Celia met Dan, her husband of 40 years, when they were freshmen in high school. They dated exclusively through high school and married right after graduation. He went to the local community college for accounting and she worked two jobs to help with his tuition and pay the bills. By the time they had been married for four years, they had two sons. By the time they had been married for five years, Dan had his first affair. He has had three or four affairs (Celia has lost count) over the past 30+ years. Celia is fed up and tired of Dan’s lies and promises. But, she is still with him. She says, “He knows me so well. He is my best friend.”
Mimi met Barbara in college. They moved in together when both were in law school and supported each other as they began strenuous law practices in prestigious private firms. Although not married, they have been together for 25 years and have always had an equal partnership—splitting financial obligations and making legal, medical and personal decisions together. Work has required long hours for both and Mimi knows that long absences from Barbara trigger anger reactions in her. As these have increased, Mimi has felt Barbara being less and less available—not wanting to spend time with her, becoming secretive about money and refusing to engage in any conversations about their relationship or go to counseling. Mimi is ready to give up—but she hasn’t.
The question of whether to leave or stay in a relationship is obviously complex. There is no “quick fix” or “10 Tips” to help you decide—often the “stuffing” of popular publications or blogs. But, there ARE some really important questions you can ask yourself AND you have to be willing to give yourself some equally honest answers.
Are you an action-based individual or a fear-based individual?
Action-based response: I want to get more out of life than staying in this unhappy relationship. Action-based people can move toward a goal because they can see a bigger world. A goal for an action based person might be “I want to work on my anger issues and get to the other side of this.”
Fear based response: No one will ever love me again like he/she does. Fear-based people may stay stuck in a smaller space.
You may have aspects of both. You may have been unhappy in a relationship for a very long time and found yourself going around and around in circles, asking yourself the same questions and coming up with the same answers—or non-answers. It’s a bit like being on one of those merry-go-rounds in a kid’s playground—the kind that the adults spin while the kids ride. You want to jump off but you don’t know when or how. Coaching or therapy can help you get unstuck. A life coach or therapist can be very helpful in stopping the merry-go-round so you can get off and take a careful look at what is happening around you.
Coaching in marriage and relationships generally occurs around safety, love and esteem. I help clients think about factors that are present in the relationship and those that may need some support and nurturing to be workable and functional. Sometimes, no matter how much a couple may want the relationship to succeed, there may not be enough substance to keep it going.
What shows up for you—or doesn’t—in your relationship?
Safety Needs Mutual trust, Honesty, Sense of safety (mental, emotional, physical, and financial), Good communication, Care and concern for each other, Kindness (no abuse–physical, sexual, emotional, verbal or mental)
Unworkable If Present: Lack of trust, Pathological dishonesty, Lack of safety (mental, emotional, physical and financial), No communication, Lack of care or concern for each other, Extreme abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, verbal or mental)
Love Needs Mutual love, Shared interests, Commitment to the marriage from both spouses, Reciprocal partnership, Fidelity, One-sided relationship
Unworkable If Present: Absence of mutual love, Infidelity (under certain circumstances), No shared interests, One or both are not fully committed to the marriage
Esteem Needs Self-esteem and esteem from and for spouse, Mutual respect, Common goals, Willingness of both spouses to work on marriage
Unworkable If Present: No esteem from self or spouse and no desire to change, No respect at all, No common goals, Unwillingness of at least one spouse to work on marriage
Want More Information? Need More Help?
Contact: Dr. Andrea S. Taylor