I’m sure we’ve all seen the photo of the older couple saying:
“We were born in a time when if something was broken, we would fix it, not throw it away.”
And yes, it is inspiring however we tend to immediately wonder, “what are the different categories of broken?”. How do I know if it’s broken-broken, or just needs to be tuned up?
I’ve learned a lot lately by observing couples who have been married for over 20 or 30 years. One couple commented, “sometimes you don’t just have bad days in marriage, you have bad years”. What?!
Another couple I know were living in the same house, sharing activities like meal times, family visits, country drives, etc but were distant for many months, barely speaking because one of them had their feelings hurt. I was convinced the two of them were headed for the end but, they both came around, mended fences on their own and are in a romance-filled relationship again. They had been through this cycle before and it was almost like they were comfortable with it showing up again – fully knowing that given time, they would be back to normal.
There’s a saying I’ve heard therapists say: “The problem is not the problem” and I think it can, in a lot of cases, relate to relationships. Often times, we can get almost obsessive in analyzing our relationships that we forget to shift our focus to activities we love to do on our own. When a man or woman is feeling like something is a problem in their life and they can’t put a finger on it, the first scapegoat is to assume it is the relationship. It’s an easy target. Sometimes the reason things have gone wonky in your relationship is simply because you stopped going to your yoga classes or your guy has stopped checking in with his buddies on the weekends to play a game of soccer.
My advice is to start with the big picture to help in taking the magnifying glass off of your relationship. First, see what is missing in your life in general. Take some time to see if filling those needs over the next few weeks make a difference. Do some journaling on all the things that are bringing you frustration. Second, and once you feel a bit more life-balance, approach your partner with the lingering topics. If you don’t seem to be getting anywhere, it may be time to bring in a professional who can mediate and help point out gaps in your communication.
From there, it will be up to you to gauge whether it is broken or you are just in a normal part of the relationship cycle and need to be a bit more attentive to the tune ups. Everyone is going to be different but perhaps by following these steps, more clarity will shine through.