You’re in a difficult place in your relationship.
You don’t necessarily want things to end, but you also can’t imagine going on like this.
“Like this”could mean a bunch of different things:
“Is this all there is?”
Sometimes—maybe often—you ponder what it would be like to leave. Maybe you’ve even plotted your escape.
But you’ve invested so much time in this relationship. And if you have children, leaving isn’t so easy.
Before you do anything, there’s something you really should know.
I’ve worked with couples for over four decades. Many of them are in their second and third marriages.
All of them have felt that quiet—or raging—discontent in their first marriage that you feel right now.
Most of these people actively tried to work on their problems, only to give up because things weren’t getting any better. In fact, they were getting worse.
Some tried date nights and vacations in order to inject more romance, but then one of the partners had an affair.
Some learned all sorts of communication techniques so they could feel heard. It seemed to work—for a little while.
Others created budgets to keep spending in check, but they were still fighting about money.
Many of these people were in counseling—both individual and couples therapy.
Concluding that there was nothing left to do, they split up.
Then they found new partners, only to discover their relationships on shaky ground yet again.
That’s when many of them find me.
My clients are usually highly educated, successful people.
When they come to me, they’re frustrated and puzzled. Why is it that they can seemingly make everything work in their lives—except getting along with their partners and having a fulfilling relationship?
They’ve analyzed their issues to death, but they can’t shake them.
Some of them have even made spreadsheets in an attempt to dissect and overcome their problems.
Many of them are on marriages two and three.
And it’s because their real problem is that they don’t know their real problem!
They’re trying to use their brains to work through relationship issues, but they’re completely missing the underlying problems creating those issues in the first place.
In effect, they’re focusing on the symptoms (bickering, growing apart, criticism), instead of the system (the true underlying relationship problem).
It’s like trying to treat a rash with a topical prescription without realizing that you’re allergic to strawberries and break out whenever you eat one.
You can keep slathering on the ointment, but if you keep having a ton of berries, you’re not going to get any better.
A lot of couples’ counseling does exactly this—it focuses on symptoms, NOT the underlying trigger.
And, just like the rash, the problems keep getting bigger, more persistent, and more troublesome. No wonder people give up.
My work focuses on identifying the true underlying cause of dissatisfaction in your relationship, so that you can stop fettering time and energy into what doesn’t work—and instead start turning your relationship around today.
I’ve had so many people tell me secretly:
“If I had done this work in my first marriage, I could still be married to the mother of my children.”
“Had I known this then, I wouldn’t have given up on my first husband.”
Undoubtedly, these people are experiencing the same problems in their second and third marriages that they did in their first.
Picking a different partner won’t solve anything. In fact, you’ll continue to feel even more disappointed and disillusioned in your relationships, because you are the common denominator in all your relationships.
Before you call me Captain Obvious, consider this:
Every relationship is made up of your history and your partner’s history—and all the feelings that go along with your individual histories.
You attract someone according to your unique history, and your partner does, too.
Together, these histories create your unique system that creates your relationship.
And because you are half of the system, you will continue to experience the same type of relationship problems over and over again.
For example, in your childhood you would have absorbed certain ideas about money and division of household chores—and your partner comes to the table with his or her own ideas. Most likely, they are different from yours! And because of that, your relationship may end up becoming an insecure or unfair system.
You will keep fighting about money and chores unless you identify and target the underlying system problem.
The great news is that if you learn to make your relationship better, then you automatically heal your end of the system.
And the really great news is that making it better isn’t that hard.
And it’s so worth it.
A friend of mine had been married to her husband for 55 years when he died. This is what she said:
“I don’t have anyone to lie with—anyone to turn to. Who can calm me down when I’m stressed?”
There was a palpable sense of longing in her. They did not have a perfect marriage by any means, but she was now missing that source of comfort and joy we all long for.
As human beings, we think, feel, and act best when we feel safe and supported.
Having a dependable partner who will come to your aid, share life’s burdens, relieve your troubles, and be there for you is worth the effort it takes to create and maintain a robust relationship.
And it’s so much easier to create this than you think!
I understand why you may have been “burned”in the past when you’ve tried to fix your relationship. What you tried made things worse, not better. But now you know why:
You were focusing on fixing the wrong things, so no wonder things didn’t change.
There’s a much better way: focus on the system, not the symptoms.
You may be wondering what a relationship system is, or why it’s so important to focus your energy and attention on it.
There are five systems, or forces, that affect relationship satisfaction and longevity. They are:
If you don’t know what the symptoms you’re experiencing mean in terms of the system they represent in your relationship, you’ll just keep spinning your wheels trying to make things better, without ever addressing the real problem.
Once you know the underlying cause of your dissatisfaction, you can go about making the changes in your relationship that will actually make a difference.
When I work with couples to help them see what’s really behind their fighting, boredom, conflicts, and disconnect, they have a huge “AHA.”
They finally “get” what’s missing, and exactly what they need to do to get their love back on track.
But I can’t possibly work individually with everyone who needs that kind of help. That’s why I’ve partnered with Flourish, so I can extend that help and guidance to as many people as possible, since almost all couples can benefit from these insights and tips.
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A relationship doesn’t need to lose passion and connection, just because you’ve been together for a long time. Just the opposite! It should get sweeter and more loving with time.
Marriage CAN be enlivening and wonderful, if you have the right knowledge and tools.
The advice contained in the articles I’ve written for Flourish will help you uncover the hidden issues that are draining your relationship of joy and passion, and help you create and maintain a strong foundation of love and respect, so that your relationship can last a lifetime.
May you have an extraordinary day,