Your Personal Relationship Coach

By Christine Kniffen, MSW, LCSW

Do You Feel Stuck In A Bad Relationship

“I’m not happy, but I don’t know what to do about it.” “I’ve tried everything and nothing has changed.” “Should I stay or should I go?” “What if there is no one out there for me?” “Isn’t something better than nothing?” If you find yourself repeatedly asking any one of these questions, then it is time to do something about it. Time is ticking. Many of you have heard me say, “The only reason you don’t have the great relationship you deserve is because you are wasting your time in one that can’t make you happy”. I certainly understand if this seems ridiculously oversimplified given the complexity of the emotional turmoil you feel. However, it really does quite simply boil down to that plain, little fact. Fear is what keeps everybody stuck. Fear of making a mistake and having regret, fear of being alone and fear of never finding anyone else is what digs us deeper and deeper into the quicksand of an unhappy relationship. Well, if you want to do something about it you have three basic steps to complete. First, you have to do some honest soul searching and processing to decide if it is even worth trying to salvage the relationship. Next, you have to take all necessary steps to elicit cooperation from your partner, even if you think he or she won’t cooperate, as one person can never fix the problems alone. Finally, you may need to decide that you need to seek professional advice, as many people simply don’t have the tools in order to restore the relationship on their own.

So, step one involves gaining some degree of honesty with yourself. Is this a relationship worth trying to salvage or is every instinct in your being telling you that it won’t work and you are simply not listening? Everybody has done this at one time or another in their lives. However, trying to act one way when your gut tells you something different will take a tremendous toll on you both emotionally and physically. If you are doing this then you are probably feeling exhausted. And, the longer you do this the worse it will get. Do the majority of your family and friends tend to dislike your current choice for a relationship? Do they tell you that they think you are selling yourself short? I cannot begin to tell you the number of women that come through my door and find themselves in this exact position. If this sounds pretty familiar to you then perhaps you need some help in sorting things out. Despite what it sounds like this is not about judgment. I too have been there in the past. It is something we all experience to some degree or another. The great head and heart battle is a tough one. And, a little help from a non-biased source may be just what is required to help get you off the fence and out of feeling trapped in unhappiness that seems to only be getting worse. Therefore, after making an honest assessment as to trying to salvage the relationship or not you are ready to move forward.

The next step, if you think the relationship is worth salvaging, is to attempt to gain the other person’s cooperation in order to give the relationship any real shot at getting fixed. I have heard many women say, “but my husband won’t come in…..he thinks therapy is ridiculous”. Now, don’t worry about insulting the therapist with that kind of statement. We are all used to the usual protests. I think that with many things in life, we have preconceived ideas until our experience shows us something different. This resistance is pretty typical, but it is what makes so many feel helpless about ever really getting things fixed. This is where you simply have to keep upping the ante so to speak. Let your partner know that you are unhappy and that you feel that the two of you may need some help getting the relationship back on track. If that doesn’t work, then have the conversation again. This time you want to be sure that your partner understands just how upset, worried and concerned you are for the future of the relationship if things remain the same. If that doesn’t gain cooperation then ask them if the relationship is important enough to them to try and suspend their preconceived notions and do whatever is necessary to get things fixed, as the relationship is spiraling down and is in dangerous territory. It is hard for some to even imagine themselves having this conversation due to fear of the answer. “What”, you ask, “am I supposed to do if they say no”? Well, you ask again and again upping the ante, so to speak, each time. Eventually if you can’t get their cooperation then you are going to have to face the inevitable and deal with reality. Relationships don’t work with only one person participating. This is a fact and the sooner you accept it the sooner you can move forward with your life. However, just because you fear something doesn’t make it so. You may just find a willing participant on the other side once he or she understands just how upset and worried you are about your relationship.

Finally, after you get your partner’s attention and elicit a promise of cooperation it is time that you do something about the issues at hand. Many couples have spent a good deal of time reinforcing communication patterns that are not helpful to the relationship. Often they have become defensive and reactive when one or the other is trying to state their feelings. This results in each of the partners not feeling heard, understood or validated in their concerns, hurts and frustrations. Most people find that they simply do not have the tools and proper perspective necessary to bridge the gap and find their way back. The easy way out is to just give up. The more difficult route is the one that expands your personal growth, makes you a better individual and challenges you to be able to put yourself in the other person’s shoe. Simply put, the reality is that we affect other people by what we do and what we say. It isn’t about whether or not we meant to impact anyone in a negative way. We impact people all the time and most often nobody means to hurt anyone. So, we need to learn to listen to our partner when they tell us how our behavior affects them. This is a skill I find that men and women equally need to work on in their relationships. Therefore, you may need some professional mediation and help getting to that place of happy, peaceful co-existence. If you have felt trapped and in limbo about your relationship then make the decision to do something about it. Make the call to get clarity and decide if it can be salvaged. It takes courage to face difficulties in life, but it is the only way to get things changed and allow you the relationship that you both deserve.

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Christine Kniffen, LCSW is a Relationship Coach and Therapist. For a free consultation call 314-374-8396.