By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD
All long-term relationships go through difficult times. Whether you no longer feel any passion or all the passion you feel seems to be anger, you might lose perspective on why you are even trying to work things out. You might be on the verge of giving up.
Before you walk (or run) away, try balancing these struggles with thoughts about the positives in your relationship. To do this, consider the following three questions. They can help you to develop a more positive attitude about your present, past, and future together.
What makes you want to stay together?
While you could have called it quits by now, you haven’t; and you aren’t sure that you really want to (if you did, you wouldn’t be reading this). So, why is that? What makes you want to stay together? Think long and hard about this. Your answer might be that you love each other; or that you have so much invested in your relationship that you want to give it every realistic chance. Whatever your reasons, talk about them together. Let them seep into your very being and inspire you to re-connect.
How have you managed to stay together?
If you are upset with your partner, you might be inclined to answer this by pointing to destructive ways of coping, such as leading separate lives or avoiding all conflict. However, you have no doubt also used some positive ways of coping. So, ask yourself what you do (or have done in the past) to keep enjoyment, appreciation, and a desire for your continued relationship alive. For instance, you might actively respect each other’s thoughts and feelings, or one of you might walk away when things get heated – only to return to a calmer discussion later. You might also see your partner really trying to please you, which can help you stay invested in working things out during particularly frustrating times.
What makes you think you can find a way to continue being together?
Given that you haven’t ended your relationship yet, you must have some hope for a happier future. Where do you find this hope? What do you see that makes you think that things could possibly get better? For instance, you might believe that your partner truly loves you and wants to find a way to make it work. You might also see that he or she is making earnest attempts to change.
If you have even a small reserve of positive feelings and realistic hopes for a better future together, these questions can help you highlight them. They can help increase your motivation to re-engage positively with your partner. Then, of course, it is up to you to act on that motivation and create the relationship that you want.
The Art of Relationships blog posts are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for individual professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need help for an emotional or behavioral problem, please seek the assistance of a psychologist or other qualified mental health professional.