The fight to improve a marriage or relationship is a fight against reality. It’s exhausting work. If you’ve tried to change your partner or your marriage to no avail, it might be time to face your relationship exactly as it is.
Facing your relationship as it actually is, in its full reality, is simple, terrifying, and ultimately liberating work. Actually, it’s not work at all, but rather un-work… allowing. A dropping of facades. It takes great courage to drop our projections and be willing to see our partner clearly, as they are. Flawed. Human. Not good enough.
“But he’s lazy. I won’t tolerate it!”
“She’s controlling. I never get a moment’s peace!”
So you have a lazy husband. Or a controlling wife. (Yes, these gender roles are interchangeable.) Your disapproval certainly hasn’t bent your partner to your will yet, so relaxing around the issue for a few minutes or days or weeks won’t hurt your case.
Many people assume that it is their threats, compromises, pushing, tantrums, demands, punishing, withdrawing that keeps the relationship grinding along; that it would collapse without their constant efforts. And so they drive it, and drive it, and drive it until they drive it off the cliff of no return and then say “I tried.”
“Are you asking me to settle?” one client recently asked. “I can’t do that. It feels like failure.”
Relaxing into failure
On the issue of failure… Congratulations. You’ve failed to fulfill your relationship fantasy. It hurts. It’s disappointing. But it’s also a milestone, a rite of passage. Welcome, you’ve arrived. Deep disillusionment isn’t the end of the world, or even necessarily the end of your relationship; it’s how relationships, and lives, are truly transformed – walking through the fire, burning away illusion, and facing reality head on. It’s courageous work.
Your task is to see your partner for who they really are. Possibly for the first time. Notice how attached you’ve been to them being someone different. (Ouch, right?) Spend some time here. See if you can feel your disappointment, anger, sadness without feeding it, fixing it, or drawing conclusions from it. Nothing needs to be done about it today. This isn’t an endpoint or solution, it’s a respite. Now that you’ve failed, relax for a bit. Notice your capacity for disappointment expand. It doesn’t mean the relationship is over or doomed. It doesn’t mean you’ve done a bad job. For now, just notice who your spouse really is, who you really are, free from the fantasy that has mercifully crumbled.
As Canadian author, poet, and analytical psychologist Marion Woodman puts it, “A life truly lived constantly burns away veils of illusion, burns away what is no longer relevant, gradually reveals our essence, until, at last, we are strong enough to stand in our naked truth.”
And then what? What do we do with what we find? Follow the links in this article or download the free sample chapter of my book to get some ideas.
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Trying to grow, fix, change, understand or save your marriage? I provide couples therapy, marriage counselling, coaching and mentoring to individuals and couples on the issues that make or break relationships – Sessions by telephone/skype worldwide. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to request a client info package. www.JusticeSchanfarber.com
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