You know that old saying, misery loves company? It seems to ring true when it comes to relationships. Negativity begets negativity. When you have negative feelings about your partner, you expect the worse out of them and you – even if subconsciously – scan the environment to prove your theory correct day after day. This means not only does your satisfaction with the union diminish, your partner likely feels criticized and unworthy.
Misery comes in all shapes and sizes, and pays no mind to race, socio-economic class, or any of the rest. Misery looks and feels different in different relationships but even as I type this I am confident you know what misery feels like and you could describe its presence in your home.
You walk through the door, your heart full of dread, as though you know what lie ahead for the night. Maybe your partner starts in on you as soon as your feet cross the threshold. Barking orders, micromanaging like you’re just one of the kids. Maybe your partner doesn’t greet you, too enthralled with a videogame. Maybe your partner isn’t home because they’re out doing who knows what with who knows who. But you’re too disconnected at this point to know, much less care. Or maybe their late arrival will spark a fight where things escalate like never before. Words cut to the core and dishes smash on the wall.
Whatever your plight, whatever chaos exists in your home life, I urge you, Quit. Living. In. Misery. Now, as a couples therapy specialist, I am a champion for marriages and believe most relational discord can be mended, so what I am not saying is leave your partner high and dry. If there is abusive behavior on either side, then yes, terminating the relationship may be necessary. But before we jump the gun, let’s chat.
Studies show us on average, couples wait six years after the onset of an issue to seek professional guidance. SIX YEARS. Holy cow. That is a long time to be miserable. Sure, you’ll have bright moments, but the culture of the relationship is what we’re focusing on today. Throughout the course of those years the span of disconnection grows, while the communication skills necessary to broach touchy subjects in a productive manner remain nonexistent. So what happens is things get swept under the rug, no changes are made, the dysfunction continues, and the resentment builds – for both of you.
Side note, do you know what holding resentment does to you? It’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Your plan not only fails, it backfires. So, let’s acknowledge allowing resentment to continue building is not only unhealthy but a catalyst which will propel you towards the inevitable demise of your relationship and your family.
Let’s not forget the innocent victims of this dysfunction, the children. First, I want to go on the record and say, DO NOT stay for the children. Staying until the children fly the coop only extends the torture the whole family is enduring. Whether you believe yourselves to be hiding the misery from the kids or not, children are way more intuitive than we give them credit for, so trust me, they know. Remember, children learn how to engage in relationships, how to be a wife, what to expect from a husband, etc. from their family of origin. So if they see a culture of disrespect and disconnection, expect that pattern to pop up in their relationships down the line.
If you choose to stay, then choose to create a new union between you and your partner. One not fraught with criticism and contempt. Choose couples therapy, because a neutral third party can help you navigate the murky waters of conflict much more effectively and efficiently. Couples who apply the knowledge and skills gained in therapy not only live happier, healthier lives (and literally live longer) but they provide an incredible example to their children of unconditional love and grace. Watching you turn from sparring partners to lovers will give them hope and encouragement when they face adversity in their relationships.
I understand when you’re in the midst of misery creating a new norm between you and your partner seems impossible. Many couples sitting on my couch for that first session feel the same way. But here’s the thing. As a couples therapy specialist, I have had the honor and privilege of walking alongside some incredible couples who not only made it to the other side together, but are even happier than they were in their glory days. So if you’re lacking a little in the hope department, trust me when I say it is possible. I have witnessed it with my own eyes with many couples, all different issues that brought them to my couch.
Oftentimes the catalyst to scheduling your first therapy appointment can, in the end, turn out to be a blessing in disguise in that it lifted the veil off yours eyes and created an awakening to the realities of the misery and dysfunction in the relationship. With that awakening comes a renewed sense of willingness and determination to make the relationship work.
THAT is where couples therapy comes in. Harness that motivation and pair it with consistency and intentionality and the sky is the limit for your new union. And let’s face it, you have tried on your own in the past. Maybe you’ve talked to your friends, sought advice from your pastor, read a few Gottman books. Maybe you even tried therapy a time or two but didn’t stick with it. I encourage you, give couples therapy a real shot.
I understand when couples walk through my doors they’re hurting and have been for many years. I also know they’re hungry for a new approach, one Gottman Method Couples Therapy provides. Real, practical communication strategies and a usable vocabulary to help you better manage conflict. See I say manage – that is intentional. Studies show us 69% of conflict in a relationship is perpetual. It’s not about ridding the union of conflict (don’t we wish!), it’s about moving the conflict from gridlocked, where we’re just going in circles with no resolve, to dialogue, where we can be heard and validated by our partner and hopefully arrive to a reasonable compromise.
So, the point of today’s post is this put simply. You don’t have to live in misery. Neither you, your partner, nor your children deserve to have an unhappy household. You have the power to choose a solution that will work. Couples therapy can be the part of that solution that offers you alternative ways to engage with and love one another. Worst case scenario, you choose couples therapy and give it your best and your partner chooses not to follow suite. Then have a timeframe (30, 60, 90 days) in mind at the end of which you assess the growth or lack thereof and make a determination based on that whether or not to continue with the relationship.
BUT FIRST, give yourself and your partner the chance for true change. I’m believing you can do it. Wishing you all the best.