Do you know why some couples don’t get help with their relationship? They are struggling, but rather than seek assistance, they give up.
Can you guess why?
Granted, a myriad of moving parts in a relationship keeps things interesting. Who is the cause of what, for instance? If my relationship isn’t working, why isn’t it working? Is it me? Is it him? Is it us? Figuring all of this out is a lot to ask of any couple, no matter how smart and savvy you are!
A relationship between two people can seem complicated because it’s a multi-blending of families, children, pets, friends, homes, and belongings. A relationship also requires juggling preferences in communication, relaxation, sex and love, eating, money, lifestyle and livelihood.
Here’s the million dollar question: With so many moving parts, what’s my power of influence? How can we make it turn out right for both of us?
And if it’s not working out, do you seek help, or do you “go it alone” crossing your fingers, hoping for the best?
WHY COUPLES DON’T GET HELP
Couples who don’t get help have their reasons. Here are five I see most often.
#1 — To have a better marriage, I’d need a new partner.
Some pairs have concluded (often secretly) that an improved marriage would require a trade-in — they’d have to find a different partner. Why? Their marriage hasn’t improved even though they’ve given it their best shot. They’ve tried and failed repeatedly, and have real-time proof that “this is the way their relationship is.” They give up, because the cost of changing partners (emotional or otherwise) is too great.
Basic Belief: I am not powerful enough to change how my relationship works.
#2 — Our problems are not my fault. I don’t need help. He does.
If you’re certain the relationship doesn’t work because of your partner, not because of you, I understand. (I believed that fully for three marriages and divorces.) After all, who wants to point the finger homeward? It’s more convenient to ask a partner to change. Many of us hold out for that.
No one asks for help and no one gets it.
Basic Belief: I’m superior to my partner.
#3 — If we went to a consultant for help, or took a class, I’d be expected to change.
Oh No! Go to therapy? Take a class? Talk to a relationship consultant?
Do things differently? Move out of my comfort zone? Learn new ideas about relating? Take a crash course in relationships at THIS age? Learn not to blame? Notice when I complain? Pay attention to my voice tone, my emotions, my communication?
Nope. I don’t think I’m up for that. I think I’ll stay the same, thanks anyway.
Basic Belief: Change is difficult and not worth it in the end.
#4 — If we got help, and things began to work out, I’d be wrong about the past.
The fear is that if you did get help, and your relationship DID work after all, then you’d be wrong about the (plethora of awful) things you said about the relationship — or him! Oops!!
If you ask for help, what if you find out that it was you who miscalculated? Or misinterpreted? Misunderstood? That you were repeating a past pattern that affected both of you? That you didn’t see the whole picture, just your side of things, and you swore (to quite a few people) that you were the innocent victim, your hands were tied, and that it was his fault completely…
Then what? How would you reel all the criticism back in, swallow your pride, tell a new story — be perfectly imperfect? Do you simply say “Sorry, I was wrong about him?” How would all of that work exactly?
It’s all too embarrassing, uncomfortable and revealing. It’s less trouble and more dignified to simply stay the same.
Basic Belief: It’s more important to be right than be happy.
#5 — It takes two to tango. (Or tangle…) And he won’t come with me to see you.
He should get help right along with me to rescue this marriage. Why should he get off free as a bird? Why should I do all the work? What about him? Give me a break — he gets to do whatever he wants, and I have to make all the adjustments?!? No, I don’t think so!
If he won’t join me, any efforts I make will fall short because we’re in this together and he should help fix it. He should realize his responsibility, take some initiative, make a move, try harder, make an effort, DO something! He needs to make an effort.
Basic Belief: I’m not a leader, I’m a follower/victim.
All of these approaches are “hole in the bucket” — they don’t hold water. They are based on false premises.
These ideas are totally backwards. They represent the opposite of what works.
These approaches keep your relationship in a (negative) repeating loop. No fun!
These beliefs are counter-productive. Not addressing an issue accurately works against you.
