Do you know that stuck feeling in a relationship, like being in emotional mud? Do you ever feel frustrated with your partner, like you want to FedEx them to Siberia?
In relationships, especially long-term ones, we lock horns. It’s a rare couple that can avoid this, and it can easily happen in friendships and family relationships, too. Frustration and the feeling of stagnation can slosh around in the emotional brew, and this can make it even harder to come out of gridlock.
We hit on each other’s “stuff.” The relationships we choose are hardwired to do this, as we’ve chosen the people we’re with to help us grow. That can be obvious, or more opaque.
My partner’s stubborn. He is! There, he can read it in writing, and he’d most likely say the same of me. (I’m not as stubborn as him though.) Sometimes, when we hit our stuff, I feel like throwing it all in—lock, stock and barrel and every household item. When we’re really in it, I feel like this:
I hate that we’re in this place, again. I hate that my view and his are like a fatal collision. I hate that we can’t seem to find any common land. And that his eyes harden when I ask how he feels.
I’m so over it!
That’s when I tell myself we’re done. I tell myself we have lived what we needed to live together. We’re complete. I tell myself there’s a new life—my new life—on the other side of him. It’s time we moved on, because we keep hitting the same edges. We keep walking the same tired ground, ’round and ’round. We keep colliding in the same spaces.
There are no new answers, no new feelings. No new solutions. Just the old threadbare things we say to each other, every time.
So, I visualize my new, better life. I dream it in. It will be on a different coast, in a new city. A tree change. A sea change. My life with a different view. My life—without him. It’s bye-bye to those edges, those hard places, those repetitive spaces. No more tough eyes. I’m taking my next step. I’m on my path. My journey.
I can’t do it anymore!
And I know he’s in that place, too.
And that’s the golden line. The ruby nugget under the sh*t and dust. That feeling. That warrior’s cry—I just can’t do it anymore.
There’s the mantra that burns it all down. There’s the fire. Love’s sigh.
But, what are we going to do with our epiphany? What are we going to do with our burning house and lives? What are we going to do with the flames and the ash? How will we pick through the debris?
Whatever stays will have to be different.
And if it goes, what exactly are we discarding? If we blow everything up, will it reform and re-cluster? Will it re-enter in another disguise?
Because that can happen. Not just can, but does. We can throw it all in with one person and create the same situation with another, like magic. On a different coast, in another town. We remake it, because we haven’t yet worked through the learning—or the healing.
Sometimes, when my partner and I are really in it, I want to wag my finger at him for where we are, and how stunted we feel. I want to say it’s his unwillingness to grow—not mine.
But, I have to ask, what’s my stuff? What’s my part in why the hell we’re here? Again. Because I know it can’t just be him.
Our own stuff can be slippery and tricky to see. We all have blind spots; we all want to protect ourselves when we feel hurt. But when we’re triggered and our stuff is on the surface, this is a powerful time to go inside ourselves. It’s easier—and often more comfortable—to focus attention and energy on trying to shift someone else, but less useful.
It can be useful to ask:
1. Is there an issue where I’m being stubborn and not moving?
2. Is that a healthy boundary or rigidity?
3. Is there a story in there that I’m attached to telling a certain way?
4. Is there an opportunity for growth here?
5. What’s my next evolutionary step?
6. What might be deepening in me?
7. Could it be compassion, acceptance, self-worth, speaking up, allowing someone to be who they are, forgiveness, patience or boundaries?
Then we can ask ourselves: What’s the inner work I need to do here?
We can invite the other person to ask that internally, too.
Even if we do this alone, keep asking until there’s an answer—whatever it means.
When things have gone to sh*t with my partner, it’s hard to meet each other in what feels like an abyss— in a place that hurts and tells us we can’t go on like this. It’s an agonizing place. A precious space. It’s a call to remake, recreate or break.
I’m not suggesting any of us stay in damaging relationships.
But, maybe we don’t need to throw each other out.
Stuck is part of the relationship roadmap. If we let the pain of stuck-ness open us, rather than contract us, we can find gold. But, we’ll need to mine for it.
We don’t want to be the only person doing the work, of course. In any relationship, stuck is a collaboration. Getting unstuck is doing the hard yards. It requires honesty with compassion, ownership of our feelings and respect for another’s. And the willingness to unpick well-worn grooves and step out of them.
We cannot be responsible for shifting others—only ourselves.
Sometimes, when we shift, others do too. And that might lead us further in or out of our relationship.
So, tool up with tenderness and honesty, and invite in renewal. If we’re really willing to look within and ask some uncomfortable questions, we’ll feel things shift.
Author: Dettra Rose
Editor: Toby Israel
Image: Kiran Foster/Flickr