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Summer holidays are supposed to refresh us, returning us to work with renewed energy once the sun cream and our beach gear has been stashed away. But if expectations of holiday magic transforming an unhappy relationship into something more positive were unrealistic, your energy may be flagging with the realisation deep down that another summer's gone and the year’s passing with issues still no resolved. I recall feeling even lonelier one holiday with a former spouse than when holidaying alone; yes, I found some joy in taking the children on holiday alone too, but I still had to return and deal with the underlying problems.
How could next summer be different? How far have you come, what have you achieved with staying together? Give yourself credit for the positives, then ask what you’ve learned. It could be that things aren’t bad enough to leave, especially if you are in a long term relationship and/or have children but are they good enough to stay? Mira Kirschenbaum’s book ‘Too Good enough to Leave, Too Bad to Stay’ takes the reader through many steps to properly untangle the issues behind relationship discord. No stone is left unturned if the reader is courageous enough to read the book and complete the exercises – they can’t fail but find some answers to help decide whether they need to stay in - or get out - of their relationship.
To those who aren’t that brave (yet) or who just want some tips, ask yourself what this coming Christmas look like for you. What needs to change? What do you need to have done that is different to affect this change? How will you keep your resolve? If you are wondering whether you are facing separation – divorce even – harder questions will surface:
How do I know if my unhappy relationship is really over? The main signs are poor communication & avoiding communicating. Do you stay away from home to avoid contact? How do you feel when your partner is out of the home? Relieved? On edge when they return? How many positive exchanges are you having and how many negative exchanges? Or perhaps you don’t communicate at all...
We have nothing in common - should I get a divorce? Many couples live very different lives without having to be together or even communicate very much. Do you share activities without actually needing to say very much? Some couples communicate through their children and friends but does this work for you? Would you like to communicate better with your spouse? How might you both work on improving communication?
We don't have sex anymore - should I get a divorce? How important is sex to you? Who is it a problem for? What needs to change in order for you to have a regular sex-life? If changes aren't possible, how are you going to feel in a year’s time and five years’ time?
We argue constantly - should I get a divorce? Are you arguing over big or trivial things? If big things, what have you done - or what could you do - to turn them around and reduce the tension? If you're arguing over trivial things, ask why. Might you be aiming to score points because you are disappointed with your partner? Before getting into an argument, ask yourself what you are achieving and whether it is going to move you forwards.
What could I do to improve my relationship or marriage? What have you tried? Improving communication with your spouse is a good place to start. If this is impossible, ask them if they would join you in some relationship counselling or coaching. An important thing to realise is that it takes both parties willingness to change to make reconciliation truly work but one person changing can also catapult the other into making changes which make the difference.
Concentrating on issues now could mean a big spin-off with less disappointment and more calmness and connection next summer. How much is that worth striving for?