Pouring all your problems into the first couple therapy session can be a relief. You are finally facing what has been pulling you down and separating you. However, you could also be overwhelmed. The mountain to climb seems so high and the emotional cost so great that the first session seems like a test of reality. It’s easy to lose faith in the idea that things could always change for the better. Sometimes fears come into play: Is it worth saving our relationship?
Personally, I think every committed relationship deserves your best chance and, if that doesn’t work out, a decent burial. But recently one of my clients asked a more interesting question: How do I know if the work our relationships need is too much work? Here’s how I helped answer that.
Seven questions to ask yourself about your relationship
Sometimes the best way to approach a difficult issue is to divide it into smaller ones.
1. How long have you been together and how much is involved?
Around eighteen months or three years of a relationship, the peak of falling in love (what therapists call “limerence”) begins to fade. Whereas before, you raise your doubts with loving or romantic gestures, you have to face the differences and work on them. It’s easy to panic and think that there’s something fundamentally wrong with your relationship instead of entering a new phase when you start to take deeper roots from dealing with and resolving conflicts.
To get an idea of the bets, ask yourself how many other people will be affected by the breakup? For example, if you have few social and financial ties, it is a very different equation to have a home and a business together while you have children.
2. What expectations did they have for the relationship?
I worry when I discover the two ends of this scale. Maybe you had low expectations and moved in together because it was the next logical step. Think of it as a “mechanical scale relationship” where you are derived in more commitment rather than making a conscious choice. Maybe it’s time to take stock and think about what you really want.
On the contrary, the passion was so great that you thought you had found your “soul mate.” In a hurry to have “happy forever”, did you focus on what you wanted to see and fall in love with an idealized version of your partner? Are you interested in meeting the real person?
3. What is the pattern of your past relationships?
Write a list of all your significant relationships, from adolescence to adolescence. How long did each last? Why did they break up? Who ended the relationship? Have you ever fallen in love with the same guy over and over again?
Rather than letting history repeat itself, it’s worth staying (for now) and finding out if you can break the pattern. If you decide to leave, you will still have to work on yourself or your next relationship is likely to be similar.
4. What could you do different?
Most people come to my office with a long list of how their partner should change, but no constructive ideas about what they could do differently. They end up trying to convince their partner that “I’m right and you’re wrong” or forcing change by increasing the stakes of failed strategies (e.g., shouting louder or getting angry for longer).
What if you focused on one person, you tin to change You could do the opposite of your usual reaction. If you keep quiet, try talking. If you have a heart attack, focus on what you really want to say, and communicate only one key message.
If there are still things you haven’t tried, what would it be like to stay and experiment?
5. Is anyone else painting the drawing?
Are you talking to someone about your relationship issues who has their own agenda? Maybe your mom doesn’t like your partner. On the other hand, your best friend has recently divorced and is trying to convince you that it was the right choice by encouraging you to do the same.
Alternatively, what if you are attracted to someone else and that person makes your marriage seem boring and unappetizing. Maybe your mind is being poisoned by someone else’s biased view of your partner.
6. Does divorce seem like a magic solution?
Time and time again, I see clients rushing for a blind divorce. They are so excited that they will re-establish their relationship that they tell me things like, “Once we’re apart, she won’t have the right to tell me what to do,” or “It’ll be hard, but she won’t let me down.” Unfortunately, divorce usually makes people behave worse than better, especially when they feel that it has been imposed instead of the chosen one. Instead of arguing in the kitchen, you end up arguing over text messages with even more misunderstandings. and bitterness.
Talk to one of your friends who has a healthy relationship with an ex-spouse or partner about what you expected from your divorce and what happened. If you have a good parenting relationship with your ex, find out what work it takes to get to that positive place.
Like saving your marriage, a good divorce takes time and energy. What would it be like to try the first result before rushing into the second?
7. What could you learn from doing the work?
Choose your partner for deeper reasons than just appearance and attraction. There is an overlap between the issues raised by your parents’ relationship (and their relationship with you) and those of your partner’s parents. Couple therapists call this the “marriage adjustment.” The topics you struggle with (and the style) are a quick way to understand the wounds of your childhood, and while painful, they present a great opportunity for growth.
In addition, the work to improve communication is never wasted. If you’re lucky, it can help you find a way back to each other, and if not, it will lay the groundwork for a more peaceful separation and an easier time for all involved.
Seven positive signs
When you’re in pain, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by negativity. So don’t forget any of the following:
1. You still feel the feelings.
The opposite of love is not hatred but indifference. I worry more when couples can’t bother to fight. If you still feel love (at least part of the time), this is something that can be built.
2. Rupture is only mentioned in anger.
Threatening to end the relationship or claiming that you are not “right” to each other is destructive, but it is often a cry for help: “Please pay attention. I’m very wrong.”
3. You are ready to look at yourself.
It’s much easier to blame your partner than to think about half of your problems. It’s a sign of emotional intelligence if you can step back and see the bigger picture. Plus, you don’t have to wait for your partner to change. By responding differently, you will begin to change the overall dynamic.
4. You have solved problems in the past.
Knowing that you have overcome obstacles together in the past provides the assurance that you can do it again. Think about what helped you get back to using it.
5. You can be vulnerable if you feel safe enough.
You’d like to open up to your partner, but when you’ve tried it in the past, you’ve felt ignored, criticized, or attacked. However, you are ready to try again if a therapist can really help you hear.
6. Don’t expect instant results.
In the short term, therapy can increase stress, while buried problems come to the surface, before they can improve. It usually takes three to six months to turn new skills into habits and establish a positive upward cycle.
7. You want the relationship to work. Not sure how.
An outside eye and a fresh entrance can make all the difference. I usually find that relationships improve because each partner makes a key change (and keeps it). Small gains encourage the big ones and build confidence in a shared future.
In short, behind the question, How do I know if the job our relationship needs is too much work, there are two competing philosophies at stake. A cross in the romantic myth that great marriages are built on connection and chemistry. So if there are problems, wouldn’t it be better to find someone who fits better? The other is more practical and believes that the true connection comes from facing problems, learning from them, and growing together. Which side are you on?
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