After being in practice for over 25 years, I’ve met lots of couples and heard lots of stories of unhappiness. Though my goal is to help marriages survive, there are times when a relationship must end. When there’s abuse or there’s so much toxicity between the two, a relationship is better off ending.
I’m happy to report that most of these partnerships remain intact after they’ve learned the skills necessary to have a successful relationship or the ability to have greater compassion for one another’s issues. It’s okay if one or both of the mates has “issues” focusing
– as long as the couple is willing to work, there’s hope. What saddens me is when a couple doesn’t do the work and the partnership ends.
Let me share a situation where this seems to be the case. A young couple who have been married eight years have three children — an older child and twins.
Initially, the man said that though he loved his wife, he was no longer in love with her. He did, however, want to get the feelings back. In an intervention I rarely use, we decided that he’d leave the house for a while.
What finally became revealed is that he’s been very angry for a very long time. From his perspective, though he was always very giving in the relationship, he felt that his wife put everyone before him. Rightful complaint! However, he never voiced it — at least not directly.
As we worked, she acknowledged her behavior and came to understand why she acted as she had — things like her own insecurities from her background, being given wrong advice by his parents, etc. She was clearly willing to “own” her part and make changes. In the weeks that passed, she did, in fact, alter how she responded to him.
And yet, with each week that passed, he became more vigilant in his position of wanting to end the marriage. This attitude was in spite of research I provided about the detriment to the children, the expertise I offered about people’s ability to change, or the findings that many couples who stay together in spite of their difficulties do find their marriages satisfying again in five years.
The reason I find this particularly sad is not only because of the children, but because I truly believe this is a marriage that could be saved. Yes, there are problems, but they are issues that can be remedied.
So, what’s the block? In my personal opinion, I believe that the hurt he’s experienced is triggering issues from his past. I am privy to that information. However, when I bring it up to him, he refuses to go there. Admittedly, it’s hard for many to re-experience the pain from childhood. The harsh reality is that therapy is only as good as the willingness of the client to work on the issues.
The other less psychological explanation is that, as humans, we rewrite history. If you focus on thinking the feelings are gone, it will only intensify this thought. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more you think the feelings of love are missing, the more you won’t feel the feelings of love. You’ll get what you expect to get.
As I’ve said before, each of you has the power to control your life and the way your life is going. Want to end your relationship? Start to focus on everything that’s wrong and the thought that you just have no more feelings left for your mate.
On the other hand, no relationship is perfect. Start to focus on the good traits in your significant other and value the person he or she is and watch the feelings grow. You can do it — you just have to want to!