There’s a misconception couples have about what to focus on when things are getting dicey in their relationship.
When a couple gets into a tough spot and it feels like they are spiraling down, constantly in power struggles and wondering if they are actually just “falling out of love” (btw – that isn’t really a “thing”) most people believe there’s a communication problem that’s driving it.
What’s actually the issue is that the “emotional connection” has been getting stretched too thin! You know that sense of being connected, being bonded to your beloved that you used to feel? That feeling of “I’ve got your back and you’ve got mine?” That! When challenges go on for a while and are not addressed, it’s the emotional connection that gets broken down, that feeling of being a “team” and that's what needs to be strengthened, pronto!
There’s usually one partner who is driving the bus and working toward this kind of change. They’re invested in saving the relationship or are at least committed to not having regrets if they decide to end it. They’ll reach out for support and get clear on how to STOP doing what’s causing the “disconnect” between them and instead, begin DOING what can create the “bond” again.
And here’s what’s really important to realize……while we have no control over another person, an individual committed to doing things different from their end can have a powerful, positive influence on the people around them and that definitely includes their partner!
So they start, by honestly understanding what’s not working, then learn new tools and behaviors to put into their tool-belt. A plan is put into place to begin building the emotional connection back and off they go!
Then within a couple of days, I hear:
“It’s not working. I tried it and he just said the same damn thing again!”
“I responded differently the last two nights and all I got was an eye roll.”
“He just said ‘It doesn’t matter what you do. I don’t feel the same about you.”
And you know what?
Game over. Done deal. It didn’t work. He’s / she’s such a “blankety blank.” I’m outta here.
Except there’s a part of us that knows when we haven’t truly given something our all, so the looping begins again. Feeling angry and confused at what to do different to get the relationship back on track, sitting in victim mode for a few days, falling back into blame, contemplating what it would be like to leave, then scaring ourselves and considering again how to change our own behavior to make things better.
What was missing in the first place?
Skin in the game. It’s when you’re invested.
In what? Doing this different, regardless.
Regardless of whether:
- Your partner is matching your efforts to change the hurtful dynamic
- He/she keeps doing and saying the same old things, trying to hook you in
- You are accused of trying to keep the two of you together when it’s obviously over
- Your partner says “Nothing you do will change this. Stop.”
- You’re attempts to connect are met with anger, frustration or sarcasm
How does that sound? Fun?
Yep. That’s why a person stops. As human beings, we want things to be fair. So even though we’re the one making the push for change and believe we understand that the change has to come from our end (first), the moment a disgruntled, frustrated partner doesn’t join in or makes an unkind remark, the towel gets thrown in.
A partner who feels emotionally disconnected has a lot of defensive walls built up. They don’t really believe that things can be different between the two of you and that you, personally, will do what you need to do on your end to make things better. (are you already fuming because you’re saying “But it’s not just ME!”)
This is what I’m talking about. That thinking will keep the door firmly shut to the possibility of real change in your relationship. You have to stay committed to your own personal change for long enough that a person who is frustrated, hurt and shut down can do a few things:
- Relax internally so they begin to experience you in a positive light on a consistent basis
- Feel tinges of hope that things might be able to be different
- Begin to trust that it might be safe to let their walls down and begin to “own” their par
- This leads a couple back to the emotional connection that got broken down and to having a sense of being a “team” again, which creates “mondo” intimacy!
Can you see it?
Most couples who’ve been hurting each other over and over are playing a waiting game. It takes inner strength and a real dedication to show up as the person you want to be, NO MATTER WHAT and to do this deep spiritual work. To use your relationship as a spiritual practice.
I don’t want my clients to have regrets. If an individual commits to truly showing up with integrity and isn’t thrown off their game by another’s behavior, it will either change the dynamic or they’ll eventually know they need to go.
Walls can come down when another softens and creates sacred space. It’s a pretty beautiful thing. Possibly worth trying. If you have “skin in the game”, you’ll put your all into it and give it everything you’ve got, regardless of what’s coming at you on the other end. Not once, not twice, but with a conviction that shows not only your partner, but you personally, what you’re made of.
How big is your “brave?”