Friday, April 26, 2013

My Partner is Considering Divorce and This Frightens Me

FearHearing your partner question his or her commitment to your relationship can be overwhelmingly frightening.  When  frightened your animal instincts take over.  You can lash out in anger, want to run away, but ultimately your instinct is to reach out desperately for your partner’s commitment.

Fear can lead you to push for your partner's commitment in order to remove your fear.  This leads you to try to become a salesperson trying to sell your partner on the relationship. The sales pitch can include all the benefits of remaining in the relationship and if that fails, you heap guilt on your partner for even considering abandoning his/her commitment to the relationship.

Your partner responds to this coldly much as you would when a salesman tries to close the sale before you are ready to make a choice.  Your partner doesn't need a sales pitch which ultimately says what you want, instead he/she needs encouragement to make a good decision.

The decision looms large in each of your lives. It deserves to be given even greater consideration than you would in buying a car, yet many allow emotions to rush the decision simply to reduce the pain of indecision.

If you or your partner are struggling with a decision to continue or end your marriage/relationship, practice the following four characteristics of good decision making:

Principle 1: Good decisions take time.  Fear is painful.  It is natural to want to end the pain as soon as possible.  The temptation is to set deadline, yet we most regret decisions made too quickly or two emotionally.

Principle 2: Good decisions consider all the options.  Politicians are adept at presenting issues as two-sided.  Most issues have many sides that must be considered.  Pressing your partner to see his or her decision as one in which there is a right or wrong answer hinders good decision making.  Good decisions come from contemplation of which requires both partners to be patient - a commodity in short supply in our culture.

Principle 3: Good decisions are made independently.  Pressing your partner for a decision can lead to your partner holding you responsible for his or her decision.  Regardless of what your partner decides, you want him or her to accept responsibility for the decision.  You do not want your partner to make a halfhearted decision to recommit.

Principle 4: Good decisions weigh all of the potential costs and benefits.  Weighing costs and benefits requires the use of reason. Emotions can be the enemy of reason.  Your partner needs more of a listening ear than someone telling him or her what decision to make.

Principle 5: Decisions improve when the emotion is drained out of the process.  Feelings can pull your partner toward you, but these feelings must arise from within. Efforts to sell your partner on love diminishes you and creates further distance in the relationship.

To explore this issue further you can read this free ebook on managing a marital crisis and you can read chapter four in my book Crumbling Commitment: Managing a Marital Crisis.  There is a link on my website for information about purchasing this ebook.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Making the Most of Couples Therapy

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Most couples do not prepare for meeting with me. Probably because they do not know what to expect. If they do prepare, they tend to consider what their complaints are about the relationship. This is fine, but here are some other things to consider before meeting with your therapist.

Think about what makes your relationship good.  If you are married, think about what you like about being married.  If you are in a committed relationship but unmarried, think about what you like about being in this relationship.

Now think about your goals for therapy.  If therapy is successful, what would you want your relationship to look like?  Perhaps you can recall a time when you felt more connected to your partner.  Perhaps you can imagine a better connection with your partner.  Imagine what that connection would look like.  How would your emotional, physical and sexual relationship be different?

Now consider how you could contribute to the relationship you desire.  What small steps could you take to encourage this change?  Next, think about what you desire from your partner.  How could you encourage your partner to change?  What would attract this motivation to change?

Now consider the barriers within you which would prevent change.  Have you allowed resentment to build?  Are you uncertain in your desire for a connection with your partner?  Are you simply afraid to risk reaching out to your partner for fear that he or she will not reciprocate?

Couples therapy works best when couples are able to reassure each other of their commitment to doing their part to improve their relationship.  How can you communicate this to your partner?  How can you express your desire for your partner's help?  It is important to express this desire for help in a vulnerable tone of voice.

By thinking through these questions, you will be prepared to begin rebuilding your relationship rather than simply distributing blame for your disconnection.