Is this relationship worth saving.
Post-Christmas relationship gloom reaches its pinnacle for divorce lawyers and relationship therapists at this time of year. Is it the long stretch in front of us of grey skies and long dark nights where it takes extra effort to leave the sofa after 5.30?
How much do the festive lights throw a spotlight and on our own relationships and contentment? The festive season is full of promise of family and friends, of receiving and giving gifts full of delight and promise of celebration. All this can leave you feeling empty and depressed when you wake up to your partner who brought you another vacuum cleaner or socks for Christmas, or when you look at the memories where expectations were not met, dreams not fulfilled, conversations not had and the pain of disappointment that may mirror how you feel in the relationship. So you ask yourself “should I be in this relationship?” “Is my relationship worth saving?”
How do you separate out an understand of your feelings in order to be able to communicate with your partner and understand if the relationship is salvageable and in order to find out if you want to remain and rebuild the relationship or if it’s time to call time on the relationship?
Most couples talk about communication difficulties. We often bring our leant communication styles from our family of origin. Understanding when and if that style of communication is useful and finding alternative ways to communicate is essential. Finding a communication style that allows the individual to speak so they can be heard and listen without interpreting through one’s experience. Ask questions. Check out meaning. We may speak the same language, but we may not ascribe the same meaning to the words.
Shame is a relationship killer. When we feel shame, we disappear. There are many ways of disappearing. We may go into ourselves and stop talking, we my rage in order to turn our partners away so that our shame cannot be seen. Shame is not the same as guilt. Guilt is when we feel bad about an action or words. Shame is thought to be deeper it is a sense of worthlessness of the self.
The researcher Brene Brown says the antidote to shame is to speak “if you put shame in a petri dish it needs three things to grow: silence, secrecy and Judgment” Dump the shame and be present in the relationship.
The idea of being present for your partner seems obvious but couples struggle to remain open and curious when they are wounded and tired of relationship rupture. “I know what he means by that”. “ I can finish her sentences, we’ve been here so often”. The essence of Presence is to listen to your partner with empathy and not respond with ideas to make the pain go away. Knowing that someone is there for you and is not fearful or repelled by the strength of your feelings is very powerful.
Be curious, ask, do not assume you know. You are not an expert on your partners total intrapsychic conversations. Discover anew how your partner thinks and feels. Share your feelings and ask to be heard and discovered as well. Little by little build trust and understanding. Do not judge another’s feelings or experiences.
We humans are organic and constantly physically changing, adapting and growing as is our environment. We also need to adapt to emotional needs and our partner’s growth. With work and guidance, it can become intuitive.
The antidote to sadness is laughter and humour and connection. Learn to play with your partner, be gentle, enjoy sharing experiences, ideas and feelings. Enrich the relationship.
Be respectful of the relationship even if you choose to separate. Try to remember the moments of joy and achievements you had when the relationship worked. It’s not necessary to rubbish the good in order to find an exit. There is no painless way out of a relationship (unless there is the relief of being in an abusive relationship). It is respectful to yourself, your partner and the relationship.
8. Find an Imago therapist to help you negotiate your way through.
Go to gettingtheloveyouwant.co.uk to find out more about Imago relationship therapy. The experience and commitment of an accredited Imago therapist will help you both negotiate this very challenging period. An imago therapist will encourage, cajole and support the process you are in to help you both find a way through. Giving you tools to work with and a confidence to ask for you needs to be meet and to feel you are able to meet your partner’s needs.
Ronnie and Laura came into therapy after a difficult holiday session that culminated in a large reactive argument after which Ronnie packed an overnight bag and left for a week. This was not the first time Ronnie had acted in this way after a challenging period that ended in a heated argument and Ronnie leaving. Each time this happened Laura emotionally shut down until Ronnie returned.
Through the course of the therapy, Laura was able to communicate to Ronnie the depth of the wounding she experienced when he just walked out. She expressed the pain of how her mother would spend days not talking to her if her mother felt Laura had done wrong. Ronnie understood how the abuse he had received from his father, left him terrified of his emotions.
Finding empathy and understanding for each other and how past experiences show up in the relationship allowed them both to understand and appreciate the effect of their responses and behaviours on the other. In time using this newly learnt they began to adjust their own emotional responses. Which in turn allowed them to begin to hear and listen to each other. This, in turn allowed them to work out whether they wanted to reshape their relationship or find a way to separate with grace, intention and care of what they had created but no longer served them. Are you ready to do the same?