Focusing on changing someone else is not a sustainable practice. It makes you old and crabby and tired. Eventually, it takes a toll on your health.
It’s a lot of work to try to change others, and they resent you for it. Eventually, they walk away or spend less time with you because it’s no fun being the one who is always wrong.
The moment you blame, you have zero power. You’ve lost all of it. Blame means “I have now taken my hands off the wheel, and when we crash, I”ll point to you in the passenger seat and make sure you know that I think you’re the cause of my trouble.”
10 BETTER IDEAS
Change any part of your relationship machine, and the whole pattern between you shifts. Don’t depend on others for what is yours to do. It takes one person to change a relationship. Most people underestimate this entirely.
If things are not working in your relationship, either of you can reach out for help. It doesn’t matter who takes the initiative. If the success of the relationship is on your mind, nominate yourself. You’re the perfect candidate to find help for yourself, or for the two of you. Go ahead and get some help for yourself. You may find that all sorts of trouble clears up through your changes alone.
To make a relationship work, you might need a new. clearer partnership — with yourself. (Call me if you want to dive into that. It’s a very freeing process, one that’s easy to love.)
If things begin to work better now, who cares about the past?
You needn’t explain anything to anyone about changes in your relationship. You do not owe others an extensive update. (No, not even your mother. Talk less, smile more, she’ll get it. She just wants you to be happy.)
Talk less to others about your relationship. If others do ask, speak in short sentences. Speak generally, not specifically. You’ll find pretty quickly that if you don’t blurt details about your relationship, people rarely ask.
Self-criticism or worry about being right or wrong slows you down. Don’t bother with it. Skip right over that one.
Don’t be concerned about being off the mark, making mistakes or goofing up. Everyone is always learning. It’s a natural human condition. It’s how anyone learns and discovers — ask an inventor! Surrender to being a spirit in a human body, happily learning as fast as you can, doing your best with what you’ve got. You’re wonderful. Keep evolving. Keep experimenting!
Making changes is a voluntary activity. Nobody can make you change. You don’t need to change. Don’t succumb to pressure to be different than you are, if you’re not ready. When you’re ready, change away! Make changes to your heart’s content. Have fun creating a new you!
For most humans, change is more satisfying and fun than standing still — in fact, it’s thrilling! The power to change is always in your capable hands, right where it belongs.
The conversation started out innocent enough. My husband Eric ventured that he wanted to ask me a question, but said he didn’t want his question to sound like a criticism.
HE: (to me) So how would I do that — ask a question that could go sideways?
ME: I don’t know, just go ahead and ask me. Just blurt it out and we’ll see how it goes. It can’t be that bad.
(At least I could hope.)
We were eating a late lunch in our living room in Spring. Bushels of beautiful light was pouring in everywhere — it’s a spacious room with big windows and skylights. He was sitting on the couch, with me across from him on the other side of the coffee table in an easy chair. In his left hand, he held a piece of pizza made by yours truly — pepperoni (his favorite), chicken breast, asparagus, kale, tomato, garlic, and Cheddar and Amish Pepper Jack cheese. He gestured and spoke with his right hand.
HE: OK, so here’s my question. Do you put green vegetables on the pizza because you enjoy them or for some other reason?
The question stopped my brain. It sounded like a backward question to me, a non-direct question, a “what do you really mean by that” kind of question. So it confused me for a second. But I decided to take the question at face value. In my experience, that’s a really, really good place to start. Answer his question, no matter what I think about the question itself.
So his question hung in the silence. Why do I put green vegetables on the pizza?
Huh. I thought about it. I smiled. I had my answer.
ME: I put them on the pizza because it’s pretty.
HE: (bursts out laughing) OK, well, there you go! I just wanted to know!
ME: (apparently I felt compelled to elaborate) You know, making food is an artistic thing. Food needs to be appealing to the eye. So I spread tomato sauce like a backdrop color on the pizza canvas. And then on goes the asparagus spears here and here and here — nice color, don’t you think? (I demonstrate with air art.) And then round I go with red Roma tomato slices. And bright green kale goes here and here for contrast. And I figure the bonus is that if there are many colors in the food we’re eating, we’re probably getting our vitamins and minerals as well. But it’s really important that food be pretty.
