Part one of this article is here.
No person is immune the pain of ending an intimate relationship, even marriage counselors. While “Divorced Marriage Counselor” may seem like an oxymoron, it is my reality. It is a reality which I have chosen to approach with the eye of a counselor, so that I can use my experience with it to help my clients navigate the storms of marriage and relationships. Each day it seems that I learn something new, and here are a few of the things which I have learned.
Don’t Force It
This is a very common piece of advice, and for good reason: it’s a very common problem. “Don’t force it” is good practice regardless of the topic. Generally, when we do something, we want it to succeed. When we lie down to sleep, we expect to sleep; and when we get a new job we expect to succeed. In the same vein, no one gets married expecting to get divorced.
When people (especially young people) get married, they tend to think that that they will be able to take on the world with their partner. It’s going to be this grand adventure that the poets will be writing of for centuries. Unfortunately, one persons grand adventure is another persons torture, and often individuals in a couple can contort themselves to their partners interests so that they can just be together. Sometimes this takes the form of ignoring red flags. “I can deal with that” is a well meaning statement, but it can lead to resentment if the one saying it isn’t careful. This is why boundaries are important in a relationship.
To be clear, it is important to be flexible in a relationship. There is no such thing as a perfect couple, and it is vital to the health of a relationship that both partners are able to give. It becomes problematic when one or both partners begin to bend beyond what they are comfortable with. Contrary to what a contortionist may tell you, it is possible to be too flexible. Being overly flexible can lead your partner to believe that you are okay with whatever they want to do; which can put you in some pretty compromising positions that would not have come up if you had been clear about your boundaries sooner. And on the flip side, if your partner never says no, you run the risk of taking them for granted and expecting them to just go along with whatever you want to do with no regard for their interests and needs. This breeds contempt, which is toxic to an intimate relationship. Of course, there is such a thing as having boundaries which are too firm, so it’s important to find the happy medium.
So what can be done about this? Start with getting to know each other! It is very important to know what your partner wants in life. After a while, you may begin to find yourself disagreeing on some fundamental things. Even this is not necessarily a problem; it just means that you get to dig down more and really work on compromise skills. The key here is compromise. If you are always giving, then you teach your partner that they can always take. Cooperate, and remember that you are both in this together; and you’ll come out on top!
If you are in a relationship, take some time to really explore your partners wants and needs. If you are able to find a way to work together to make them work, then you’re well on your way to a successful relationship! If not, then it may be pertinent to have a conversation about where the challenges are coming from and what can be done about them. I am a big believer that any relationship can be made to work with proper application of communication, trust, respect, and love; but it takes work. Be open and honest about your needs and limits, and don’t try and force your relationship to be successful.