What to do BEFORE the break-up...
As I was posting the most recent Happy Couple Highlight interview conducted by CREATE LOVE co-founder, SharRon Jamison, I suddenly had a light bulb moment; What about the unhappy couples who might be struggling to hold on and are looking for a lifeline? What do we have for them? After all, those couples need our love and support too. And I believe that just like the African proverb says for children, it is also true for relationships…It takes a village to support a partnership. We at Create Love are your village!
I truly believe that if you are still in your relationship, then there is always hope to salvage your love even if it appears to be a mere shadow of what it once was. The key, as always, is YOU. Do you still want to be with your beloved? Now that is something I cannot answer for you. You will have to do some soul-searching for that. What I can assist you with is some guidance for what to do before you make that final decision to end your relationship. Let’s look at it in terms of what to do and what not to do:
What not to do...
1. Don’t over share your problems with people who do not affirm your relationship. Believe me, I understand she may have made you angry as heck and you need to vent. There is nothing wrong with that. We all need someone to talk to when we are busting at the seams. Just make sure it is someone who loves the both of you, or is willing to be loving of your choices. Because once you are no longer angry with your sweetie, your confidant may not be so forgiving. For me, this is my mother. I love her dearly and she has my back, ride-or-die style. But if I tell her too much about my relationship she is only interested in me, even it means kicking my partner to the curb. Then she will be on her way from New Jersey to kick butts and take names (all wolf tickets by the way-- LOL).
2. Don’t compare your relationship to others. Wow…This is a big one people! We have all done it at times. We looked at other couples and turned to our partners saying things like: “Why don’t you hold the door for me?” “Why don’t you wear 4-inch heels?” Why don’t we cuddle and hold hands in public?” And the list goes on and on. Yes, and if you haven’t done it you have thought it. Here is the thing...You never really know what is going on with other people who seem to have it all. They may have a piece of something you’d like, but all that glitters isn't gold. Trust me, as a counselor, I have worked with many couples who are great at keeping up appearances, but are really struggling—or worse! It is fine to admire, but do not covet. Instead focus on what you are doing.
3. Don’t mistake a new phase of love as a break-down. Some people are addicted to the romantic or honeymoon phase of dating and loving. This is the early stage of excitement when you get butterflies every time she looks at you, giggle at everything she says, find her quirks adorable and want to make love to her when she so much as grazes your shoulder. Yep, we all love that phase. It is exhilarating and mind-blowing! However some women are only attracted to this phase and thus never seem to get beyond one year with anyone. I get it but the real-love phase is fantastic too. In the real-love stage you can feel more secure, solid and confident in the love that you've built. It happens after you have had an opportunity to see love in action, through the good, bad and ugly—and sometimes the very ugly. It is real love when she is able to see you in all your glory and all your mess, but love and support you equally in both.
4. Don’t ignore problems and expect them to magically disappear. I assure you this doesn’t work. The words of forgiveness can be said but she may not forget if it was never resolved. Saying I am sorry is only one part of what it means to address issues. Problems may dissipate for the moment, or get pushed to the back burner but they do not go away. Stuffing them or expecting your partner to stuff them is unfair to the relationship. Confronting your issues and resolving them is the only thing that makes them truly disappear. The good news is that you can disagree without dismantling communication. I will break this down in greater detail at our upcoming CREATE LOVE conference.
Now let’s look at what to do...
1. First and foremost, do your own work. I’d love to write this whole section in all caps because it is so incredibly crucial. It is not your partner’s responsibilities to make you happy, read your mind, nor fix your emotional brokenness. You have to do your own work and be able to see your stuff when it comes up. I have yet to meet the person who doesn't have their own stuff. The most common place emotional baggage shows up is in the things that trigger our extreme responses. In other words, the response to something your partner does should be at a 4 (on a scale of 1-10), but it is a 9 because it triggers something your ex did a few years ago, or the way your dad treated your mom. This is an emotional trigger and the 4 belongs to your sweetie, but 5 goes to your ex. And that 5 is not your partner’s responsibility. You have to own it. Do the work so that you can meet your partner’s needs without filtering them through your pain. Please hear me say that there is no crime in having emotional baggage; We all do and it is simply what makes us human. It is however a crime of the heart to give up on the love of your life because you are unwilling to deal with yourself.
2. Do schedule time for relationship work. I really cringe at the idea of relationships being work. I have never liked that saying. Instead the word intentional seems more accurate. The word work sounds like love is laborious and arduous. I do not believe that to be the case. However, you cannot expect relationship fairies to magically appear and fix issues when the time is right. Instead be intentional. Make a conscious effort to communicate likes, dislikes, feelings, fears and hopes. Ask for the time to do that. When you avoid doing so, you are failing your relationship. You are not making it a priority.
3. Do seek a unified vision. This is an essential element to longevity in my humble opinion. A unified vision is a common goal, or desire. It is something that you hone in on as a couple that is bigger than the two of you, as individuals and as a unit. A unified vision is something that takes you out of thinking about your problems and bonds you to a commitment of productivity. For some couples the unified vision is a business, a shared hobby, or a spiritual practice. Sometimes couples use raising their children as the shared vision. This could be okay if it is treated with that kind of intention and not the right of one person over the other.
4. Do seek professional help when it is needed. I have seen a lot of people think of counseling like the place where “crazy” people go. It is not so. Counseling can save your relationship, partnership, or marriage. It is a viable option for many people. On the other hand, I will tell you what I tell my clients…It is not magic. You will get out of it what you put into it. But it is not the only option for professional help. There are really great books that you can read together to gain insight on your issues, that offer tools for resolving problems and teach skills for communicating difficult topics. Another option is to seek spiritual counseling, if you share spiritual beliefs. Whatever you do you should both be on the same page. And if you love your mate, try to be open to whatever it might take to get over the hump—before the break-up.
Remember it is a journey of progress, not perfection. I honor you for taking the steps toward a LOVE REVOLUTION…Nya Akoma!