Whether it’s a marriage or not, it’s never too late to keep your relationship intact – if you and your partner have the willingness to do the hard work of acknowledging and working out the issues. Sure, some relationships are destined to sad demises, to the proverbial tragic trash heap of broken hearts; just look at the sky-high divorce rates.
But I believe that most couples can work through even the most glaring challenges to keep the partnership healthy and flourishing.
Through my years of working with couples, most of them in crisis, I’ve heard and seen it all. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve repeatedly witnessed hopelessness and the heart-wrenching angst of hurt couples. It’s never easy to hear the recounting of all the betrayals and abuse, so often unfairly and needlessly flung upon each other.
Well, they say that if you can identify a particular problem or issue, then you can do something about it.
We’re talking about the main obstacles and threats to love relationships.
So, here’s a brief list of these typical destroyers of love relationships, and a few helpful tips about what you can do about them, BEFORE it really is too late:
1) Those incessant arguments.
It’s those knee-jerk reactions, that habitual response to argue with your partner when conflict arises, that gets us into so much trouble. We automatically go on the attack or react with our anger (which usually is a cover-up for fear).
So, we have to break the habit, and learn better, more productive ways of expressing our hurts and our fears. Sometimes this requires a third party, like a counselor, to model, re-pattern, and keep the communication flowing and healthy.
2) The blame game
When couples first come to me, the first thing I usually have to deal with, is all the blaming. This just amounts to destructive aggression, and does nothing to help the conversation or to heal the hurts.
Sure, it’s important for each person to be heard, but blame just tends to cut off communication and ends up exacerbating the problem. To really get somewhere, couples need to express themselves in a way that doesn’t turn-off the other.
Again, the habitual need to attack one another has to be stopped in its tracks.
There is a fundamental difference between “aggression” and “assertiveness.” Aggression is basically going on the attack, while being assertive is standing up for yourself and truly being heard – which usually makes for better outcomes.
Again, turning blame into healthy assertiveness may be difficult on your own. So, avail yourself to a therapist or mediator, if needed.
3) Cheating and other forms of betrayals
It’s all about the trust, or lack thereof.
There’s nothing more devastating to a love relationship than couples betraying each other, whether it’s through cheating, lying, not following through with commitments, or something as simple as not showing up on time.
I can tell you this from experience: if a couple has a fairly long history of trusting one other, and has been able to successfully build a deep reservoir of love and respect for each other, then they will have a much better chance than most to move beyond the betrayal and regain that (possibly temporary) lost trust. I’ve seen it happen many times and with many couples.
Moreover, through honest and open communication, you and your loved one can work through most betrayals, even cheating, even when other couples just can’t.
4) Bored with each other
As Paul Simon remarked in one of his perceptive songs: “We’re just a habit, like Saccharin…”
Refuse to let that happen to you and your partner!
And what is boredom, anyway? In most cases, it’s usually about a person’s needs and wants not getting met. And why? Well, I think it’s usually about lack of effort, motivation, even laziness. And that can obliterate any promising relationship.
A reminder: SUCCESSFUL RELATIONSHIPS TAKE WORK
For love success, each partner has to work at it. If you find yourself bored with your partner, DO something about it. Experience new things with each other, in and out of the bedroom, if you get my drift.
Explore new places, new ideas, and new interests with your partner. I don’t have to tell you about the thousands of things to do in this exciting world of ours, do I?
As the great actress, Ruth Gordon, so enthusiastically said in that classic 60’s movie, “Harold & Maude”: “Ya gotta L-I-V-E – Live! Or else ya got nothing ta talk about in the locker room…”
So grab your partner and make the time to create, initiate, and always keep it fresh.
Then she or he will see you in a different light, appreciate you more – and boredom will magically vanish from your partnership.
5) Disagreements when dealing with family
Dealing with family, whether it be “disciplining the kids,” having kids, or communicating with the in-laws and aging parents, is rarely easy. Family issues and strategies need to be worked out and understood by both partners.
Kids is a big one. Too many times, have I seen two people enter into a relationship without being clear about disciplining, let alone, having kids. I see this come up with regards to blended families all the time. But even if each one’s preferences weren’t made clear at the onset, there’s usually an opportunity to revisit the issue with a new perspective – even after the fact.
Dealing with the in-laws can be a challenge, too. Best advice: each of you do your best to treat Uncle Bill or Aunt Betty with dignity, compassion, and, if needed, self-protection.
When I worked in hospitals, a huge social issue loomed above the others; and that’s families dealing with aging parents. If both partners are not on the same page, this can become a real nightmare, and a real threat to the relationship. I can’t go into all the ins and outs of geriatric care, but suffice to say, great communication and teamwork is the name of the game here.
6) Not honoring each other’s private life
Recently, I had the privilege of hearing a couple, both partners well over 100, talk about the success of their long marriage.
What impressed me was when the old man remarked: “It’s about letting each other live their own life. See this screwdriver? This is mine, and she has hers. I have my own time and she has hers. We still have plenty of time together.”
What a great relationship strategy!
There’s a little saying that I like to quote often:
“Live and Let Live” – try it – you’ll both like it…
7) When one contracts a serious disease or a “hard-to-deal with” mental condition.
This is yet another potential destroyer of love; when one gets seriously ill or struggles with a mental disorder.
Unfortunately, many partners leave when illness rears its ugly head. I wish that weren’t so, but it happens a lot.
I really am impressed with couples that hang in there with each other through thick and thin – no matter what happens.
Now, that’s real love – the kind that can last forever.
8) Lack of support for the other’s dreams
This particular “destroyer of love,” I left for last.
I believe that love tends to fly out the window, ceases to exist, when there’s a basic lack of support for the other’s dreams.
The great psychiatrist, Scott Peck, in his wonderful and timeless book, The Road Less Traveled, said that true love was all about supporting the other’s dreams. I couldn’t agree with him more!
Not only is love about support, but also about sometimes getting out of the way and letting the other freely pursue his or her dreams and aspirations. At the same time, we want to champion the other.
When this kind of mutual support is alive and well in a partnership, love can grow, and relationship failure becomes highly unlikely.
The Common Denominator
So, at the end of the day, I think the common denominator to keeping your relationship together is the constant practice of mutual caring and commitment.
So, I leave you with some vital questions to ponder:
Do you really care about your partner’s welfare? Do they care about yours?
Do you and your partner get upset enough or do you become indifferent about a possible betrayal?
Do you care enough to practice good communication and make the effort to resolve and work through those inevitable conflicts with your partner? Do they feel the same way?
Do you and your partner care enough to hang in there through it all?
Are you both truly committed to the nurturing of love?
If the answer is “yes” to most of these questions, then you have a great chance to save your relationship – it’s never too late.
*Keeping your relationship intact is no easy thing to do, but possible with the right knowledge and mindful effort. I’d love to hear your views on the subject! Please leave them in the somments section below! And if you’re looking for some more advice on how to turn an ailing relationship into a Honeymoon Forever, please check out my book!