Sunday, 14 July 2013

Relationships: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Relationships: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Relationships: Should I Stay or Should I Go?
By Grace Chatting

Are you one of those who are no longer happy in your long-term relationship or marriage, but are weighing up how much of yourself you have invested in it, while you ask yourself the question, "Should I stay or Should I Go?".

This is the dilemma of, Too good to leave and too bad to stay, and the ongoing state of ambivalence which this engenders, can be very corrosive over a long period of time, and can also lead to illness and depression.

When you are involved in this kind of scenario you tend to become increasingly disconnected from your partner or spouse, and feel more and more lonely and despondent as time goes on. After a while you run out of strategies as to how to change the situation. When it becomes intolerable, one or other makes a decision to separate or divorce. The trouble is, often this involves breaking up a family and everyone facing the prospect of living in reduced circumstances.

From Intolerable to Intolerable

The move towards separation and the prospect of not being in each other's lives begins to feel more painful and eventually intolerable. It is at this point that you decide to "give it another go". Unfortunately, this usually means trying behaviours and approaches that have been tried and failed before. Soon the honeymoon is over (again) and the relationship begins to slide back to where it was before, and both of you feel even more despondent, hopeless, sad and demoralised, and decide once again that the only way ahead is to separate. The situation is again intolerable.

Once again you begin to move towards separation, and once again, when the prospect of actually living apart and sorting out contact arrangements and maintenance payments for the children is on the agenda, the pain increases and again,you decide to try again.

Consequences of Ambivalence

This kind of oscillation is not uncommon with couples. Sadly most couples generally do not access professional help to support them in moving beyond the impasse and to explore other ways of moving through the impasse. Eventually, one may finish up really rocking the boat by having an Exit Affair perhaps, whether consciously or unconsciously engaged in. Often this is the final straw to the other party and provides the impetus to proceed with the divorce or separation. Many decide to pursue the separation or divorce route, out of sheer desperation, because they can no longer stand the constant ambivalence, and, particularly if they have a milestone event like a 40th birthday, death of a parent or a New Year.

A Tale of Two Couples

As the saying goes, "If you keep doing what you've always done, you'll keep getting what you always got. Do something different."

I recently was seeing two couples for coaching, each of whom had been in this position of oscillating between staying or going for a number of years. They were all deeply unhappy and concerned that the situation was now affecting their respective children, (which it was) who in different ways were beginning to display behavioural problems.

In order to turn such a situation around couples need to be able to step aside from their problems long enough to learn some essential knowledge about relationship dynamics and also to acquire new knowledge and a range of relating skills to implement that knowledge. Couples also need to have a degree of insight into their own patterns which they have taken on board from their early environment, usually their primary caregivers, and which are no longer serving their relationship.

One couple, let's call them Jean and John stayed in the Karpman Triangle for a long time, blaming and criticising each other. Eventually however, they managed to take on board what I was teaching them, and started to do the work on themselves and now have made a great breakthrough and see what I was driving at for so long.

The other couple, Jack and Sally, played the game of "I'm leaving, let's get a divorce" for so long and then made up and recycled this about twice a year, that neither of them would stop their Game Playing at the same time, or long enough to actually do the necessary work of learning about their unhelpful patterns and reconnecting with each other in a more meaningful way. During one of their "let's get a divorce" swings, Jack actually went ahead and applied for divorce. They are now very unhappily divorced and putting so much time into making contact arrangements for their two children, that they both wish they had made the effort to stop fighting and to learn some new strategies to change their situation.

Underlying Problem

The underlying problem for both couples was that they were both unaware of the ways in which their unconscious patterns affected their relationships, and continued to blame each other. Jean and Jack eventually agreed to lay down their arms, and got into some alignment with each other while they learned some relationship lessons and skills. They are now relating on a much deeper and more intimate way and are well on the way to "Happily ever after".

Jack and Sally remained entrenched in their old patterns and refused to set them aside long enough to learn about how relationships work and acquire some skill in applying that. They appear all set to have some very unhappy years and then to go on to repeat the same unhelpful patterns in another relationship.

Getting Out of Your Own Way

No one teaches us this relationship stuff, but it is a wise couple who recognise when they run into trouble, that they have reached the end of their limits in terms of knowledge and skill; not necessarily their relationship. It is a milestone in everyone's personal development (although not everyone passes it) to review their early conditioning and review how they operate in terms of their life in the here and now, rather than how they were told their life and relationships should, ought, or must be. Instead of going to war with each other and perceiving each other as the enemy, they can become Allies and support each other to make their own individual reviews and adjustments perhaps with the help of a skilled Coach.

It Doesn't Have To Be Either/Or

With some professional guidance, couples can agree to have a controlled separation, while they work through any personal development issues they may have, which get in the way of the couple relationship. They could also commit to staying together for an agreed period of time such as 3-6 months, while they follow a coaching program. If after all this, their situation has not improved, at least they both know they have given the relationship their best shot, and can part with much less acrimony.

Grace Chatting is the Founder of Relationship Academy, where they teach lessons you didn't learn at school. With a professional background working with children and families, Grace is a Psychotherapist, Family Mediator and a Relationship Coach. She has set up Relationship Academy to deliver Online Video Courses and Programs for Singles and Couples and those who have Divorced or Separated. It is a work in progress but you can visit the website where you can sign up for a free video series offering a Blueprint In Building Happier Relationships and Families. You may also email Grace with any queries at

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