It goes without saying that opportunities to celebrate the people we love are good things. In some ways Valentine’s Day is one of those opportunities.
- For some partners it is an opportunity to further affirm what is experienced all year.
- For others it invites a “ re-set” with recognition that they may have been taking each other for granted, or displacing anger on each other or expecting their relationship to somehow stay vibrant without kindness, affirmation and affection.
For many, however, particularly partners who had hoped their relationship could lead to marriage or those for whom their marriage has become far more painful than positive—Valentine’s Day can be point for considering reality.
The reality raises two questions that are more important than Valentine hearts or roses.
Are You Making Up or Breaking Up?
Are You Making Up?
- Tolerating the status quo of a relationship is often embraced as the safest and seemingly easiest solution especially on a day like Valentine’s Day.
- If Making Up for Valentine’s Day was a quick fix for an increasingly destructive relationship it is not likely to fix anything.
- On the other hand, if making up for Valentine’s Day initiates a re-consideration of the marriage by both partners or a decision to seek help it is a start and a real Valentine’s Day gift.
Are You Breaking Up?
- Breaking up a relationship is a painful and complicated process.
- The consideration of breaking up, be it of a long-term marriage or a dating relationship brings with it fear, loss, sense of failure, self-blame and at times retaliation.
- There is never a good day to break up.
- Regardless of who initiates the break-up of a painful relationship, it opens the possibility of safety, self-respect and a new love for each partner.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making Up or Breaking Up:
Is Your Relationship Physically or Psychologically Abusive?
- If you are in a relationship that involves physical abuse, mistreatment or threats to your life or that of your loved ones—you are not safe.
- Safety warrants calling 911 when needed, and finding a safe place, a support network, and legal help to make “ breaking up” safe and possible.
- Making up most often necessitates a separation and mutual commitment to seek professional help and future help as a couple.
- Recognizing psychological abuse is difficult because “ symbolic violence” is insidious and invisible.
- In an atmosphere of chronic criticism, veiled threats, disdain, and projected blame, a person becomes worn down, compliant and guilty. They spend time apologizing or trying to be perfect because they have lost their perspective.
- Referred to by some as “Gaslighting,” psychological abuse is often intended to make the partner think he/she is crazy, over-reactive, or controlling.
- Often it is not until a person leaves that they realize that they have been abused.
Are You Personally Happy?
Because people often report wanting to leave a relationship because they are “ unhappy,” it is worth recognizing that no partner can be responsible for your total happiness. Research suggests that at least 40% of our happiness comes from our own intentional pursuits of life choices and goals.
- Are you sure that the problems you are experiencing as marriage or relationship problems are not projections of your own personal discontent, lack of life purpose, boredom insecurity, health, friendship or financial disappointments?
- Do you find that your relationship actually dampens the happiness you do generate on your own?
- Do you find that even when you try to bridge the happiness you have found at work, in recreation, with friends by telling your partner about it or even inviting participation, there is little interest shown or a critique that “brings you down?”
- A relationship should not deplete you of the personal happiness you generate.
How Realistic Are Your Expectations?
It is realistic to expect that there will be love, respect and a sense of mutual concern in a committed relationship. That said – How much do you really expect of your partner and how much does your partner expect from you?
In an interesting book perfectly titled, Everybody Marries the Wrong Person, the author captures the tendency to start out by idealizing and expecting perfection from our partners only to find out that they are far from perfect and actually don’t meet all our expectations.
The question is whether there is enough recognition to celebrate what is wonderful and accept what is not.
Is There Trust in Your Relationship?
- Is your partner a confidante – you can tell him/her those things you might not tell anyone else?
- Do you trust that your partner is faithful to you as an intimate partner – do you have the same values about fidelity?
- Do you trust your partner to forgive you – do you trust yourself to forgive your partner?
Is Intimacy Possible in Your Relationship?
What solidifies a relationship and connects partners in a way that makes their connection special is the intimacy they share.
- Is there still a wish to be affectionate, to laugh like insiders, to feel close, to be intimate even in the broadest non-sexual terms?
- Is there still a mutual interest to be sexually intimate or to work together to reclaim it?
- If not, the relationship maybe without the emotional net that makes life together intimate and emotional expansive.
- If there is a mutual wish to reclaim intimacy on many levels in the many days of your lives—there is room for change.
Is Dependency Compromising Intimacy?
Are you or your partner so dependent that there is no separate space, no permission to be with separate friends, no room to have a different thought, opinion or interest? Is excessive dependence smothering the loving?
Is the dependence on this partner more like an addiction than a loving bond? Must you stay in this relationship regardless of whether it steals your happiness and self-esteem?
Is Your Relationship More Work than Wonderful Connection?
People often ask if their relationship should be so much work. They despair that no matter what they or their partner do, there is no feeling of harmony, mutuality, easy discourse or recovery from disagreements.
While most people need to work at a good relationship, a good relationship never takes from either partner more than it gives.
Falling in Love and Having a Relationship are Two Different Things.(Keanu Reeves)