Successful relationships are made by two people; both are prepared to build something together. There may well be times when one or both are dissatisfied, and it is how you both respond which determines longevity or failure.
Dissatisfaction that isn”t addressed will lead to a sense of alienation. When this happens it can become a struggle. If you find yourself in a relationship that’s struggling and are unsure where to turn here’s something you can do to clarify things.
Start by making two lists, the first of all the good things the relationship has to offer. On the second, list the faults and weaknesses that are stopping you finding the path to happiness with the other person.
With luck the second list will soon start to outweigh the first, and you’ll find that the more you add to it, the easier it gets.
There are two routes
You could also turn to others for guidance. Here there are two routes. The popular one which many people opt for the first because it is easier is:
- Choose an ‘expert’. Friends and family can fall into this category, particularly if they don’t like your partner, are in and unhappy relationship themselves, have recently come out of one or have never known happiness with another person. Clearly this type of phoney expert won’t help you constructively rebuild your relationship, but they WILL confirm your doubts and prejudices. Commiseration like this can be reassuring by affirming what you already think you know.
- With the divorce rate in developed countries hovering around 50% (a figure that doesn’t include separating couples who are not actually married), you won’t be alone on embarking on a painful and costly separation, there’s plenty of support and encouragement out there.
- It’ll be a challenge, but you’ll avoid the much more arduous route of overcoming relationship problems in a dignified and respectful way, learning about yourself and building a stronger and safer foundation for the future.
- Just because there is research to show that a loving and respectful relationship is an important factor in health, wealth and wellbeing, it doesn’t have to apply to you. What do researchers know about your life and needs anyway?
- Like a pension, a strong and supportive relationship has to be built over time. Just as saving for the future can seem tedious and too long-term, so, life’s too short to wait for a good relationship to blossom, it should be quick (like in the movies).
- If anyone says that you should hang in there, remember it’s easy for them to say. You need to be ‘true to yourself’, and remember what you are worth.
That’s all there is to it. Before long any uncertainty about you relationship should be replaced by clarity, determination and the realisation that you deserve better.
If you are still having doubts, and despite everything some stubborn streak in you thinks that the relationship is worth saving, read on for some alternatives:
You could turn to a genuine expert. This should be someone you trust and someone who can provide evidence that they know about what makes a relationship happy and successful. For example, somebody who is in a stable and secure relationship that has lasted 40 years or more.
You could choose to see a therapist, but make sure they know their stuff and be prepared to look elsewhere if they can’t reassure you that they do; don’t assume that they know what makes relationships happy. Some only know what can go wrong, and may not be able to advise you on practical ways of improving things. Make sure that they have the skills and attitude that can guide you constructively to relationship improvement. Avoid anyone who is merely going to confirm your doubts about your relationship without first helping you critically examine the pros and cons (unless you prefer option 1, above).
Create a space to talk honestly with your partner. It won’t be easy and you may need help. Consider a couples retreat. If you want to do it without professional help, you’ll both need to put aside the temporary pain and fear and get back to basics.
Do this by discussing what you value in the relationship/each other; your shared vision, hopes and aspirations for a future together. This should be a conversation in which you are both prepared to listen and respond. It should give you hope that together you can begin to plan a new course and behave in a more mutually affirming way together.
You won’t be able to do this if either of you is angry, reproachful, blaming or lost in a mire of your own unhappiness. It’s often said that you can’t solve a problem while you are in the same mindset that created it (well, I often say it but it comes from a reliable source). You have to transcend your troubles to speak safely and supportively about your relationship. Remember the Rumi quote: “Somewhere beyond right and wrong, there is a garden. I will meet you there.”
Good luck, and remember, this is not about either of you individually, it is about your RELATIONSHIP.