Lately I’ve started to watch a new show that has both intrigued me while simultaneously horrifying me. Usually I try to watch light hearted tv shows because my empath sense is very strong and I work in a helping field. The show that I’ve been watching is called Handmaids and it’s on Hulu. One thing I will say is that it’s definitely not a comedy but if you want a thought provoking and extreme view of what might be the future then it’s a must see. But that’s not what this post is about. One of the main characters said, “you like because, you love despite.” And honestly that’s the truth. I work with couples who have lost so much of their original passion and excitement for each other because things have become so mundane. They’ve taken each other for granted and it has taken a terrible toll on the relationship. The emotional connection is very strained or sometimes nonexistent. I think many times people think that therapy fixes everything but it doesn’t. The truth is that therapy can give you the tools that you need to be successful in your relationship. It takes a lot of effort and intentionality to change the trajectory of a relationship but it definitely can be done if both people want it and are willing to work on it. One person cannot sustainably carry the whole relationship on their back. It can happen for a while but there are always consequences. One thing I really enjoy doing with the couples I work with is doing exercises that help them remember why they fell in like with each other and what made them love the other person. It’s always eye opening and helps to start the process of reconnecting with each other.
I think that if you ask a millennial what their dealbreakers in a relationship are, the chances are high that you’ll get quite a list. The truth of the matter is that marriage isn’t what it used to be. More people are getting married and changing their minds about it afterwards. There’s also the trend of getting married later in life so marriage is not seen as the only avenue to financial stability. We see better examples of co-parenting and amicable splits. Our parents and grandparents may have stayed married because they felt that they had to but millennials don’t feel the same way. We know that life is too short to be with someone that you can’t stand and that you can’t put a price on peace. It’s one thing to be married but another thing entirely to be happily married. No relationship is worth keeping at your own detriment just to say that you “hung in there.” Lately, I’ve met quite a few middle-aged people who are staying in relationships where their partner is actively sabotaging their goals. Their sole reason for staying is because “Jesus hates divorce.” And at the end of the day they have to make a decision for themselves or for the relationship. I personally believe that being alone is better than being alone in a relationship ESPECIALLY when it’s not healthy. Regardless of age, it’s important to put yourself first because no one else ever will.
This month is Domestic Violence Awareness month and it is definitely needed and deserves attention. More recently I’ve had the opportunity to work with some women who have experienced it. While DV impacts both men and women, so far professionally I’ve primarily worked with women. People seem to be always quick to judge this population and I have to admit that women quite often catch the short end of the stick in the court of public opinion. There’s an opinion that women who stay with cheating spouses are just doing what is expected of them and in many situations men aren’t questioned when they leave a relationship if the tables are turned. The truth is that it’s not always easy to get out. Abusers often control finances and seek to isolate their victims from close family and friends. It’s even more complicated when children are involved and there are questions about next steps and potential custody battles. It’s also important to realize that abuse doesn’t always have to be physical. It can be emotional and verbal as well. In order to make a plan to leave the relationship, one has to come to the understanding that it’s an unhealthy/abusive situation. I’ve had women tell me that every marriage has ups and down and that they don’t want to be quitters by leaving when it gets tough. Many have been encouraged by pastors and faith leaders that they should just submit to their spouse and just bear their cross. It’s important to understand that most victims don’t leave their abusers on the first attempt AND that they are more at risk for increased violence when they try to leave. This is why it’s important to be a supportive friend because you don’t know what someone is going through. Many times women won’t open up to their friends or relatives because they feel ashamed and may feel like they have failed in the relationship and/or marriage. Be present, be aware, be supportive. Learn and recognize the signs of an abuser and don’t give second chances.
Today in lieu of being at work (which typically is the case on weekends), I had the chance to watch several episodes of Fix My Life on OWN. I was intrigued by the work that Iyanla does with couples. On a particular episode she addressed a couple who had been married 20 years but weren’t sure if they wanted to stay married. Iyanla brought up the point that wedding vows typically say “until death do us part” but they aren’t specific on what type of death warrants parting ways. Is it a physical death? The death of one’s commitment? Or is it the death of one’s individuality or emotional stability and wellbeing? What exactly does it mean? I think that these questions are up to each couple to define. However, I wonder how many couples actually have this type of conversation? It’s easy to promise something when you’re happy and naive but it’s a different story when you’re in the midst of a relational crisis. This is another reason why I think pre-marital counseling can be so important. It can bring up questions that you hadn’t considered before and help you lay a solid foundation for a successful relationship.
I ran across this gem written by Mindy Kaling. She describes in detail what she wants in a significant other and it’s accurately hilarious. I could absolutely relate to her wishlist. You can read it here.
Not too long ago the was an article circulating over social media written by a woman who said that she married a man she wasn’t attracted to and that it worked out in the end. You can read the actual article here. Naturally, the article generated a lot of conversation and many people insisted that it was something that they would never do. Almost everyone agrees that beauty can be fleeting. People change over the years and their bodies change with them. But as someone aptly put it, you don’t want to wake up every morning and have to die to self when you see your spouse’s face. It can be done, but it’s not ideal. In my limited experience I’ve found myself giving a guy a chance even when I didn’t find him in any way attractive. Hoping in some way that his other positive attributes would override the fact that he just wasn’t handsome to me. Epic fail. So I’m going to discontinue the practice. Not that I won’t be open anymore but an “absolutely not” is going to stay that way without all my internal criticism of being shallow and missing out. Everyone deserves a significant other who finds them attractive and it’s unfair to them to try to make something work that won’t. It’s not shallow to want to be with someone you’re attracted to but you have to remember that there are a lot of pretty ugly people out there (pretty on the outside and ugly on the inside). Looks can’t drive EVERYTHING but they do matter.
I admit it. I’m a hopeless romantic. There’s been plenty of times that I’ve followed acquaintances on social media and “liked” all the mushy gushy tributes to their new significant other. The declarations of love and unending devotion and professional pictures have warmed my heart. But then there’s a change. All of a sudden one or both people start posting self-empowerment posts and about leaving when you’re not being appreciated. Then slowly but surely pictures start to be deleted or taken down. Married names go back to maiden names and this is usually followed by a social media break. While it’s certainly none of my business, I feel like asking “what happened?” These individuals put their whole lives online and got people emotionally invested in their relationship. I feel to some extent that they owe us an explanation when it fails. Of course I understand the right to privacy and how emotions can be involved but it would be nice to see the same level of transparency as there was in the beginning when they were in love. I think there’s a feeling of failure that is attached to the demise of a relationship. No one wants to talk about stuff like that. I know I don’t and my relationship ended months ago–but that’s another post. But it’s disappointing when you see a seemingly good relationship bite the dust. Of course you can only see what people post and I think many times the fairy tale is faker then we would like to think.