Relationship therapy is often a last ditch attempt to save something that anger, hurt, sadness, or betrayal has already sabotaged. It’s usually fuelled by fear. By doing nothing about dwindling intimacy or increasing bitterness in a relationship, it’s easy to bury your head in the sand and hope that the problem will somehow work itself out. When reality hits, however, and you realise that the distance has become a glaring chasm, a knee-jerk response is often to call a therapist.
Just in time, or a little too late?
A lady called me last week, detailing issues in her relationship. She had suggested relationship therapy in the past and was quietly surprised when her husband said he would be open to giving it a go. She didn’t jump on it straight away, though. Whilst they both recognised their marriage was in trouble, knowing that he was willing to do something about it gave her a sense of peace. Things were then “OK” for a while after that discussion, so much so that she felt that maybe they didn’t need to see a therapist after all. But after a particularly vicious blow up, where they both said some more nasty things to each other, she realised that if she didn’t do something quickly, the relationship would be over.
After discussing some of the strategies I use to open the lines of communication in a healthy manner, she was amazed, excited and optimistic about the future. She still loved her husband and she appreciated that, whilst it would take some time to get back what they’d lost, the thought of being on the right track lifted her.
Two days later she called me back to cancel the session. She was broken. When she told her husband about the therapy he simply said “No”. His words were that he “no longer wanted to save the marriage”. There was no blame; he had just hit his metaphorical “wall” and he was done. She was now having to process divorce in the same week she had aspirations for reconciliation.
In relationships we generally have a high tolerance for pain. We will keep hurting and hurting until enough is too much. But what’s the point of pushing to see what that limit is? Because by the time you find it, the relationship is more or less over.
Emotions, love, feelings – they’re fragile and unpredictable. You can have the same argument over and over until the day it hurts more than it ever did. Or one day you wake up and it’s done. No argument, no bitterness, you just look over at your partner and realise that you don’t like him/her. A gradual drip of negativity, apathy and despair has been growing until there’s nothing left but negativity, apathy and despair.
When faced with just how disconnected the relationship has become, the first instinct is often to try and save it, no matter what. Including panic buying therapy sessions. Before rushing in to therapy though, you need to ask yourself whether you have a relationship to save and whether you even want to save it, deep down. That requires you checking in with yourself, before you speak with your partner, and you cannot hear that still, small voice of your intuition answering you above the loudness of anxiety and fear. Take a couple of days, mull it over. Meditate on it. Pray on it and ask your partner to do the same. Is your relationship worth saving? It’s an uncomfortable conversation to have, but a necessary one. If you are both on the same page, if you both agree to put the work in to fix your relationship, do what you have to do to immediately. Don’t let it marinate, it doesn’t get better with time. Read some books, go to some seminars, book a session with a therapist. Or two. Being united in a vision and goal to mend your relationship is often just the small, simple step you need to start the ball rolling.
Have faith. You are enough.