Staying Together

Staying together when a relationship is not working is not an easy decision. No matter what others may say, in the end it has to make sense to you. After all, no one else walks in your shoes but you. The longer one is in a relationship the harder it is to leave. Especially, if kids are in the picture. Add the house, neighborhood, common friends and family, and the decision to leave or stay becomes more complicated. A great movie that addresses this topic is “The Story of Us” featuring Michelle Pfeiffer and Bruce Willis. Staying together is a personal choice. If you decide to remain in a difficult marriage you will have to change your attitude and approach to survive. Here are 4 things to consider if you choose to stay in your relationship.
Accept your mate for who he/she is
Acceptance is a big pill to swallow. People change for one reason or another. Or perhaps, you turned a blind eye to the person your spouse really is and chose to ignore it. So your man is not the emotionally available and romantic hunk he was when you met him. Maybe he’s not that kinda a guy after all. Are you’re wondering where the easy going, fun-loving, and sexy woman you fell in love with went? As it turns out, she is more tightly wound, task-oriented, and can’t rest until the dishes are done and kids tucked in bed. Occasionally I hear people say, “I didn’t sign up for this.” Well, it might be time to review your wedding vows. If staying together is your choice, it will help if you begin by accepting four things:
  1. I cannot change my mate.
  2. I cannot make my mate change.
  3. I can learn to accept my mate for who he/she is
  4. My marriage is not going to be what I imagined
Adjust your expectations
To expect your marriage to be something it is not, is a set up for disappointment. Acceptance requires an adjustment in expectations. Set the bar of expectations at a realistic level. If romance is unrecoverable, grieve it and let it go. I know this is hard. It may hurt. However, it is a better alternative than experiencing rejection by seeking something that no longer exists. Sadly, staying together for some couples means adjusting to roomies without romance. [Tweet “Sadly, staying together for some couples means adjusting to roomies without romance.”]
Focus on what works
Rarely are marriages 100% bad. By taking a closer look you will likely find some things that work. One of the reasons couples opt for staying together is because they are good at parenting, running a household, or have a civil relationship. Do you know what works in your relationship that offsets what doesn’t? Choosing to stay in a difficult marriage is more tolerable when you can focus on the things that work. If you can accept your marriage for what it is, adjust your expectations accordingly, and focus on what works you are more likely to survive.
Find meaning elsewhere
Empty marriages leave a void. Some individuals try to fill it by over-focusing on kids or work. Others seek an extra-marital affair. Trust me, these approaches do not work. Each presents a new set of problems. I recommend you find meaning elsewhere. It begins by turning inward and thinking about what you want to do to bring more meaning in your life. It could be one of several things like going back to school, taking a course, pursuing a dream, or doing volunteer work. The opportunities are endless. It is up to you to decide what you want to pursue. Don’t over complicate the process. Experiment with it. If something doesn’t fit that’s okay. Try something else. Finding meaning elsewhere allows you put energy toward things that matter and add fulfillment to your life. It allows you time to take off your role hats and just be you with you. Furthermore, it distracts you from the things you cannot control and allows you to focus on the things that matter. Make sense?

One final thought

Staying together has to make sense to you. When you adjust your approach as I suggest, you won’t feel trapped. If at some point staying together no longer makes sense you can choose to end the marriage. Remember, it is your life and  you own the decision on how to live it.

Now it’s your turn

For the past few weeks I have written about toxic relationships, divorce, and how to know for yourself when it is over. In this blog, I want to help those who opt for staying together. As you consider the four recommendations, which one(s) do you think you need to take action on? Feel free to leave me a comment below. Or if you prefer, you can share your thoughts privately by contacting me here.