“My relationship is in real trouble … I just don’t know what to do!”
Have you ever reached the point in your relationship where things were so difficult you just didn’t know what to do? Where you felt out of options, stuck?
Many of our coaching clients are in that very spot when they reach out to us for support (it’s a topic for another post that we all should reach out for support as soon as we reach that point. In our last post, we quoted a Dr. Gottman study that concluded couples wait on average six years before seeking support).
There are a myriad reasons why you might have landed in the I-don’t-know-what-to-do situation.
Four relationship scenarios to be stuck in
Here are a four different real-life scenarios from clients:
After being in relationship for several years, we’re still not clear if this relationship is “it”. One or both of us are not quite committed and we can’t decide if it’s worth it to keep going. We keep talking and going back and forth, but we’re not landing anywhere.
We’ve been together 10+ years. We work well together, we’re a good team and great parents to our kids. But we hardly have any intimacy anymore. We’re like efficient room mates. We’re both very busy, and it’s hard to talk about sex and intimacy. Neither of us want to make our partner feel bad.
I’m divorced, but I wonder if my ex and I still have a shot. He keeps reaching out about random stuff. It’s still nice chatting on text, but it’s also kind of annoying. It’s making it harder for me to move on and pursue a better relationship.
We love each other, but we keep getting into fights about how clean to keep our house. One of us is very tidy and lives by clean-as-you-go. The other is more laid-back and thinks cleaning all the time is not worth it, but a recipe for never relaxing.
In each of these scenarios, our clients felt stuck. They didn’t see a way forward. The conflicts weren’t to the level of deal-breakers yet, but significant and enduring enough that it couldn’t be ignored either.
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What to do next?
In this post, I want to focus on your experience of being stuck, rather than the solutions our clients have experimented with for each scenario. Being stuck, seeing no options ahead, is a crappy experience, to be blunt. It’s disempowering and it creates endless thought-loops in your mind. It’s the mental and emotional version of “spinning your wheels”. You expend a lot of emotional energy batting your conflict around in your head – sometimes with your partner, too – but there’s no reprieve or solution emerging.
This, by the way, is the point at which you reach out to a coach, therapist, or mentor for support, instead of feeling stuck for another six years! Just making that phone call helps you get un-stuck. You may feel out of options, but that doesn’t mean other options don’t exist or that a specialist couldn’t help you create solutions.
Aside from coaching, you can still help yourself move forward and out of feeling stuck. The easiest way to do it is to ask yourself this very simple question:
What’s one thing I know I can do that would probably help my relationship?
Or, use this version:
What’s one thing I know I can quit doing that would probably help my relationship?
I have posed this question to dozens of clients and every single time, without exception, they have a ready answer to it. Because despite the feeling of being stuck, you still know something you can do. Sure, it might not solve your entire conflict, but any progress is better than being stuck, right?
Often, the answers you come up with are exceedingly simple. For example, if your intimacy is lacking, what is one thing you know you could do that would help just a bit? In response, we’ve heard clients say …
- Watch a movie together
- Snuggle before going to sleep
- Go out to dinner
- Schedule a date
- Tell my partner I love her/him
- Book a hotel room. We always have good sex when we’re away.
For the same issue, when asked what they knew they could quit doing that would probably help, clients say …
- Going into my office to work after 8:00 PM
- Being on my phone while we eat dinner
- Going to bed hours after my partner
- Saying I’m too busy when s/he initiates intimacy
- Griping about work when I come home
- Making excuses when s/he wants my help
From nothing to something
These are examples of easy-to-do actions that have a really good chance of helping the overall situation. Granted, they may not present a full solution to your entire conflict, but that’s not the purpose. The point here is to get unstuck, to switch from there’s-nothing-I-can-do to there’s-something-I-can-do. And to get a quick pay-out of intimacy, relief, or connection, all of which helps your relationship.
In the unlikely event you can’t think of a single thing you can do or quit doing that would help, consider what your partner says s/he wants from you, or what s/he complains about. If s/he says, “I hate it when you leave dirty dishes in the sink”, it’s a fairly easy action to quit doing that and putting your dirty dishes in the dishwasher. If s/he often says, “We never spend time together anymore, just you and me”, it’s almost guaranteed to work if you make a restaurant reservation and go out to dinner. If you’ve heard your partner say several times that, “We need support, this is not working”, you know there’s a good chance it would help if you initiated seeing a coach.
The reason you feel stuck is sometimes that you twist your brain to try and come up with THE answer, as in the answer that will put the whole conflict to bed. You look for the one insight or decision that will completely solve the issues surrounding commitment, intimacy, your ex, or whatever the issue might be. All those issues are complex situations involving two (or more) human beings with a host of desires, needs, triggers, and patterns.
I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but I can’t remember a single case of someone thinking their way to one big Eureka-moment that fixed everything. But I know of countless examples of real-life couples and individuals taking on a thoughtful process of exploration and then taking one step at a time, one action at a time that moves them in the right direction.
A great first step is asking yourself:
What’s one thing I know I can do, or quit doing, that would probably help my relationship?
If you want another effective option, check out our one-day workshop, Give Yourself To Love, here (and don’t wait too long, it’s coming up soon:-). You'll learn many tools and insights to get un-stuck and create deeper intimacy.
LoveWorks: We believe relationships are meant to be an empowering, fun, passionate, safe place to grow, love, and learn. Where we get to be more of who we are, not less. We know it’s not always easy, but it can definitely be easier! With our unique and practical approach to relationship, you learn how to resolve conflicts quickly and enjoy fulfilling intimacy for the rest of your life. To learn more or contact us, visit www.loveworkssolution.com.