Many times we get to a point in our relationship when we wonder if we want to keep on trying or if it’s too late and we need to move on… so, how do we know? Here are some questions that might help you answer this question:
1. Do you love each other?
This is a crucial question and it is not always so easy to answer. So many people say “I love my spouse, but I am not in love anymore”. Can we fall in love again? Do we want to? Sometimes we get numb because we are so hurt or we have been so disconnected that we got used to not feeling. Many times we have been simply going through emotions because we want to keep our family together, or we don’t want to hurt our children. It is important to recognize that being numb is different from not feeling. It is important that you recognize that within you and your partner within him/herself.
2. Are both of you willing to work on the relationship?
A good relationship requires work from both partners. It has taken both of you to be where you are, and it requires for both of you to work together to make it work. Is your partner in or is one partner convinced that the problem lies in the other person?
3. Is there commitment to the marriage from both?
Commitment to the marriage is crucial since it indicates that both partners will invest their energy in trying to make it work.
4. Do you share interests, core values?
You don’t have to agree on everything, but it is important to agree in core values and share short and long term life goals. For example, having children, the role of the woman, connection with and importance of extended family.
5. Are both of you willing to look inside of yourselves and see what is your part in your cycle?
When we establish relationships. We establish cycles of interaction. These cycles sometimes are negative. Negative cycles begin when we feel insecure and we protect ourselves. Protection leads to protection… and there we go. Both partners are protecting themselves and they have stopped communicating. We need to be mindful of our part of this cycle and how we tend to protect ourselves.
6. Can you feel safe to share vulnerable feelings with one another?
We connect through emotion, deep emotion. When we are able to open up and let our partner see our fears, longings, and deep feelings, we connect in a profound and meaningful way. At the same time, and most important, when one partner opens up, the other partner needs to be able to hold their partner. This means, to validate their feelings in a non judgmental way, to be compassionate and empathic. This is where magic occurs!
Safety is a key element in a relationship, here you need to ask yourself the following questions which can greatly hinder safety and with a good reason:
a. Is there physical and/or emotional abuse?
When there is been physical abuse, when one partner has physically harmed the other, the abused partner feels very scared and with a good reason. Physical abuse goes along with emotional abuse. Sometimes there is emotional abuse without physical abuse. Sometimes emotional abuse is hard to recognize. Both come in moments when one partner has anger outbursts followed by blaming (“it is your fault I get so angry” “you make me angry”) and denigrating remarks (“you are stupid, worthless” “sex with you is a bluff” “you are impotent/frigid”) and later by remorse and asking for forgiveness and promising it will never happen again, but the truth is that it usually does happen again… and again… and again. In these cases it is very difficult to let guards down and be vulnerable and you shouldn’t. A relationship where one partner hurts another one is not a healthy relationship since it is based on fear and the promise (and hope) for change. People change, and an angry person can change, but there is work required and much introspection and inner exploration. The question is if the abuser is willing to work on him/herself and recognize that they have a problem and if the abused is also willing to work on him/herself and recognize that he/she also has a problem for taking it. These journeys need to be worked individually. A couple that has experienced abuse needs therapy to heal but therapy can only happen when there is no abuse happening because abuse is opposite to safety and therapy, connection, happens when there is safety.
b. Is there infidelity?
If one or both partners are directing their energy to another person outside of their marriage, it is impossible to truly work on the relationship. Infidelity breaks trust and creates a big wound. It can be healed but only when both are willing to work and when any relationship with anyone outside of the marriage has subsided.
Depending on where your relationship is, you need to determine if it is emotionally healthy to stay together. If you have the basic components: love, commitment, shared values and interests, reciprocal respect and partnership, and fidelity, you have all you need to work on your marriage.
If there has been infidelity (but in the present there is not), feelings of love but not in love (but the desire and yearning to find it back), and some shared interests, you can heal with professional help.
When there is abuse involved, intense individual therapy is required before coming together and trying to work on the relationship.
When there is no love (from one or both), no respect, infidelity without the intention of ending, and no desire to work on the relationship on the behalf of at least one of the partners, then it is very difficult to connect and you probably need to think about what has stopped you from leaving.
Remember, it takes two to make a marriage work, but it only takes one for it not to.