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Try these 10 things:
1. Get to the absolute origin of why you want out.
Is there too much conflict? Do you not know how to communicate in ways that each partner feels heard and understood? Was there infidelity, and it feels impossible to move forward? Is the passion dead? Is there a basic level of distrust?
Does your partner feel like a stranger? Do you feel like you have nothing in common?
Does one of you think the grass would be greener with someone else? Do you have conflicting values? Does one of you want to grow, and the other is cool with the status quo? Is one of you doing more or less of the work? Is there mental illness or addictions that are impeding health in the relationship?
Don’t focus on the symptoms, such as, “He won’t do the dishes,” or “She is too emotional.” Find the cause. If you do not, you will inevitably bring it into your next relationship!
2. Write down a laundry list of resentments you both have with each other.
Do not hold back. Be ruthlessly honest while using language that does not blame or name call. Use “I feel” statements, so you are each owning your experiences. “I feel like I never get the romance I want.” “I feel like I carry the burden of the relationship on my shoulders.” “I feel like I never get enough space.” “I feel like growth is not important to you.” “I feel threatened by the relationships you have with other woman or men.”
While we are on the subject of ownership, each partner takes ownership for what you are doing or not doing to create the possible demise of your relationship. Yep, not easy. And own your sh*t!
4. Learn how to repair after your fights.
If you think fighting is the problem, think again. Not learning how to mend your conflicts is the problem. All couples fight, and if they do not, it is usually due to the fear of conflict. Learn how to repair in four easy steps.
First, collaboratively decide if it is an appropriate time to repair. If one person is not ready to talk, that person needs to let the other person know when they are available. Ideally, a repair should happen within 30 minutes of the conflict, according to Stan Tatkin, author and therapist. If this is not possible, make a plan for when the repair will happen.
Second, listen to each other’s side of why the conflict occurred. Do not respond while the other person is speaking. Receptively listen, even if you want to jump out of your skin. When you share your experience, speak using “I” statements. “I felt like you were defensive when you walked in the door and I got triggered.” “I felt dismissed.” “I felt mistrusting of you when you went to the bathroom with your phone.” If things get heated while you are taking turns sharing your experiences, take time outs. Calm yourselves down and reconvene. Better yet, calm each other down. “I see that what I said upset you. Is there something I can do to help?” “What do you need right now?”
Third, own your part. What did you each do to contribute to the fight? “I got defensive and acted like a dick because I wanted to avoid you.” “I got reactive because I felt scared that you would not hear me.” Once again, listen to the other person as they own their part. Allow them space to share without responding.
Fourth, come up with a plan for the next time a fight happens and how you will do better to help each other in the future. Learning how to both fight and repair well is an art form. It takes time and lots of trial and error.
5. Learn your partner’s triggers.
What stresses each of you out? What about you stresses them out? What do you need from each other to feel more calm while triggered? Ideally, your partner should be a balm for you when in an activated state.
6. Know your attachment styles.
7. Make a list of your needs, and don’t hold back.
Your relationship is in crisis, and you cannot afford to be anything but transparent now. Know what needs are deal-breakers. “I need you to be monogamous.” “I need you to invest time and energy in personal and relational growth.” Yep, having needs and appearing “needy” is triggering for many humans. And, we all share this humanness if we are willing to look inward.
8. Go away for a weekend together, just the two of you.
I guarantee after a couple of days, you will have more clarity about a path forward, even if it is a plan to separate. There are too many distractions in daily life that interfere with intimate partnerships. Remove them and see what happens. There may be blow ups, sweet exchanges, or both. Stay present with each other.
9. Make a list of all of the benefits of the relationship.
What are you getting out of it? These can be positive or negative. “I get to be with my best friend.” “I get to be supported financially and not have to deal with making money.” “I get someone to do fun things with.” “I don’t have to be alone and face my fear of loneliness.” Be extremely honest with yourselves and each other.
10. Get support and have a plan of action, whether you stay together or not.
Hire a coach or therapist. Take a workshop or seminar together. There are no quick fixes either way, and you cannot do it alone. Get educated. Allow yourselves to be seen in your human messiness. I guarantee you will learn something and grow.
Some resources are:
> More in-depth help with choosing whether to stay or leave.
> Another fantastic program if you’re local to Boulder, Colorado.