Disclaimer: I am not a relationship counselor, nor do I play one on television. My thoughts are mine alone. Grain of salt and all that.
Talking authentically about unhappy relationships can be like broaching the topic of venereal disease at Bible Study. The response is likely to be neither neutral nor welcoming. Friends may have their own bitterness which gets stirred up by our wooden spoons; we might have to fight the ‘I told you so’s’ by the people in our lives who need better hobbies; our partners may be genuine turds who don’t appear that way to the world beyond our four walls and so WE appear to be the crazy people; maybe we just found out our love has betrayed our most sacred trust, and we don’t know how to begin the rebuild or if we want to; maybe parts of our support network are also unhappy and our admission of a shakeup pokes the elephant in their rooms which they respond to by getting angry at us. It’s easier than evicting an elephant. And, realistically, sometimes we’re just bored as humans and we blame it on our partners.
The tangles inside can feel heart-crushing, and when they do, it is a gift. Pain and discomfort are strong motivators, if nothing else, to stop and listen. What are our souls trying to tell us that our carefully crafted lives don’t have ears to hear? We resist going to these exploratory places inside ourselves because we intuitively know it will result in hard internal work and massive physical, social, emotional, and financial upheaval. These are not on par with decisions on what to have for dinner or which shoes look better with what skirt (always pick the boots!) — these are really big questions.
I am not advocating leaving relationships. I am extending the freedom to acknowledge possible tangles and presenting pragmatic options for consideration. Feeling stuck is, in my perfectly right and indisputable opinion, the WORST state in the world. And when we feel stuck and lonely with the person who is supposed to be our biggest source of comfort and companionship, it can be the loneliest kind of stuck ever.
The Choices: Whatever s/he’s done or hasn’t done or what we have or haven’t done, there are basically four tracks.
- Stay. Stay in the relationship and keep the status quo. Don’t change a thing. Carry on. See how long this can go on before true pathology appears or until our souls die.
- Stay and change. Stay and radically re-engineer it, probably with outside support. This choice may require purposeful and well-intentioned separation. Both partners need buy in, accountability, and support. (Givens no matter what — if we had the support we needed we probably wouldn’t have the feelings we do.)
- Leave. Go out on our own and get ourselves rebuilt. Enter the game again when that work is done. That work involves a lot of self-examination and emotional digging and is not for the faint of heart. Start building support networks now.
- Take our dirty laundry and go start a new mess. Go get involved with someone else immediately. Deal with none of our baggage and set the stopwatch to see how long it takes until that implodes.
None of these is for the faint of heart!
Do we want to stay but only if vast AND sweeping changes are made? Or do we want to end this and need to figure out how? Do we not know yet? Whether we decide to stay and change or leave and go out on our own, there is tremendous change coming. This is okay. It is hard, but it is okay. There’s a reason that all the great faith traditions have parables about life coming out of death. Or the new cannot be brought forth without the passing of the old. It just seems to work that way. Our jobs right now are to be honest with ourselves, be gentle with ourselves, and start setting up a MATURE and supportive network.
I welcome your feedback and stories 🙂 I would love to hear stories from people who took all four of the tracks and what their processes were.