Tuesday, April 13, 2010
When your partner's commitment to the marriage becomes uncertain, it seems as though your world is in uproar. You can accept problems in the marriage because they can be addressed, but your partner's statement, "I'm not sure I want to be married" or "I'm not in love with you" is not as easily addressed.
In my first post (6/8/08!), I outlined the elements of a commitment in marriage. Feelings can change. Passion ebbs and flows. Anger explodes. Disappointment arises. But commitment is supposed to remain throughout. The loss of commitment seems to be a sign of a marriage in its death throes.
In fact, an uncertain commitment to marriage is not a symptom of the death of the relationship. However, it is a condition that can be likened to a body that is seriously injured in an accident. The body must be handled very carefully in order that it is not harmed in the process of getting it to the hospital. Similarly, a marital crisis is a situation that calls for delicate treatment.
In my ebook, Understanding Your Distancing Spouse (http://tinyurl.com/y4ugjva) I help you to understand that the partner who is uncertain about his or her commitment is going through a decision-making process - a process that can lead to a new, improved marriage as well as divorce. However, it is easy to respond to the crisis as though it is a personal rejection and a prelude to divorce.
If you see the crisis as rejection and a prelude to divorce, then you will naturally respond to protect yourself. If you see the crisis as a decision-making process, then you can choose to respond in a manner that facilitates good decision-making. You can also work to influence the decision by showing your partner that the relationship can be improved.
I regularly wonder how many marital crises become destructive divorces simply because the partners' misinterpreted the crisis as something that cannot be overcome and survived. I hope that other therapists that read this blog will educate the public to understand that a marriage crisis can be survived. I hope that when you or your friends' commitment becomes uncertain that you, family, and friends will respond in a manner that normalizes the situation and helps the partner use good decision-making skills.