When things get tough, couples tend to either:
- Separate, generally accompanied by bitter and twisted feelings or
- Put up with it and flat-line, living lives of quiet desperation.
- Renegotiate your relationship.
Often when the relationship is not going smoothly, it’s because you’re trying to live by an out-dated ‘contract’. When you got together you had certain beliefs and expectations around your relationship. Chances are you didn’t even fully share those beliefs and expectations; you just assumed your partner would share them.
Whether your beliefs and expectations at that time were mutual or not, over time your circumstances inevitably change, you change, and therefore the relationship needs to change: that original ‘contract’ needs to be updated.
So often I see that people are trying to live by values and norms that simply don’t suit them any more (and possibly never did): people getting married for the wrong reasons, people absorbing the norms of the society around them without ever questioning whether they really agree with them or not, people assuming that marriage or a relationship means X-Y-Z.
There’s nothing wrong with this, we generally do what we think is right at the time. But when we get to a point where we realise it is no longer right for us, then we need to speak up and do something about it.
In the case of a relationship, that means we need to renegotiate. That requires communication, honesty, respect, and time.
- What do I need in this relationship now?
- What’s missing or lacking?
- How could that lack be filled?
The two keys to this process are to be honest, and to be open-minded. You need to be honest so you know what’s going on, and you need to be open-minded so that you can be creative and come up with good solutions. Your decisions about your life and your relationship have to be what is right for you, as an individual and as a couple. Your decisions can’t be based on what was right for you years ago, or what your parents’ relationship was like, or what your community or culture claims is right, or anything really, other than what is right for you.
This can take experimentation to find ways of being and relating that work. Look at your work life, your home life, your social life, your private time together, your private time alone - what type, how much, how long. When you look at your relationship, and your life, this thoroughly you’ll be amazed at what you’ve assumed, or taken for granted. It’s only when you really look at it in detail that you can start to mold and create something wonderful.