He smiled in a twinkly kind of way. (Love that about him.)
Clearly, he also thought it was humorous that I thought food should be pretty. But to his total credit, he let that idea all the way to the middle of his soul. He continued the conversation by mentioning that he picks off the vegetables first so he can really enjoy the pizza, which totally made me laugh out loud. In 16 years of being together, he had never said that to me!
I had sometimes noticed that he picks off the veggies, and occasionally wondered why, but never asked about it, and I thought it was admirable and bold of him just now to say why he does. His comment piqued my interest. This conversation was clearly very important to him — he brought it up — and it made me curious to know more. He was taking a risk to talk about it, and I was taking a risk to listen and take in the feedback. The work goes both ways, always.
HE: You know, really, I just like tomato sauce, meat and cheese on my pizza. Everything else is just extra. And not an important kind of extra. Take mushrooms for instance. To me, they don’t add or detract from the pizza. If they don’t add to my experience, why would I want them there? I’m neutral about mushrooms on pizza.
ME: (I had just taken a bite of my lunch, which was entirely different than his because he won’t eat fish, and isn’t fond of peas or mushrooms and a whole lot of other things. Sputtering through my food I blurt) Oh, that is SUCH BS that you’re neutral about mushrooms!!! That’s just not true! If you were truly neutral, you wouldn’t be bringing up the subject. It would be like, who cares, and you wouldn’t even talk about it!
I was in a positive frame of mind, but I was not going to let that kind of BS go by without a spirited and sparkly “that’s a bunch of crap” comment from me. And about this time, I had to take off my jacket ’cause I could feel my temperature a risin’. My brain was ready, I had food fuel in my tummy, my BS meter was ON, and I was ready to take on this man I adore. C’mon, give it to me! I was in the mood for some spunky fun.
(But first, a personal confession) I think Eric is a (very) picky eater (compared to me). (In my opinion) he doesn’t appreciate a variety of food (like I do, and my way is better of course), and (compared to me) he has a very limited palate (how boring.) There are all sorts of things he won’t eat (which is different than me, and did I say my way is better) and that’s truly no way to live (according to me, ’cause of course my way is better). Yep, I have an attitude. Clearly!
Then something unexpected happened.
I became magically super aware of how opinionated I was about “his BS,” but what was different was that I was vividly aware that it was fun — really fun — to be opinionated while being super aware. In that moment, my opinionated side struck me funny. I started giggling.
(You know, we’re all pretty funny if we stand outside ourselves and take a look!)
And at the same time Eric found it frigging hilarious that we were having a conversation about neutrality while neither of us were being neutral. This kind of humor is right up his alley.
So, right along with me, he started to lose it. Both of us began to unravel. Who even knew we needed it! It was like the water rose too fast, and our laughing dams broke at the same time. Pipes burst, ropes broke, pins snapped.
There is a way that Eric laughs that makes me laugh harder. The more he lets go, the more entertained I am by watching him. It usually happens when he gets surprised — something funny comes out of left field — and he’s helplessly, hopelessly humored. His voice jumps up a couple of registers, and he laughs in falsetto.
So there we were, giggling about disagreeing. (But hold on, we’ve barely begun!)
HE: Really, I don’t care one way or another, but if veggies on my pizza don’t add to my experience of enjoyment, then why would I have them there?
ME: (the pizza maker) Well, I totally get that, and I often make your half of the pizza different than mine — just don’t call yourself neutral!
Which sent him into further peels of laughter, you know, because of my lack of neutrality about his lack of neutrality.
There is no earthly reason it should have been quite that fall-down funny, but we were on a roll. And no-o-o-o-o, heavens no, I wasn’t done pontificating yet.
