, marry their “opposite.” Opposites attract because the novelty is thrilling and exciting. Learning how to leverage your differences is a skill that can be learned.
If it is best to end your relationship, you have a choice in regard to how you end it. You can choose a high road or a low road. Remember, there are resources available to assist you design a “good” divorce or relationship break-up.
-–Liz Dalton, J.D.