“Continents drift and so do hearts.” John Mark Green
In my marriage and relationship coaching practice, people reach out to me when their marriages have been struggling for years or even decades. Their relationships have become so unbearable that they’re considering leaving the marriage and are feeling paralyzed in fear because they don’t know how to fix the marriage and make it better, but they don’t know how to leave either. They tell me they feel stuck, sad, alone, scared and disconnected.
One of the questions I ask these people in my first discussion with them is, “What will life look like for you six months or one year from now if you don’t do anything differently?”
And many times their answer is that their lives and their marriages will probably look the same as it does today if they don’t change anything. It seems that way because they’re still having the same arguments over and over again, they’re still not being affectionate with one another and the interactions between them feel the same.
But, unfortunately, I know that’s not true.
I know it’s not true because nothing stays the same. Literally, nothing.
The cells in our bodies are constantly changing and renewing, with no effort on our part.
The trees outside are growing each year, the leaves are changing colors and then dropping to the ground and it wasn’t on anyone’s to-do list.
Our children are constantly changing; we couldn’t stop them from growing and changing even if we tried.
Even the home we live in changes and needs upkeep and attention or else it becomes dilapidated over time.
In life and in everything around us and within us, we’re constantly changing.
And in our relationships, we’re never stagnant either. Our relationships are living, breathing, evolving entities. And in our most intimate relationships, we’re either growing closer together or we’re drifting further apart.
Those are the only two options.
It’s happening so slowly that it almost goes unnoticed until the distance becomes so great that it’s undeniable. Just like the new house that looked amazing the day you moved into it, but now ten years later with no care and attention paid to it, it desperately needs a new coat of paint and a lot of overgrown landscaping removed.
Here’s the truth: If you do nothing differently in your troubled marriage than what you’re doing today, the way you engage with one another may look and sound the same, but the distance between you will actually grow wider. The relationship will worsen. You will have drifted further apart and that gap will become increasingly painful and more difficult to ignore. That happens naturally because the longer you tolerate something that doesn’t feel good, the more aware you are of the problem, the more resentments build and the more difficult it becomes to endure.
So, six months or a year from now – if you do nothing differently – your troubled relationship will be worse, more distant than it is today. You will have drifted further apart as a couple.
Or alternatively, you can do something different than what you’ve been doing.
Trying something different can look like:
- Setting aside 20 minutes as a couple each evening to talk and connect with no kids around and before going to bed.
- Start expressing what you want or need (without animosity, sarcasm, or criticism), rather than waiting for your partner to automatically know what it is you need.
- Rather than waiting for your partner to make you feel more loved and appreciated, begin being the one to love and appreciate more frequently – both yourself and your partner.
Doing things differently within the relationship might work and make the relationship closer and stronger or it might not – but either way making changes will give you more information than you had previously with which to make a decision.
Making changes brings you closer to answers about whether or not the marriage can be fixed and feel good again. It brings you closer to clarity about what you want and whether or not this relationship can meet those needs and desires. You’re now aware that you’re either growing closer together or drifting further apart and realizing you have some considerable influence over which direction the relationship is moving.