28 Aug Step Up Before It’s Too Late
A client, whose partner has distanced themselves significantly from him, said, “I live like she’s gone”. He said, “I make all the beds, clean the whole house, get the kids to school, you know, everything that I’d have to do if she wasn’t there because she may not be there anymore anyway”. He admitted that if he had done more of these things before, he might not be in this situation. His partner refuses couples therapy at this time.
How often do we wait until our partners are almost gone to step up in our relationship, whether domestically, emotionally or physically? Loss prompts us to finally look, to see the person before us, to appreciate them more fully, to participate more.
It reminds me of that phrase, “It’s on my bucket list”. We need the inevitability of death to prompt us to live a full life. It’s the same with relationships. If we consciously know our relationship is in jeopardy, we step up more. We love greater, show more affection, try to schedule dates, dress better, clean up, buy flowers, do more chores, work harder.
If your partner said, “[Your name], I’m just not happy in this relationship/marriage/partnership. I love you but I want more. I think we may need to separate.”. What feelings does that evoke in you? What would you do to save the relationship?
While some couples weather these storms, others do not make it. The chronic dissatisfaction can cause one partner to stop loving the other. The feelings die. What causes this dynamic and how do we prevent it?
First, and most importantly, you must communicate what you feel, long before you stop loving your mate. Do not hold it in. Holding it in creates resentment and anger. Your partner is not a mind reader. Do not assume that he/she “should just know” what you want or that you’re hints are clear expressions. Say what you want to your partner, directly, in a way that supports both you and your partner. Build collaborative dialogue into your communication.
Second, check in with each other frequently to ask how you are both doing. Are your wants/needs met? What does your partner need? Too often, we assume that the person we initially committed to is the same, even after months or years. We assume that what he/she liked or wanted then is what he/she likes and wants now. We all change, grow and evolve. As a loving partner, your role is to continually ask questions, take interest, be curious about who you’re partner is today, tomorrow and all days that follow.
Third, remember that each and every day, you choose to be together. You both have the choice to leave on any given day. Stating your commitment formally or informally does not guarantee that your partner will always be there. Know this: A greater guarantee of relationship success involves conscious communication, attention, teamwork and loving expression.
My client sits in the discomfort of marital discord, potential loss of his nuclear family and deep regret and sadness. While he knows he cannot change the past, he makes every attempt now to do what he can to save his marriage. He keeps trying despite the awareness that it may be too late. He practices self-examination and humbly holds himself accountable for his actions. However, he cannot save his relationship by himself and he has a partner who will not come into therapy.
Value your partner and your relationship now. Today. Communicate effectively, directly and lovingly today. Start now before your partner says that it’s just too late.