ME: You know, you are also SO FULL OF BS about how you’re neutral about pecans, too, no different than the darn mushrooms. Even though you SAY you’re neutral about pecans, if I put pecans in your gosh darn chocolate chip cookies, you come into the kitchen all sad and disappointed and all like ‘how could you do this to me’ waaa, waaa, waaa, so don’t even use that word neutral about pecans in chocolate chip cookies. You’re so FULL of it!!! You’re not neutral! You’re a thousand million trillion miles from neutral!
(Imagine my voice traveling the octaves here, and me gesturing extra dramatically to make my points ..)
HE: Oh, and I’m not being neutral! (He’s pretty much unable to breathe at this point. We’re really, really totally out of control.)
Two people who love each other, who are willing to be entertained by their strong opinions (rather than upset by them) can pull a whole lot of fun out of practically nothing and nowhere, and end up more in love when it’s all over.
HOW ABOUT A LITTLE SCIENTIFIC PROOF ABOUT THE VALUE OF LAUGHTER?
ME:Your words say one thing, but your vibration says another. It’s a complete disconnect. If a consulting client of mine did this, I would totally call them on it!
He was laughing even harder now.
ME: (now in complete hysterics): You know, I wish we had this on video, so I could teach my relationship clients how to argue — teach them the finer points of arguing!
Which sent us both reeling…
I plunked my plate down on the table next to me so as not to spill the whole thing on the floor, and leaned back in my chair, giving my now helplessly flailing arms more freedom to express. Eric practically dropped his plate on the coffee table, and then fell backwards on the couch, holding his stomach and laughing.
This went on for a while… quite a while…
Then when we could breathe better, we talked, exploring the whole question of eating preferences and neutrality and who knows what all. We talked about a lot of things.
After talking for a while, he said, “Wow, if I had known arguing would be so much fun, I would have brought up this food subject long ago!”
Which, of course, started the laughing all over again!
Who knew “almost arguing” could be quite so entertaining! I highly recommend it as an aerobic workout — and way more fun than a treadmill!
My friend has a gosh darn actual pulpit in her living room.
How did it get there? I mean, it’s a pretty unusual piece of furniture for a living room.
She said her husband collects religious artifacts. First, there was the church pew he gave away. That pew could be a really good meditation spot under cover in a garden, don’t you think?
And there is a rotating bookcase. Hmmm… what spiritual message do I need this morning?
And a large, ornate bookcase from the 1700’s with carved figures and leaded glass.
Plus a beautiful staircase — ready to uplift, feel better, experience an upward spiral, anyone?
And Then… Drumroll Please… There Is The Pulpit
It’s beautiful, no doubt about it.
So I started thinking about the pulpit. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the pulpit became a place to really express yourself, especially if expressing yourself about a certain topic was difficult? Or if you didn’t quite feel on solid ground, you could speak from the pulpit to find your true feelings.
And it would be not so much a place to question, but rather a place to speak as if you know. A place to know what you know, or own what you know to be true about you. The pulpit would be a place to stand in who you are — because who you are is who you are, and who you are is good.
It’s no secret that you’re a happier person when you’re being yourself, right? The pulpit is there to help you remember all of your aspects.
The pulpit could be a place where any member of the family was encouraged to express. Perhaps there is a wish or a way of being that seems a little challenging to express accurately under pressure or in the face of (even possible) disagreement from others. It would be a place to express what you really, really want without fear of, well, anything at all. Speaking from the pulpit would be designed to be safe. There would be an established, prevailing and unwavering understanding that what is said from the pulpit is both valid and protected — from your mouth to God’s ear, your heart to the world, or from your Self to another Self whom you love.
And, of course, it would need to be understood that anything you say from the pulpit is subject to change, because after all, speaking from the pulpit can be a process of continual discovery.
The Pulpit Is Not For…
However, there would be one solid rule about speaking from the pulpit.
It would never be a place for venting, complaining or criticizing. Never a place to yell about what’s wrong with the world, the family, or yourself. Not ever. No railing against yourself, your circumstances or another person. Not ever, ever — even the teensiest bit. That’s just not what this pulpit is for…
This Could Work!
