Love relationships have more ups and downs than a roller coaster. Sometimes couples are able to work things out, and sometimes they can’t.
Usually, when couples are unable to align, it is because they have engaged in one of the ABCs of relational suicide: abuse, breakups or cheating.
Abuse: If you are in an abusive relationship and your partner is unwilling to seek counseling or change his or her behavior, my recommendation is to leave. Yes, this is a drastic move, but to stay could endanger your life or the lives of your children.
I do not advise this lightly. As a marriage counselor, my fidelity is to the union unless there is abuse. Then the issue becomes safety. I also feel that verbal and mental abuse are equal to physical abuse; you simply can’t see the wounds. Discuss your situation with a counselor, clergy or a lawyer, but please remove yourself from harm’s way.
Breakups: People throw the B-word (breaking up) around like it’s a toy, when in truth it’s a weapon used to control the other person. If the relationship is seriously imbalanced, the person being threatened will cave into whatever it is the other person claims to want.
Breakup or divorce is not to be taken lightly and should never be used as a tool of manipulation. Making threats will only widen the gap between the two of you. I recommend to couples that they never bring up leaving, even as a joke. Keep your relationship sacred by not threatening to end it.
When difficulties arise, as they always will, don’t be so quick to give up. Talk and reach a compromise, share your hurt with your partner, and be open to making some changes so you don’t go down this road again. You will both be better for the effort.
Cheating: First of all, if you know you are going to cheat, don’t commit. If you have made a commitment, however, and one of you does cheat, it does not immediately put your relationship on death row. Clemency is available, but you have to work at it. I have helped many, many couples get their relationships back on track after one or both strayed from their vows.
People cheat for different reasons. Sex and anger are the two most known. Others cheat to raise their self-esteem by wrongly thinking that the desires of someone else will fix whatever he or she is feeling. I’ve never seen it work.
Lastly, couples who meet through affairs seldom have trusting and long-term relationships.
If you and/or your partner are engaged in any of the ABCs of relational suicide, don’t go into denial. Take a good look at where you are and where you want to be. If you don’t like where you are, now is a good time to change it. If you don’t like where you’re going, there is time to make a course correction.
It is never too late to have a good relationship.
Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., is an award-winning therapist and humanitarian. He is also a columnist, the author of seven books, and a blogger for PsychologyToday.com with nearly 27 million readers. He practices in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles and is available for video sessions. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears Sundays and Tuesdays in the News-Press.