When I run Couples Connections or work with couples during Couples Mentoring sessions, I am aware of couples who have desperately struggled with their relationships. As a counselor and facilitator of relationship workshops I am sobered by this knowledge and concerned about how to help.
Rescue the Struggling Relationship
I understand clearly that there are good reasons to end a relationship and move on; however, I also believe that we are under obligation to ourselves and our partners to do everything in our power to salvage a broken relationship and build it into something that is healthy. The consequences of broken relationships are often so great that we cannot risk anything less than our absolute best effort to make these relationships work. And amazingly, a healthy relationship is one of the things that we most crave in our lives.
So, how do you begin to address a struggling relationship?
A powerful place to begin working on a struggling relationship is to engage two crucial relationship bridges; commitment and determination. I am reminded of the statement, “Be committed to do what it takes to have what you want,” and the three questions that emerge from the statement;
- What do you want?
- Are you committed to creating it in your life?
- What are willing to do to create it?
What I want in my partnership with Christine is an intimate, meaningful, purposeful and completely satisfying relationship. So, am I committed to creating that kind of relationship? That commitment begins with a commitment to me. It is a commitment to grow in every way possible as a person…mentally, emotionally, spiritually and even physically. Too often I hear partners get stuck saying, “this is the way that I am; I will not change.” Change is in fact the nature of relationship. Personal growth is its priority. Every relationship evolves and grows and it is up to me to grow with it. It is true that my basic personality will remain intact; however, what I believe, how I feel, how I behave, my attitudes, my values, my understanding, my perspectives and even my character can grow and evolve if I am committed to myself and my growth.
A second commitment is to my partner. The most difficult commitment is to love. It is a choice, not a feeling, and then most profoundly, it is an action.
Which brings me to the third question; “What am I willing to do to have what I want?”
This is where my sheer determination comes into play. I am willing to make a choice to love every day and act as if I love wholeheartedly, even if I do not feel like I love. It is in my willingness to act out my love that awakens my heart and changes how I feel.
Almost every morning, I get up and make Christine a cup of tea and bring it to her when she is still in bed. I will read the paper and Christine will watch dog videos (not exclusively, just seems like it) and then we will usually have a meaningful check in about our lives and our relationship. Once we get out of bed, I will make breakfast for us. I do not always feel like doing these little acts of service, but there is something in the act that melts away my resistance and renews my commitment.
So, what is the act of love that is required to melt your resistance and renew your commitment?
Build on the Healthy Relationship
It is important for me to say that Couples Connections and Couples Mentoring is not just for those who are struggling in their relationship. It is also for those who want to continue building on their healthy relationship. It is so easy to take for granted what you have when your relationship is in a healthy state. As I consider the bridges of commitment and determination, I think it is absolutely crucial to continue prioritizing your relationship. Healthy relationships become unhealthy when you allow the other priorities in your life to get in the way and complacency turns into distance. Over time distance can turn into indifference and couples are left wondering…”how did this happen?”
Do not allow anything to become more of a priority in your life over your most significant relationship. I have seen it over and over again where individuals have made work the priority in their lives until their relationship falters and then work feels meaningless.
Knowing what I know about the state of relationships and how desperate people are for healthy relationship I would think our couples programs would be the best attended of all our programs, but with 2 partners having to agree to attend, they not always are. It makes me wonder if we are truly committed and if we are really willing to do anything to create the health and happiness we want.