I haven’t blogged in a very long time but I felt there is so much to say on the topic of “fixing a marriage/relationship once the love is gone.” I have been finding myself leaving the office more emotionally exhausted and expended lately than usual and after meditating on what the reason is I realize a few key patterns in people attending therapy.
Most couples come into therapy after they have already mentally and emotionally exited from their relationship. Often there is one person in the relationship who wants to fix it and one who is already planning their exit or exited through involvement in another relationship. I understand people who are wanting to leave a relationship want to come with their partner for reasons such as: “one more try,” “maybe there’s hope,” “I want my spouse to feel better,” and the one I hear the most, “if it doesn’t work they will have support in place to help them heal.” I always go through the motions of explaining how relationships work at their best through boundaries, time, commitment, bond and intimacy and sometimes people are thankful for the normalcy that has been brought to their attention and make a choice to start the work of rebuilding (or maybe building for the first time). Then there are those who are also thankful for the knowledge but feel it’s “too late” and make a choice to not proceed to rebuild. Understandably, many people who are exited emotionally, are that way after many years of trying to engage with their partner and unfortunately, their partner didn’t respond until they were confronted with the possibility of separation. Relationships are difficult even in the best of scenarios, I find that any relationship can be fixed if two people are willing and able. The common theme in these scenarios is “choice.”
Love is a choice, commitment is a choice, monogamy is a choice, being soul-bonded is a choice. These words are used as feeling words and nothing can be further from the truth of what these words truly are – they are action words. All of these words take work and mindful choices daily, moment-by-moment. After the choice to be in a relationship with daily actions of love, commitment, and monogamy, feelings do-follow. That’s the great news, a feeling of safety, security, passion, and desire, just to name a few, do fill you. I am asked daily “should it be this hard?” My answer is Yes! Yes! Yes! But it won’t always feel hard. It will feel like joy when done and received and the dynamic becomes a norm. The rewards will always out weight the “work.”
Now I want to clarify that this blog is NOT being written toward someone who has emotionally exited from their relationship due to any form of abuse or repeated infidelity. There are absolutely times when a person’s safety and well being cannot be negotiated with someone who is doing them harm.
This blog is my observation of years of couples therapy and seeing a culture that is ever rapidly changing and not in favor of keeping balance in people’s lives. When the balance of relational boundaries is overpowered by outside influences the relationship is left vulnerable. The recipe for most affairs is vulnerability and opportunity and there is no shortage of opportunity by vulnerable people. Anyone who has participated in couple’s therapy with me knows that I give the analogy of the wounded leg:
“I would much rather you bring me a small wound that we can stitch up than a wound that has eaten away at the limb to the point where perhaps amputation is the most obvious answer at first glance.”
The best time to seek help with your relationship is early, often and throughout the lifespan of your relationship. Prevention is always the best medicine. If your relationship feels ok, fine, mundane or worse – disconnected, like roommates or indifferent, you are already in a dangerous place. Please, do not ignore the signs of a relationship at risk for vulnerability by being left to its own device of feelings.
The biology of love is real. There are chemicals, Oxytocin and Dopamine, that are made in the body upon meeting someone that is necessary for bonding just long enough to procreate, roughly 5 years. After that, you’re on your own to continue to build those chemicals that bring feelings, through new experiences and special time with your partner. The daily choice to be kind, reliable, accountable, and committed and monogamous builds the everlasting true love and bond we search for in a relationship. I challenge everyone to Choose mindfulness and bring the action into your personal daily practice of honoring and protecting your relationship.
Sheri Lawrence, LMFT