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Misery In Your Relationship & 10 Ways To Fix It

misery, partners, miserable, couples, marriage, married, relationship

Misery can so easily build in any relationship. Each of you might have bad luck in your job or you are exhausted by the needs of an infant. Misery zaps your energy to think & it’s easy to indulge your sad, sorrowful feelings. The two of you as a couple can fall to the bottom of your priority list.


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I was with a couple that inspired this episode, they were both in a bad place at the same time in their own individual lives. It’s terribly hard on a relationship when both people are suffering. The misery usually spills over into bickering & fighting with each other because we don’t kick the neighbor’s dog, we kick each other.

People break up & people divorce because they lose respect for each other. So I am offering 10 suggestions to help you get back on when both of you are struggling at the same time. Be aware that this is an ordinary situation. It is bad luck for both of you that it’s at the same time but you can dig your way out together.

#1. Stop Dodging & Deal. Resentful, angry silence is not helpful. Attacking & blame are also not helpful. Try to reach out & share what you are hurt about or what your fears may be. What are all those negative emotions swirling around? Try to identify them so that you can talk about them. If you can’t identify them then share about feeling confused. Try to be authentic instead of guarded & defensive. Don’t dump the boiling oil from the castle walls, lower the drawbridge & try sharing.

If you need help finding the right words for your emotions? Print out the 2 pages that make up the Feeling Word Vocabulary list on the emotions page of my website: Therapyideas.net. Go through the list & pick out 5 or 6 words that fit how you feel, then make sentences out of them.

Just to clarify let me give you an example: if you have lost your job & lost respect for yourself share that with your partner. Talk about your money worries & needing to set up a budget instead of silently feeling resentful because your partner doesn’t seem to “get it”.

#2. No matter how much misery you are in, it’s important to recognize that you are both wired differently. The differences can easily create greater distance from each other. The elegance of being a couple begins when you recognize the differences. My husband loves crossing the street when the light says it’s ok, that makes me nuts. I recognize he needs it to be that way & he recognizes if nothing is coming it’s ok to do it my way.

There is also the opportunity to create greater understanding if you are curious enough to respect the differences instead of spit on them. Remember there is a real bonus to respect because it doesn’t require you to like the differences.

#3. Be Brave enough to talk & talk & talk with each other. It’s the only thing you can do to soften the hard edges of arguing. Accept that many irreconcilable differences may not get “solved” but the differences may need to learn to sit quietly next to each other. This is very hard to do & it’s exactly what needs to happen; the differences need to sit quietly next to each other

Sprinkle in a dash of faith that the process of Talking & Sharing can evolve into a fragile bridge over the grand canyon of distance that the two of you have created. Even knowing this can be true doesn’t make it easier, we all avoid talking because being vulnerable is hard work.

#4. You have to create an US again in your shared Misery. The bridge you can build is a beginning to seeing each other more accurately. It’s easy to miss out on accurate perspectives of who the other person really is when filtered through the lens of misery or silent resentments.

Misery so easily increases from a layering of unspoken resentments built up over time. & as I have said many times a stacked up pile of resentments kills off relationships.

You might try finishing this sentence as many times as you can: I am resentful _____________
Each of the sentences you create can be a topic for a conversation. You want to unbury the hidden landmines. I don’t recommend you do all of them at once!

Thinking about being an us; it’s not just you or me is really important work & the more a couple can shift into an US point of view the better off you both will be. That’s one of the skills a couples therapist brings to the table; we are taking care of the US in your relationship.

#5. You both have to decide to try instead of giving up. Trying is a lot of work & it’s hard to know where to start. I would suggest the beginning of trying is honesty & not being mean about it.
Trying might require a lot of tears & remember that tears simply means something’s important. If you both would try at the same time it’s better than taking turns because one person will always be too discouraged which will tug the other person back down into the muck.

misery, partners, miserable, couples, marriage, married, relationship

#6. Be open & ask each other for feedback on the 1 thing the other person needs to change to be more hopeful about the relationship. When people are miserable they tend to find comfort in ways that may not be helpful. So imagine one person is drinking too much & one person is addicted to their cell phones. It would benefit both people to follow their partner’s advice (for one to drink less & for the other to use their phone less.)

#7. Then take Action on your partner’s honest feedback & do something about it because it will benefit you whether you part ways or stay together. This won’t be easy to do but it will be totally worth it because you will be a person of greater substance.

Our culture gets so wrapped up in addictions whether it’s shopping or too much booze. It’s a way to hide from hard truths & self awareness. Nobody enjoys dealing with their dark side. The truth is the more you do, the more honest & authentic you will be & the more life improves.

#8. IF you do allow the other person to influence you to change & develop more character; then it is evidence that you respect the truth they have shared. The ultimate test of respect is whether or not your partner can influence you. This could be a start to healing because it is a first step towards restoring respect.

#9. Confide; try to share the feelings, hidden wants, or secret wishes which were discussed in the previous episode, #53 on fighting, an interview with Dan Wile. I’m going to repeat just one example from that episode because it is so elegant: “I’ve been thinking about my former boyfriend so it must mean that I’m feeling taken for granted.” There is certainly an elegance to being this self revealing & it’s really powerful if you can be self aware enough to recognize this deeper kind of truth.

It is especially meaningful because it is deeply honest, combined with being self revealing so there is no attack & there is no avoiding. It’s a rock solid moment that can change the entire dance that the two of you may be stuck in.

#10. Remember that most relationship problems are all about the conversations we don’t have. You have to dig down, stop avoiding or attacking & try to find ways to talk about hard things.

We all have too many conversations with our partners in our head & then we decide we know the outcome without a conversation in real life. Everybody does this because in our head it is a whole lot easier than stepping into the messiness in real life & risking the uncertainty of not knowing what might happen. We stay in our own head because we adore the certainty of our assumptions about what will happen. Henry Winkler (The Fonz in Happy Days) has a great quote about this: “Assumptions are the termites of relationships.”

So find your courage to be authentic and be part of building a relationship that can withstand a Viking attack of misery. (Yes, I watch The Vikings on the History Channel)

My challenge for you today is finish these 15 sentences for yourself & ask your partner to. You can find them on the podcast page for this episode in the show notes at therapyideas.net Think of these as kindling to get the slow-to-start-fire of conversation going!Then both of you try to share one or two of them with each other:

1. It’s really hard on me when you________ because I feel ____________
2. I wish we were better at _____________________
3. I am scared because _______________________
4. I am sick of compromising for you about _______________________
5. I am really struggling with __________________________
6. I haven’t told you but I ______________________________
7. What might help me a little bit sounds silly & it’s hard to ask, & I’d like ________________
8. I’m ashamed of myself because ________________________
9. What’s missing in our sex life is _________________________
10. The hardest part of my job right now (or not working) is ___________________________
11. I’m tired of _______________________
12. The tricky thing for me in dealing with your family is _____________________________
13. I get too easily annoyed about ______________________
14. It’s hard for me to be real about _______________________
15. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me so I didn’t tell you ____________________
Bonus 16. I really need to apologize to you about ________________________

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