FEATURE ARTICLE of the Unforgettable Embrace newsletter
Is your marriage or relationship falling apart and you don’t even know about it? Perhaps you have been lulled into a sense of complacency, thinking that you and your partner can get by like a couple of “roommates.” Just because things seem quiet at home doesn’t mean everything is okay. It’s very possible, and I’ve seen it before, where one partner is shocked when their long-term partner finally gives them the news that it is over for them, and they are really ready to move on!
Imagine your shock if your partner, who you thought was just being subtly difficult for years, informs you that they are “done.” They explain how they went through a period of arguing with you, fighting for what they want, but it never worked. Then, there was a quiet period when they stopped fighting, but were still unhappy.
They tried various tactics, such as being extra considerate and supportive for a while. Or, they avoided you and stopped giving to you, hoping you would notice and feel your own pain (if you couldn’t feel theirs). These attention-grabbing tactics didn’t work though. And then, during that quiet, non-argumentative but unhappy period, they came to the conclusion that it was hopeless. They spent that time coming to terms with the fact that it was over with you, and came up with a plan for how they were going to move on without you.
This is exactly what happened to one of my clients. He was completely blindsided when his wife of 25 years gave him the news that she wanted a divorce. It wasn’t that there weren’t warning signs. The signs were there, but he just didn’t know what to look for, and how important those signs were.
I don’t want this to happen to you, so I’m going to give you the signs and symptoms to look for when your relationship is on the rocks.
Do you see a pattern in your relationship that you don’t like? Is there something that happens which is predictable and leaves you frustrated, hurt or angry? If so, there is something you can do about it! You are fortunate to be able to look at the past and see exactly where the problem lies. So far, so good. Now for the challenging part . . .
If this is a pattern, it means that whatever you are doing to solve the problem isn’t working. Here are some potential strategies you may have tried: complaining, nagging, yelling, cursing, crying, stomping out, avoiding the topic, giving your partner the silent treatment, sulking or some other form of punishment. None of these are effective long-term strategies. Even repetitive discussions can sometimes go nowhere except into pseudo-agreements that never pan out into actual behavior. The reason these strategies fail is that they are focused on trying to change the other person.
If your partner is unable or unwilling to change, and you are unhappy, the best option is to change your own behavior. Whatever you need in that unhappy situation, you will need to find for yourself. Ask yourself this important question:
Do I really NEED it? Is it necessary for my survival (or is it a preference, or more to feed my ego/sense of self)?
- If you answered “yes”, know that you are not a victim. Look at how else you can get your need met. For example, how could I change my belief system or find another way to make myself happy? True needs should be self-met as much as possible. What is another source for this need? This is how we avoid becoming a dependent instead of a partner.
- If you answered “no”, and this is a preference, know that your unmet preference may be inconvenient or disappointing, but will not affect your survival. Try to remember all the other ways your partner does meet your preferences.
- If you answered “no”, and this desire is really about feeding your sense of self, realize that it is best to stop putting your sense of self into what your partner does or does not do for you. What others do is not a reflection of our worth, lovableness, or any other aspect of our self.
Discovering and taking care of our own needs makes us responsible and attractive partners. You have the POWER to break out of unsatisfying patterns in relationships.