Heck, you don’t even need an actual pulpit for this to work.
In the middle of a talk with your spouse, you could simply say, “I’m goin’ to the pulpit here….” And then your partner would know that’s code for “it’s time to sit back and listen to a little sacred exploration and expression.” It could be the most stunning way to get to know the person you “already know.”
One Last Thing
The only really appropriate response to a person’s expressions from the pulpit is “Thank you.” No questions, no back and forth, no rebuttals. The person at the pulpit can leave the pulpit, and later ask for questions and feedback, sure enough. But the speaker has to ask for it. No one else can say, “Hey, I have some things to say about what you said…” Nope. Not even if it’s a kind offering. Feedback, comments, questions — that’s up to the pulpit person.
Time at the pulpit is a sacred bubble of conversation and expression. When you stand at the pulpit, you open into a beautiful flower or become the life-giving morning sun rising over the horizon….
Ahhh, now THAT’S better!
Every family needs a pulpit, don’t you think?
www.InCareOfRelationships.com Terri Crosby is a relationship mentor. She has 34 years experience in leading seminars, speaking and consulting. She is committed to providing perspectives that put the power to change your relationships in your capable hands. She is dedicated to showing you ways to create fulfilling, joyous, evolving relationships with intimate partners, with family, or at work.
You’re broken down and tired Of living life on a merry go round And you can’t find the fighter But I see it in you so we gonna walk it out And move mountains We gonna walk it out And move mountains
And I’ll rise up I’ll rise like the day I’ll rise up I’ll rise unafraid I’ll rise up And I’ll do it a thousand times again And I’ll rise up High like the waves I’ll rise up In spite of the ache I’ll rise up And I’ll do it a thousand times again
For you For you For you For you
When the silence isn’t quiet And it feels like it’s getting hard to breathe And I know you feel like dying But I promise we’ll take the world to its feet And move mountains Bring it to its feet And move mountains
And I’ll rise up I’ll rise like the day I’ll rise up I’ll rise unafraid I’ll rise up And I’ll do it a thousand times again
For you For you For you For you
All we need, all we need is hope And for that we have each other And for that we have each other And we will rise We will rise We’ll rise, oh, oh We’ll rise
I’ll rise up Rise like the day I’ll rise up In spite of the ache I will rise a thousand times again And we’ll rise up High like the waves We’ll rise up In spite of the ache We’ll rise up And we’ll do it a thousand times again
During this strange time in history, I noticed y’all were tackling all sorts of interesting projects. I decided I needed one, too—something positive to remember the pandemic of 2020 by.
I decided to pay attention to something I had abandoned…
Nope, I’m not cleaning my garage. I am not organizing one single thing. I’m not planting a garden or cleaning up my yard.
Instead, I decided to take care of myself better. This, folks, has made all the difference for me.
With relatively little time and effort on my part, I feel so much better than I did a month ago.
On March 30, I got on the exercise bike and the yoga mat for the first time in a long time, and did 30 minutes each. I liked it so much that I decided to do it every day. But I fell short of that, and changed my commitment to every other day, which felt more manageable, reasonable, and doable.
I also get off the bike after every song, take a couple of sips of water, shake out my legs and arms for a few seconds, and get back on. This makes the bike project a reasonable proposition, too.
Daily walks of any length—by myself, or with my little guy, Jackson—are a fresh air bonus.
My recumbent exercise bike has pulleys to work my upper body while I pedal, which gets my heart rate up fast, and also helps my whole-body strength. It feels good to get up from writing, or doing a consulting session with a client, to do something physically challenging while listening to good music.
After only a month, I feel a sheet of muscles on the front of me I haven’t felt for a very, very long time. Goodness gracious. Who knew they were there. I’ll be posting rippling ab photos soon, I’m sure.
I have no idea what the scales have to say about my bike/yoga project—I don’t care. Paying attention to scales tends to send me sideways, and therefore, I’m ignoring them completely.
But—I LOVE the way I feel! Hang in there, everyone.