One of the issues some of my coaching clients have is a partner that can’t seem to make up their mind.
Their partners know there are problems in the relationship, yet they still procrastinate or say things like, “Yeah, I know I have problems. I’m working on them.”
I know this response well because that used to be me! I used to say, “I know I have issues and I’m doing everything I can to work on them.”
Sure, it sounds noble to admit you have issues and actually take steps towards healing from them, but in hindsight I now realize what I was doing: Delaying and buying extra time.
I was unconsciously avoiding having to work on my issues by telling her I was working on my issues, as odd as that sounds. I bought more time so that I didn’t have to change and the relationship could continue as-is.
Wow, I didn’t have to change!
I wasn’t outright lying (intentionally), but when I look back there was really nothing I was doing to “change” or heal.
I was thinking about my issues…
I was contemplating therapy…
I was considering buying books on the subject…
I was watching self-help videos…
But what was I actually doing? Nothing really.
Though, at the time I really did think I was working on myself. I really did believe that by thinking about my issues I was working on them. That bought me time.
All I needed to do was to keep her believing that I was working on myself. But that wasn’t true. I was just as unhealed in 8 years as I was on day 1. Nothing changed.
Well, some things changed but the major stuff that was causing the damage in our relationship didn’t change at all. At least not until she left the marriage. Only then did I figure out that I really needed healing. Only then did the problems I brought into the relationship fully reveal themselves. But by then it was too late. She wanted out.
Our divorce was the best thing to happen for both of us. It gave her freedom from my judgments and critical thoughts, and it gave me a chance to really be alone in my thoughts. It’s so rare to have thoughts that don’t include the influence of other people, even if those other people are good influences in your life.
When I was married, every thought I had included her – all the good ones and bad ones. I was continually influenced whether I wanted to be or not simply because I was in proximity to her. Therefore having no individual or “alone” thought processes and also being exposed to the same emotional triggers day after day kept me in the same unhealed space I was always in.
I stayed in a state of no-momentum. There was no going forward while being in that triggered state. I was only walking back and forth in the same rut. I stayed judgmental and fearful and it destroyed my marriage.
I kept promising that I’d work on my issues I never actually did, not until the threat of divorce was so imminent that I had to if I cared at all about my marriage.
My healing started soon after our separation. The month she left I experienced my first thoughts without her in my life. It was then, when I was alone, where I realized just exactly what I was doing to cause the breakdown in our relationship.
My focus was always on her to make the changes I wanted instead of concentrating on my own healing and growth. I was always waiting for her to change so that our marriage would get better. I “knew” that when she addressed her challenges with junk food that I would stop getting angry and fearful and our relationship would magically get better.
But it only got worse. I made her feel unloved, unsupported and unworthy. I was not a husband, I was a disappointed father looking down at everything my daughter was doing wrong (metaphorically speaking of course).
By the time we separated, she was so jaded by all the years of my judgment that there was no chance of reconciliation.
“Damn! If I’d only started healing sooner.”
But that could not have happened anyway, because we were together. Her presence actually inhibited me from being motivated enough to heal. After all, “Why heal if she’s still here?”
That was faulty logic and a huge lesson on my part. By waiting for someone else to change it gives you an excuse to not have to look into yourself and figure out what really needs to heal in yourself.
If my wife had more awareness at the time she would have seen that I was a very bad influence for her. And looking back, if I was her, I would have left the relationship to honor myself. I would have left after 8 years of judgment from my partner. After all, if I don’t feel loved or supported then what’s the point?
She gave me every chance to change but I never did. I just stayed that same person always focused on her and waiting for her to change. The difference was that she was fine with my faults but I wasn’t fine with hers. Bonding breaks down when you are not fine with each other’s faults.
Today, I am so grateful she left. It was painful, yes, but it was also a huge chance to heal from something I’d held onto for over 40 years.
The reason I tell you this story is because sometimes we give the one we love chance after chance after chance, and they never get “better”. They never move forward. And sometimes they say they’re working on themselves but months or years go by and they never seem to get better.
What’s the easiest way to tell if your partner will change?
Just look at the past 3 months or years, have they changed for the better? Is your relationship getting better all the time?
If the answer is “no”, then accept that they will never change. That way you’ll have hard data to work with instead of hope and promises that are never fulfilled. It’s sometimes hard to accept those hard truths, but at least it provides a starting point to make decisions that create some forward momentum in your life.
My wife had to leave in order for me to heal. As much as that hurt, I have to admit that it’s the one of the many gifts I truly value from her decision.
Like Richard Bach tells us, sometimes in order to really love someone, you do have to set them free. That doesn’t always mean leaving them. It can mean letting go of being so attached to having them in your life.
My definition of a loving relationship is when you support your partner’s happiness no matter what, even if their happiness doesn’t include you. If that means they’d be happier without you, you honor that.
I should have seen that my wife was unhappy because of me and I should have left.
I realize we are not directly responsible for how other people feel but if we truly love our partner and want them to be happy, we sometimes have to come to the realization that we might not be the person that can meet their needs.
Hard truths are hard for a reason but they are also the impetus for change. Change can be hard too, but when it’s a change from misery it’s worth looking into.
Waiting for someone to take action when they aren’t the type of person to typically do so is like waiting for the earth to stop spinning. Sometimes you need to facilitate the changes you want to see in your relationship if it’s going to get any better.
Your relationship may or may not survive the changes but at least you will be able to move forward and start the healing process.