You fell in love. The relationship was exciting, and the future was full of promise.  You felt alive.  After a few weeks, months, or years of cooperation, adjustment, and weathering conflicts, large and small, your partner no longer treats you the way he or she used to;  you feel bored, angry, or repulsed. Whatever the course of events, you have become aware that the relationship as it seems now is insufferable.

The spirit of our times gives you the option to leave and start all over again.  Maybe you have children, or many years together. Maybe your personality, family, or tribal culture requires you "work it out." You may feel compelled to stay because this is your second or third intimate relationship and you fear the next would end the same.

At the beginning of an intimate relationship, parts of ourselves are brought to life by the partner.  You act or feel in ways you never did before.  Did you start hiking when you had been a sofa spud?  Did you, a shy person, find yourself talking far into the night?  Something in the beloved awakened facets of your personality.  But over the course of time, what had been shared at the beginning of the relationship becomes oppressive.  Your male partner is moody or overly sensitive. Your wife is opinionated or overly critical. He or she, who once was loved, becomes detestable. This is a very painful time, as intense as the time of falling in love, but in a negative way.  What to do?

You now have the opportunity to become allies in facing the dark, conflicted, and rejected parts of each other. As we grow up, we adjust to the environment the best way that we can, and that means giving up or repressing parts of our nature. If an outgoing child is born into an insular family, he or she may pull inward, yet marry an outgoing person. There will come a time when you will need to own that side of yourself.  It is not uncommon that the very aspect of your partner's personality that attracted you will be the one to drive you crazy, unless and until you recognize it is part of who you are. That which you see in your spouse actually belongs to you.  Your main reproach may be that he or she is cold, or selfish.  It is time to ask yourself: What in me is cold?  What does selfishness awaken in me?

To be successful in a relationship, you need to have a lot of self-knowledge and to continue to learn as the union develops.  Each of us brings a personal and cultural history to a relationship. We bring a personal and interactional style, as well as a whole gamut of unconscious expectations.  To get to know yourself can be a scary process because humans naturally prefer the security of the familiar.  Self-knowledge is easy to put off in our striving to build a relationship, but it cannot be put off forever. 

Try this.  Form an alliance with your partner. Commit to help each other explore who you are.  Don't think of it as solving a problem or debating pros and cons. Make the time, and take the time, to talk and listen to each other with great care.  No answers allowed, only questions and encouragement to keep talking.  Drain the well of bitterness, give voice to personal thoughts on topics large and small.  Conversation means truly listening and taking in what the other person is saying.  By doing this, you allow each other equal opportunity to influence the relationship. Eventually, you may be able to discuss areas of conflicts, with understanding of the other point of view as the goal.  Where possible, negotiate solutions to conflicts or agree to accept differences within the relationship.  Then live happily ever after.

Dr. Dominique Marquerite - www.AMHA-OR.org

Dr. Dominique Marguerite - www.OregonCounseling.org