Often when a couple with a long history together comes to me in an attempt to save their relationship, I find myself recommending that they ritualistically end the old relationship—even if they want to stay together.
It is a bit akin to having the right ingredients for a meal, but the wrong recipe. It is okay to say goodbye to that recipe, but that doesn’t mean that you need to throw out the ingredients.
When two people love each other, but haven’t been able to sustain a harmonious relationship, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to find a different partner. Perhaps they just need a new means of relating to each other. This requires new skills and new tools.
If you are thinking that your partner is the problem in the relationship, you will likely have a problem no matter who you are with. When you take responsibility for what you are doing, thinking and saying in the relationship, you have the ability to make some major changes.
In fact, statistics imply that figuring it out with the spouse you have may actually yield better results than trying again with someone else. Statistics in Psychology Today state that 50% of first marriages, 67% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages end in divorce. While one study I found suggested that 72% of couples who decided to reunite with their previous partner were able to stay together. I maintain that you can reunite with your existing partner without having to sustain the painful process of divorce—but the old relationship needs to be put to rest.
I always love to pose the question, “If divorce were not an option, and living miserably together were not an option either, what would you do?” Living in the state of limbo of ”Should we stay together or should be break up” creates so much confusion that we actually block opportunities to love each other. We unconsciously don’t want to align with loving someone we think we will be leaving or who will be leaving us. If we take divorce off the table, even if just for a period of time, and align ourselves with being in a loving relationship, we often find that simply changing our frame of mind can change our behavior.
In the beginning of a relationship we often get caught up in the whirlwind of hormones, romance, and attraction. We then jump into getting married, having kids and figuring out the relationship as we go. That understandable, but haphazard approach is often fairly flawed and full of unconscious behaviors that lead to the relationship’s demise.
Here are some questions to consider:
What would happen if you decided to end the relationship and took advantage of the opportunity to intentionally and consciously create the kind of relationship you actually wanted to have with your already existing partner?
What if you worked together to decide what do you want in your relationship?
What if you identified the values that you both hold near and dear and dedicated yourselves to living in alignment with them?
What if you consciously took steps to learn new tools and practice new skills?
What if you rekindled your intimacy?
What if you each (or even just one of you) took 100% responsibility for how you showed up in the relationship?
What if you identified the behaviors you do that don’t work and personally committed yourself to a different course of action?
What if instead of focusing on your partner’s behavior, you focused on your own?
Sometimes when we simply take off the glasses of “what I don’t like about you is….” and instead put on the glasses of “what I love about you is….”, we find we are able to create a healthier, happier and renewed—if not new—relationship with the person we have shared so much of our lives with. We suddenly discover that we have achieved what we promised to do—to love ‘for better and for worse’ back to even better again.