A while back, Zoo’s Australian magazine were offering one ‘lucky’ man, who was ‘stuck in a busted marriage’, the chance to win a divorce, all expenses paid, with essentials for his new lifestyle thrown in; a top of the range TV, playstation, a cleaner and of course a party to celebrate.
OK, so it’s Zoo magazine and it would be daft to take it too seriously, yet part of me felt great sadness at the thought of men choosing to compete for such a hollow prize, for the illusion that this will be a time of celebration and that escaping into entertainment could match being in relationship with someone. Our society seems to advocate giving up in relationship when the going gets tough. The message we hear is that relationships that aren’t going well, or as expected, are ‘busted’ and we need to move on. What if the absolute opposite is true?
What if when a relationship feels ‘busted’ it’s just getting started.
I often work with couples who are fighting all the time, and who are scared that their relationship is over. “Congratulations” is not what they are expecting to hear. No one has ever told them that this is a normal phase of relationship, that this is actually a step forwards and that finding their ground as individuals is essential if they are to find a way to sustain their relationship.
It’s a tough phase to be in – it’s frustrating, painful exhausting and confusing. Bad behaviour and old habits comes out, and we really hurt each other. It feels all wrong after ‘being in love’ and ‘together’. It is counter to everything we hear about the ‘perfect’ or ‘romantic’ relationship. It feels impossible to move on from, and anything done to change things seems to backfire. It usually feels hopeless.
A new kind of closeness
Beyond this phase is an opportunity for a new kind of closeness that is sustainable, unlike the time limited nature of being ‘in love’. It isn’t easy, but it’s possible if both partners are willing to dare to explore things and be more vulnerable.
If relationship was simple, I’d now be able to give you a neat explanation or a formula to apply – but as you know, it’s not like that. Healthy relationship is an exploration between two individuals of how to be close, and yet hold onto individual identity. Yes, a relationship needs two individuals to thrive, as well as the commitment to being together. The tension this creates is part of the attraction and fuel that keeps a relationship alive.
So, what can you do when you find yourself in this fighting phase, as you will from time to time in any relationship?
What you can do
1. Look at the bigger picture: Remember it’s a normal phase in relationship and you’re not alone. If you’ve been here before remember that you can recover together.
2. Focus on yourself rather than your partner: Focus on your own individual needs and take responsibility for meeting them for yourself.
3. Focus on the relationship between you: Talk about what is happening in your relationship with your partner. If this is difficult get a trained relationship coach or counsellor to help you explore this together.
Who knows maybe Cosmo will run a competition offering the chance to win a year’s supply of relationship coaching (I’d be up for it..) with babysitting, a cleaner and weekend away thrown in, or maybe that’s just me!