I’m writing this post from a personal and professional perspective.
My perspective is this:
1. I’m married and have been for 6 years
2. I’ve almost gotten divorced and have gone through my own last ditch effort to save my own marriage
3. I’ve coached plenty of couples through their own last ditch efforts
Sometimes they arrive on the other side together. Sometimes they arrive on the other side apart.
But either way, I help them navigate those difficult waters to choose what’s in their best interest, which to me is creating love that honors the soul.
Most of the time, couples seek out coaching because they’re at the end of their rope. Both partners have been feeling unheard, unseen, and unimportant for some time, but both feel it’s important to give it one last shot before they throw in the towel.
After all, most of my client couples have invested a lot in their relationship – time, money, emotions, life choices, and sacrifice. And they also have a lot on the line – kids, dreams, family, lifestyle, and spiritual beliefs about divorce, love, and marriage.
For couples coaching to be impactful, there are 3 commitments I ask my couples to make if they truly want a shot at making it work and they are these:
1. Set a time frame to work on the relationship.
Most of the time, we enter into these unsettled periods with an open ended window usually saying, “we’ll see how it goes”. My guess is you’ve been “seeing it how it goes” for awhile now, which is only adding to your frustration. Setting a time period you feel comfortable with gives you a benchmark to work toward. No more open ended promises. No more open ended time frames. It’s either going to get better by XX/XX/XXXX or it’s not.
Life is too short to wait forever to see if someone is going to change. Life is also too short for you to stay in an unhappy relationship.
If it isn’t going to get better between now and XX/XX/XXXX, cut your losses and move on.
Curious to know what kind of time frame is best? I recommend a 6 -12 month window.
The best time frame for you will greatly depend on all the variables going on in your current relationship, which is where some outside perspective can help.
For me, I set a 6 month window. We were childfree, had very little to lose besides each other, and 6 months felt like a fair amount of time to know if this relationship could heal enough for me to stay.
Generally speaking, if kids are involved, couples choose a longer window (either 9 months or a full year). Only you know how much time you can invest, how worn down you are, and how many resources (i.e. hope) you can pull from.
In my professional opinion, 6 months is a bare minimum commitment if you’re working on rebuilding trust, healing communication, improving intimacy, and learning to love in a new way, which is why I ask for a 6 month commitment from the couples I work with.
Additionally, the 6 month mark is a powerful time to re-evaluate your relationship. How have things progressed? Are you feeling more seen, heard, and loved by your partner? Are you feeling energized to keep on working? Are you getting enough from each other to start to feel full?
If yes, great! Things are working. If not, this may mean that you are working through deeper level issues in the relationship, which doesn’t necessarily mean things can’t still improve. Either way, at this point, you’ll have a better idea of what needs to shift to have the relationship you want and how likely it is you can create it.
But what if things haven’t improved by then?
If things haven’t improved within 12 months (even 6 months in some cases), you’re simply not a good match, which is where my expertise come in. I’m excellent at recognizing when a couple is a good fit and when they’re not and what will need to shift in order for a relationship to not just survive, but thrive. This comes, in part, from years of working with couples professionally as a prior psychotherapist as well as my own wisdom from healing many of my own relationships.
If you can’t get on the same page after consistently and wholeheartedly working on your relationship and learning to love, then you are most likely working with personality differences or differences in values that will either need to be accepted for the relationship to survive or be let go of for the relationship to end. This opinion assumes, of course, that you are getting outside help for your relationship and have agreed to the following 2 commitments for a specific time period.
2. Take the D-word off the table.
And this goes for those who are married and those who aren’t.
Threatening the relationship with a divorce or a breakup is going to undermine what is left of the already fragile foundation. In order for a relationship to make a comeback, it’s all about creating a container of safety. That means no more ultimatums, no more empty threats, no more threats in general. You both know it’s serious. Using divorce only creates another level of uncertainty for your partner and yourself. Why would anyone want to truly show up and work on a relationship if you consistently threaten to leave them if they don’t do x,y,z?
But this doesn’t just go for threatening your partner with divorce. This also includes thinking about divorce, planning divorce, thinking about life after divorce, pursuing other relationships as if you’re going to divorce. You have to take divorce off the table internally as well.
And here’s why:
Taking Divorce off the table for the time period you’re choosing to work on your relationship allows you to be all in and if a relationship is going to work, you must be all in, which brings me to #3.
3. Give your partner the opportunity to change and evolve.
When I start working with couples, they’re usually both feeling hurt, unseen, rejected, and unimportant and because of that, most partners have usually built up a wall to protect themselves from being hurt. They use terms such as “always and never” to describe their partner (and themselves) painting a picture that gives little room for anything to be different.
In order for healing to take place, vulnerability has to be reintroduced into the marriage. This means giving your partner the opportunity to change and evolve, to be a better spouse, to respond differently to your needs, to start getting love right instead of always getting it wrong.
Learning to give your partner a chance is scary, yes, especially if you’ve been hurt, but if you’ve already made up your mind that this is who they are, how they operate, and they’re never going to change, you’ve already made up your mind that this relationship is over.
If you truly want to exit a relationship having no regrets, it’s important to be all in, give someone the benefit of the doubt, give the relationship a fighting chance. If you can’t get it right after 6 months or a year (depending on your time frame), at least you know you gave it your all, which makes the grieving process after separation a whole lot easier to navigate.
Are you in a make or break situation with your spouse?
Ready for some outside perspective and intervention?
Set up a free 30 minute call with me here. Let’s create a window to go all in that’ll take you out of uncertainty and into certainty while creating love that honors your soul.