(A 5-point check-up for relationships that don’t feel great)
If your relationship currently feels like it’s “gone to hell in a handbasket!”, it may at least comfort you to know that you’re not alone. According to research published by the Marriage Foundation, in the UK today, the divorce rate is currently 42%, and with the rate of break-ups for co-habiting couples even higher, statistically that means every other couple you know are probably living lives of quiet desperation or experiencing some kind of relationship breakdown.
The good news though is that you don’t have to go through this experience on your own. There is a lot of help, support, encouragement and counselling available to guide you through the process of making sense of what you are experiencing and to find a way forward. The purpose of this article is to help you find the path that is right for you. That is not to say that every relationship can or should be saved. What we are saying is that wherever you are and whatever the degree of relationship breakdown, there is a way forward to reduce the stress and emotional turmoil you’re currently feeling, support you through the process and help you and your partner move towards healthier goals.
In the medical world of first aid, the acronym DRABC is used to assess the situation while calling for help.
Perhaps this can also provide a framework for evaluating where your relationship is and what you would like the next step to look like. Sometimes things fall apart not for lack of will but for lack of knowledge, so our objective is to share some thoughts that will help you know more about where you are and options on where you can go from here.
D is for Danger
In a first aid sense, the first thing to check is whether or not you are putting yourself in danger by staying and trying to help. In a relationship or marriage context, the question is would you put yourself or others in danger by staying in the relationship and / or shared location? Abuse or domestic violence can happen to anyone from any level of society or income bracket. While dealing with abusive situations is outside the scope of what we are able to offer, we want to empower anyone in that situation to seek help immediately. Here are a couple of links to sources of help and support available to you or anyone you know in abusive situations: A) Domestic Violence B) Staying Safe Online
The key thing is to get help so you can take the right action and protect yourself and your loved ones from further harm. No one should ever have to live with abuse.
R is for Response
If someone was physically hurt and there was no danger to us getting involved, the second thing we would do is to check for a response to our call in some way. Can they speak and tell you where hurts? In the context of relationships, breakdown in communication is often cited as one of the top reasons for separation and divorce. Sometimes it manifests as constant quarrelling and arguments with the simplest conversation erupting into conflict and anger, and every encounter being emotionally charged – negatively. Sometimes it is experienced as silence, where words, if spoken, are few and far between, perhaps cold & cutting, perhaps it’s living totally separate lives. And sometimes it’s purely functional –where conversation may happen around the essentials but there is no interest and no emotion either way. So, the question is, is there life left in your relationship? Are you still talking to each other? Are you and/or your partner open to finding a way to get help and work on the relationship? Much can be achieved if there is even a hint of interest in finding a way to heal the relationship. Misunderstandings can happen so easily, and if they are never addressed, misunderstandings can get compounded until small things become big things and drive a solid wedge between you. But that doesn’t have to signal the end of the relationship. Misunderstandings can often be cleared up through increasing understanding, and communication and conflict resolution are skills that can be learned. And in addition to education, there is always professional help and mediation available to start the journey back together.
A is for Airways
The next thing we should check for in a medical situation is blockage in the airways. The same is true for relationships. Is there something in particular that is blocking or challenging the life of the relationship? An issue or problem that you just can’t find your way around or see eye to eye on? Has trust been broken or betrayed so badly that one or both of you just can’t get past that experience? Is there infidelity somewhere in the mix? Quite often couples get stuck on issues to do with different approaches to money and finances or get derailed by problems having children, parenting styles, managing in-laws etc. Sometimes it’s the way couples approach and discuss (or not discuss!) one particular area that can be the deal breaker in the relationship. If you and your partner are receptive, one-on-one relationship counselling to discuss the issue or online courses or relevant books can help you both see things from a different perspective and open up the airways for constructive dialogue in this area. Is there one thing, which if addressed, would allow you to breathe new life into the relationship again?
B is for Breathing
To continue the first aid analogy, if the patient is already breathing on their own, we would want to keep them awake and occupied while we call for help. If the relationship is alive and breathing even at a basic level, meaning there is some level of communication and interaction, some level of commitment and a basic desire to work things out – even if you are not yet hopeful for a good outcome – then in addition to getting professional help and counselling there is much that couples can do to build their own ability to help repair their relationship. For some reason, most people seem to assume that while we take lessons to drive a car or look after new-born babies, somehow, we are meant to get into a long-term relationship and blend two very different lives, backgrounds and personalities into one, without any additional knowledge, skills or support along the way. As we all discover at one point or another though, great relationships don’t just happen, they must be built on purpose. That is why at SoulMates Academy we make it our mission to change the thinking about relationship education from something you do in desperation when the chips are down, to something we do upfront and on a regular basis, an aspirational goal even, because we want the ongoing skills to build a great relationship for the long term.
Over the past 20+years of working with numerous couples, as well as observations of our own relationship through the various seasons of life, we have identified the top 8 essential skill areas that couples need to develop to genuinely grow together in the direction of “happily ever after”. These skill areas include understanding and appreciating differences, learning how to show love in specific and meaningful ways, understanding and managing inevitable conflict, showing mutual honour and respect, building true sexual intimacy, parenting as a couple and managing finances as a couple. These have been developed into online courses available on-demand for you (and your partner) to work through in the comfort of your own home at the pace that works for you, so you can develop the skills to build the quality relationship you want with your partner. On top of this, we offer a private Facebook community where people can ask questions and get the answers and support they need. You can also reach out to us by email at [email protected] where we can respond to your specific requests / needs, recommend books, other courses, professional relationship counselling and therapists to help. No matter what the temperature of the relationship is at the moment, where there is some life and a general willingness to work on things, you can absolutely turn things around to create the relationship you both dream of. It will just take a decision to make the effort and keep moving forward.
C is for Circulation
In a medical emergency, once it is confirmed that the patient is breathing and can sustain that vital lifeline, the next thing to check for is circulation issues like internal bleeding that need attention. Slow bleeds in a relationship can be caused by issues from as far back as childhood or previous experiences (in this relationship or in others) that are impacting on how issues are dealt with currently. The question then is how is the “baggage” you each bring to the party affect the relationship? Sometimes these wounds go deep and need professional help to surface them and start the healing process. Without attention to other issues that are impacting on interactions in the relationship, the experience of life together will be crippled in some way, much like bones left on their own to heal without being reset properly or undiagnosed bleeding which can be deadly. Loving commitment and the courage to forgive – and forget – provide a solid foundation for healing deep wounds and building a brighter future, but sometimes you need outside help to journey with you through the process. There are many, many couples who stand as living testimonies to the fact that it is possible to work through the tough times and deep-seated hurts to rebuild their relationship on more solid foundations. The same can be true for you.
The point is that whatever the state of your relationship with your partner, if you (both?) are willing, there is much that can be done to bring the healing and turnaround that will take your relationship from where you are, to good again. Dare I say it, even great?! Get in touch with us and/or check out the courses and other resources to see how you can get started on the journey to better, today.