When I work with couples they are often at their wit’s end because they are faced with an impossible decision. To stay in the marriage seems as hard as to leave. This can slowly eat away at the soul because it feels like there is no way out.
But often, as we all tackle this together in the session, they realize there is a way forward. Here are some of the illuminating ideas to guide you through the darkness.
1. We always have a choice about how to react
In the words of Viktor Frankl, everything can be taken from a man but one thing, to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.
There are always options, and this includes how we choose to react in any given situation. It may even be the saving grace to know that we are choosing to react in a certain way, that we have, at least, that measure of control over our lives.
2. It may be a passing phase
You won’t have young kids forever. You may not have the boss you hate forever. You both may shake yourselves out of this funk and look back on this as a difficult period.
What may feel like a broken relationship may actually be the result of external pressures? Don’t make rash decisions, even if the prospect of making a decision feels better than making no decision at all.
3. Future dread and historic grudges
The healthiest relationships result from looking at the now, the actual events, rather than dreading a future that might never happen, or holding onto historic grudges.
Sometimes we need to take the energy we are fuelling into our dread or the grudges we hold and redirect that energy into a collaborative effort to find a way through these problems.
Forgiveness is a key tool to break the blame cycle, but in reality, our anger can get in the way. Why should we forgive them? Especially if it isn’t the first time.
One solution is to take a step back and analyze this rationally: Carry out a cost-benefit analysis by weighing the cost of holding that grudge, or dreading the future, compared with the benefit of letting go.
4. Change is often unwelcome
We find each other and form a relationship at a certain point in our lives.
That does not mean that we should forever remain static, and it does not mean that if we do change then we are rejecting the other person. The best outcome is that we accept each other’s evolving state, and we work as hard as we can to adapt to these changes.
The worst outcome is that one partner stops the other from growing because they feel threatened by these changes. If this occurs, remember that we probably play a part in this.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said: Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.
5. Recognise abuse in all its forms
Abuse is not just the impact of a clenched fist. Abuse can also include isolation, financial, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse.
Once you recognize it, you can talk to a trained professional.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
More by Chris Warren-Dickins