Let's face it: relationships take work and it's true that they fade over time unless effort is made. Just like how my college and early adult years taught me that one's social life and long-time friendships change in the blink of an eye, I've also learned a lot through my own transformation. Since I was already married when I finally came clean about my childhood trauma and sexual abuse and sought recovery, it brought a lot of lessons and changes to my relationships. And since the relationship that one has with their spouse is important, I want to focus specifically on this for a moment.
I won't lie, and I'm going to say as much because these facts may (or may not) give merit to my advice; out of all the married couples that my husband and I have befriended over the years [that are in our age group], we're the only couple still together. We were shocked when this realization hit for the first time, but it also marked a moment where many people began to turn to us and ask how we do it. Like many couples out there; we are 2 different personalities, with interests that don't always match, but we're yin-and-yang when we're together. Since many of my friends & clients have turned to me for answers before, during, and after their separation, the following is a compilation of feedback & advice I've discussed with them. Take it as you will, but read on knowing this is based on my personal knowledge and experiences along with the common issues that I have observed.
Never has this statement been more true! Because I was hiding my traumatic memories and suffering the consequences, it created an unhealthy dynamic - one where I couldn't fully trust the one person that I trust most because I wasn't able to vocalize my true wants & needs, and instead spent a lot of time stewing in silence. A marriage is a partnership, and one where you are both playing your part to build the personal empire that is your home & family. In order to achieve the success you're both aiming for, you need to work together -- and thus, being able to clearly state your mind (for feedback, advice, support, help; whatever the case) is key to it's success. There's always going to be petty arguments, compromises to be made, lessons to be learned, and sometimes there's give-not-take for periods while you work towards a specific goal... but as long as you can do all that, not have any reason to hold anger or resentment, and genuinely laugh off the struggles afterwards, then you have a solid foundation!
Where things went right for me was our willingness to seek help when it was needed. Allowing yourself to be honest enough to say you need help, and to accept it, is a characteristic that will see anyone through any hardship. As I changed as a person through my own revelations and unleashed voice, I took every measure necessary to not only seek the help I needed, but to get support for my husband while he watched me transform and accepted who the real me is. Sadly, I've seen what happens when someone carries a firm "it's not me, it's you" attitude -- this is what does the most damage to any type of relationship. It fosters deep resentment, often leaving the other half seeking endless help as they try to hold on to hope.. but all while this 'secret' creates an invisible divide that ends one of three ways:
1) The couple hangs on through uncertain times, going about their days robotically (in the best way they know how), only pulling the plug on the relationship once one side has had enough with their unhappiness and unease. This usually is a one-sided decision because the other (almost always the one saying "it's not me, it's you") was content with things as they were. In this scenario, the possibility of meeting a prospective love interest will likely play a part in the end of the relationship. Anyone I know that's experienced this route has filed for divorce... but it can sometimes takes years to reach that decision if communication was a big issue.
2) The situation signals an opportunity for secret, unhealthy habits to take place. This could be anything from excessive drinking and drug use to infidelity (whether it's emotional, physical or both). No matter what the habit, or even how well it may be hidden, it creates an obvious divide wherein significant others always know there's something going on... It's only a matter of time before they come face-to-face with that truth or get pushed to make a decision. Many experience this along with Scenario 1, with some finding incentive to get help when faced with the ultimatum (get help vs. divorce). From what I've seen, this more often creates secrets as the new norm in the relationship unless the couple can work through all their issues; this will inevitably dictate the outcome.
Remember that addiction is an issue because one feels the need to cope with the feelings they can't face (for whatever reason(s)) by silencing and numbing it. The addiction(s) would inevitably need to be the first issue that gets addressed.
3) Some accept the reality of being in a relationship where their needs are not being fulfilled, their partner is carrying on a lifestyle they do not agree with, or worse. Time is but a bomb in this dynamic because people that feel they "have to stay" end up losing a piece of themselves and slowly unravelling over their compromises and regrets. This fosters anger, resentment, jealousy, unhealthy coping habits, and even worse - abuse. Any pure and well-meaning soul can turn abusive once they've been locked in a cage against their will (even if just mentally speaking) for too long... and sadly, this happens a lot more often than many realize. As someone that has also experienced the passing of a dear soul - whom had committed suicide because she felt she had no other options - I strongly urge against the mentality of "only staying together for the kids", and suggest looking outside for help.
So long story short: be transparent! If you can't get what you need by being transparent (BTW, I hope it goes without saying: but this goes for both partners), then you have your answer on if you're with the right person or not. If you see yourself in, or heading towards, one of the above scenarios - then my heart goes out to you, and I sincerely hope you can seek both the clarity and assistance you need from outside of your home. Loving relationships foster prosperous outlooks and actions while supporting you through the tough times... don't let another's expectations persuade you otherwise!
I spent some time thinking about this as recent questioning had my husband & I revealing that we've been together for over 15 years. People that see us in passing don't believe it at all, because we look years younger than we actually are, and [when we don't need to be professional or serious] we act as much. 15 years is a good chunk of time that makes you think.. and realize how much a person can go through and change in that amount of time. People grow mentally, physically, emotionally, etc. even long after we become adults - all thanks to various life experiences. Things also happen to make people change drastically (my spiritual awakening is just one example), which are situations that aren't easily accepted... nor can the acceptance happen overnight.
