I have just returned from a week away in isolation in north Holland where I spent seven wonderful days with my wife and two dogs without television, internet or phone. We just had each other for company and comfort which was more than enough. Unfortunately, many couples never find this kind of harmony with their partner and we consider ourselves very lucky that we do. We try to work on our marriage every day to keep it fresh and alive. However, some couples have to make that painful decision to split or stay together leading to conflict, turmoil and depression. The following post looks at these couples.
July, according to some studies, is often a time when we re-evaluate our life. Could it be that we find being alone a little easier in the summer?
Chances are that if you’re in a relationship or marriage that’s not always fulfilling, you might be wondering whether it’s going to last. There are all kinds of reasons why a relationship can get into trouble or start to fail — just as there are lots of reasons why people start to think about leaving their partner. Perhaps you’ve been together for several years but wonder whether he’s really the right one. Women may start worrying about their biological clock and men may think it is the right time to find a partner for life..
Maybe the children have flown the nest and you’re unsure what really binds you together. Maybe you’re with someone who’s making you miserable and undermining your confidence. Or you’re having an affair and are no longer in love with the person you live with. Whatever the scenario, ending a failing partnership or instigating changes in an unhappy relationship can be incredibly difficult, often requiring weeks, months — even years — of tortured indecision. I have seen many people lose a big part of themselves by staying too long in unhappy relationships. The ‘should I stay or should I go?’ conundrum leaves them suffering symptoms of stress, such as palpitations, sleeplessness, exhaustion and headaches and ultimately, depression.
Finding the strength to turn around and leave an unhappy partnership can be very hard. But if you don’t face up to the challenge and take some risks, you’ll never get out of the vicious cycle — and your life will remain unsatisfying. In fact, it can get worse as you become increasingly angry or depressed that the time you have to enjoy a better life is running out. You may feel trapped by indecision, but working through the following steps should help you to start making concrete choices. Should you move on, or should you work to improve things and stay with your partner? Your decision starts here.
Step 1: Be yourself…not what someone wants you to be. Do you often stop yourself saying what you really think because you know that the people around you won’t like it? If your partner asks you to do something you don’t want to do, do you give in, just for a quiet life? Habitually hiding your opinions and needs to please others will eventually have an impact on your self-respect, happiness and even your very existence. Whether you stay in your relationship or go, if you’re to live the life you want to lead, you’re going to have to start doing things differently. To find out if your relationship has any potential, you need to experiment with new behaviour and agree with your partner that you’ll start telling each other what’s really on your minds in a calm, rational way. If your relationship rebalances itself then that’s great. If, on the other hand, your being authentic makes your incompatibility with your partner even more obvious, then it’s time to leave.
Step 2: Who cares what others think? Whatever anyone else says, thinks or does, it’s important to realise that it’s your decision alone. For example, if a friend implies your decision to leave your partner is immoral, you can laugh because you think their stupid, cry because you value their opinion of you, or shrug indifferently because her opinion means nothing to you. Alternatively, you can consider it as an interesting point of view. Choosing to consider people’s opinions merely as their point of view will help to dissipate some of the crippling anxiety you feel about your situation and help you to remain logical and calm. You’ll be in a better position to resolve the difficulties between you and your partner that way.
Step 3: Fight your inner critic. When it comes to making difficult decisions, two conflicting inner voices usually come into play, which makes it doubly difficult to settle on what to do. First, there’s Confident You, the positive, encouraging, risk-taking side of your personality that tells you that whatever happens, whatever decision you take, things can only turn out for the best. But then there’s Cautious You, the voice that tells you that you might be making a big mistake, that your situation is hopeless. When you’re not conscious of this inner conflict, your thoughts tend to vacillate between that part of you that wants to ‘fly’ and the part of you that ‘nails your foot to the floor’ by telling you that you are not up to it. To dissipate inner conflict, a simple conversation between your “two” personalities can help to put things into perspective.
Step 4: Are you really trapped? Have I convinced you that you can start taking steps towards making a logical decision about your situation? Or are you still paralysed by the fear of rocking the boat, of being alone, or finding somewhere else to live? To help you jump your fourth hurdle — to be aware that you always have a choice and that you’re not as trapped as you think you are — try telling yourself, ‘You can do anything with your life. You can even change your name and move to another country.’ When I offer this statement to my clients who are struggling with their relationships, their replies are predictable. They say something like: ‘I can’t do that. I’ve got a partner and two children to support.’ ‘Well,’ I say, ‘you can put your two children in care and divorce your partner.’ At which my clients look horrified and respond: ‘I can’t do that.’ But I tell them they can. People do both, don’t they? So try saying the sentence again using the words ‘I won’t’ rather than ‘I can’t’. After a little resistance, they try, ‘I won’t put my kids in care and divorce my partner.’ It’s remarkable how the atmosphere changes as my clients begin to realise no-one’s coercing them to support their family. They choose to. They want to. When you think like this you’ll see that the prison you thought you were incarcerated in is actually of your own construction. You can leave any situation at any time — if you really want to. On realising this, and buoyed by their new-found sense of freedom, many people decide to stay in their relationships in a more genuine, involved way. Equally, if they decide to leave, by changing their ‘can’t’ to ‘won’t’ — they see that they have genuine choices. You’re never as trapped as you think you are.
Step 5: Live by your own personal value system. Still don’t know how to make your decision to stay or leave? Maybe you’re continuing to expect an ultimate rescuer to provide you with an instant solution. Well, there is no absolute answer, no right or wrong, no higher authority to which you can turn, I’m afraid. There is no right answer. Your job is to be you. You cannot continue to be forever trying to live up to other people’s values, standards and expectations. So stop being afraid of getting it ‘wrong’. Waiting for the perfect way to leave or the perfect way to speak your mind can result in putting things off until tomorrow.
Step 6: Consider what you’d do if you knew you had only six months to live. What would you do with the rest of your life if you were given just six months to live? You’d certainly be clearer about what you valued and wanted; you’d be able to decide and act. If you chose to continue in your relationship you’d challenge and change everything that bugs you. You wouldn’t be worrying about the discomfort of a couple of evenings arguing. And, if you decided you wanted to finish the relationship, you wouldn’t hesitate to leave. Either decision would be easy because you would have ‘nothing left to lose’. Considering the prospect of having just six months left is a good way to put things into perspective, clarify your values and encourage you to do what’s important to you, rather than getting it ‘right’ in other people’s eyes.
Life is too short to be in an unhappy situation. So begin your journey to move or improve your relationship now.
Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a Counseling psychologist in private practice working with individuals, couples, groups and companies. Apart from seeing clients face-to-face, Dr Jenner also runs a thriving online therapy business bringing help to those who are housebound or located in rural locations where therapy is difficult to find. For more information , follow the link to his website HERE
Want to know more about Dr Nicholas Jenner? Check out what his clients say….HERE