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Getting the Relationship You Want

“If you do not take a step forward, you will always be in the same place.” -Nora Roberts

Change is Scary. And Hard. And Risky. But as the somewhat silly quote above reminds us, if you don’t change -- then things stay the same. I often meet individually with each member of a couple to hear their concerns about their marriage. Most of the time they talk about how terrified they are of making a change. As bad as things are, they’re scared and afraid of doing anything that will make things worse. And they’re right, making a change in their marriage is risky. Changing the dynamic in the way they interact with one another will be challenging. But sometimes you have to be willing to risk what you have in order to get something better. If you want a new marriage with the same spouse you are going to have to do some things differently.

I often gently remind them of what they told me early on – how they came to counseling because their marriage seems unbearable. Or that their lack of sexual intimacy is intolerable. Or how their failing relationship is making them depressed, or anxious, or miserable. And yet they are still afraid of doing something different. Why? Because for them; a lack of sex is better than no sex and another painful rejection of their advance. Because a lack of communication is better than expressing their wants or desires and being left unheard, or even worse, told by their partner that what they need isn’t important. And yet, what a marriage often needs is for someone to take a risk. For one partner or the other to finally ask for things to be different. I know for them it feels like jumping out of a plane without a parachute. And yes, sometimes it does get worse at first. It can create hard conversations when things are already difficult. But usually, with the help of a counselor, it makes things better. It allows both partners to get honest about their wants and needs, their fears and hurts; and after the hard work couples can emerge stronger and happier.

The thing is, most couples are fairly miserable by the time they come to see me. They are living as roommates, not lovers and friends, and they are exhausted from the fights and the slights. When they get deeply honest in session, at least one of them will tell me they are not sure they even want to continue in the marriage. But still they are afraid of making a change. They have so little to lose and so much to gain – but when a couple is that beaten down it is hard to find the courage to overcome the fear.

I have seen the difference it makes when someone finally takes a risk. Husbands who have admitted addictions or wives who have admitted affairs. Or simply, couples who finally told each other what they need or want but without blaming their partner. I know it is easy for a therapist to say “Take a risk.” But the choice is really simple. Do you want to be miserable and stable in your current marriage or to have the relationship you envisioned when you said “I Do”? Being in a partnership that is fulfilling emotionally, physically, and spiritually will mean you have to do some things differently moving forward. But isn’t it worth the risk?

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