The truth is that any relationship can fizzle over time if there aren't practices in place to keep it fresh & lively. It's much like the honeymoon stage, where you're inseparable, feeling like you're on cloud nine and nothing but head-over-heels love; this goes away in time and as you learn more about each other. Once you settle into adult, everyday life and take on more responsibilities, there's less time to focus on keeping that fire going. What I've learned to do is take opportune times to sit with my significant other and start conversations as if we were just getting to know each other. You can create practices as you see fit for your relationship, but here's a few pointers from my book:
1) Staycation / Vacation initiative: At least once a year, we align our vacation schedules for a solid week off, but with no plans beyond where we're going to be. We've always enjoyed staying where there's no internet and limited cell reception, because it forces us to find ways to be with each other without an electronic distraction. This setting creates the opportunity to purely socialize with each other, and it's amazing how the removed obligations & expectations from technology actually free a person mentally & energetically. Some of our best conversations have taken place while lounging outdoors, or sitting at a table to play a board/card game.
2) Sex Therapy! This doesn't have to be literal therapy unless, of course, you think it'll be more beneficial and/or impactful to see a therapist for this department. Echoing the passing of time and the honeymoon stage; life can get so busy and mentally demanding that people sometimes put sexual needs at the bottom of their list. Add in the effects of aging, health conditions, and medication, and sometimes you have no choice but to experience a decline in these activities. But it's also no secret that it's important to serve these needs, and that an active sex life fosters a deeper connection in a relationship. Regardless of what needs your relationship has, it's key to A) keep an open dialogue about your sex life, and B) take measures to spice it up and keep it alive; even if it means consulting your doctor.
3) Never stop learning and growing as a person. Nothing spices up a relationship more than having new experiences to share with each other! As much as my husband doesn't understand, nor is interested in, my spiritual practices & beliefs, it's also prompted many conversations where he's trying to understand what I do along with the impact my work has had on others. From there, it was only a matter of time before he became curious enough to ask me for a healing session, and that's opened up a whole new appreciation and respect between us. This could be as simple as taking a class or starting a new hobby... and who knows what curiosity is incited that prompts you to begin new activities together!
I'm sorry, but it's true - having a child will not improve your relationship if it needs help. I recognize this may be true in some rare scenarios, but generally speaking - this is not how you should approach this decision. My husband and I subscribed to not having children, although admittedly my fear of following in my parents footsteps (possibly abusing my children; even though I'd know I'd do better) was a major reasoning behind this. So it was shocking that some of my friends were quick to disregard that thought, and had urged me to have a child... even going so far as to suggest I get rid of my birth control and "allow fate" to force such a decision upon me. I remember trying to entertain the thought because my friends were all pregnant over the span of a few years, and it all made my hormones rage, but I remember telling myself that I could never bring a child into the world for any reason aside from really wanting one.
It makes me shudder to recall these conversations because lo and behold: these same friends are now divorced with children under the age of 10, whom are now struggling mentally - not being able to understand why their parents aren't together, why they're being shuffled across multiple households, and suffering the depression & anxiety of being in the middle of it all. It goes without saying that my heart breaks when I'm around these children because they do not deserve to feel this way, and they're [developmentally] incapable of understanding it's not their fault. I feel even more strongly about this subject after recently encountering a little girl that was terrified of her own mother - because she would break down and say hurtful and inappropriate things in front of her - and this reminded me of moments in my childhood.
My parents stayed together, and while a lot of the abuse was directed individually, there was no question that they were also treating each other badly when I wasn't looking. The unfortunate outcome is that some of my childhood memories include watching my mother break down frequently, having to walk around the home on eggshells and cater to her mood each day, along with visiting her in the psych ward where she explained she tried to kill herself the last time she was home. These memories, along with the lack of proper support in treating the mental illnesses I consequently suffered, stand out along with my more traumatic memories. I know I wouldn't wish these experiences on anyone and if anything, I feel this is an appropriate warning of how adults' actions and decisions do affect kids' lives.
This is essentially why I believe that people shouldn't stay together for the sake of kids; so as to prevent creating a dysfunctional and toxic home environment. I can see it being a different scenario if issues only arose in the marriage after the birth of a child... but in my experience, it's been the opposite. I know women who felt something was missing in their marriage; that it got stale/boring, that they were just waiting for something exciting to happen, and that they needed something to happen to get their husband's attention back. If these are the circumstances in which you're considering having a child, then I strongly urge you to reconsider. Those that I know that had these issues in their marriage thought having a child would change everything for the better... but instead, it changed it for the worse. If your foundation isn't already solid, then a child only adds more layers of complexity that you both won't be prepared to navigate.
And let's face it: None of the above is fair to any child!
(This is NO secret!)
I'll wrap this lengthy post up quickly, and with hope that at least one tidbit from this was either insightful or helpful to you. Sometimes - when I find I'm having to answer a lot of questions on the same subject - I find it easy to compile articles like this as a means to get the message out there to anyone it can benefit. If you have a question or wish to read about a particular issue or subject, please email it to me for future consideration! 😊
#empath #intuitiveempath #intuitivehealer #relationships #advice #empathconfessions