Can couples have a lasting connection?

Some couples therapists claim they are able to predict whether a couple will remain together or not, but there are many factors that can affect a relationship and we simply cannot see into the future. As an experienced Clinical Psychologist and couples therapist, I can get a gut feeling for couples when I work with them. But I cannot actually predict whether or not they will ‘make it’. Sadly, sometimes I am wrong. Sometimes the differences were irreconcilable, sometimes the pain and the damage is too widespread. Sometimes they have struggled for too long, making it too late for repair.

So I ask myself these questions, thinking about a lasting connection:

Why do so many marriages end in divorce?

How can we make wise decisions about staying or leaving?

How can we look after the connection with our partner?

Why do so many marriages end in divorce?

* Poor compatibility
Do couples divorce because they did not make wise choices when they selected each other in the first place, got together with and may have married ‘the wrong person’? Someone who they do not make a good match with, and that incompatibility eventually causes the couple to grow apart? Maybe some couples were never meant to be together?

* Not making enough effort
Sometimes relationships end because people take the relationship commitment too lightly, where they may not value the relationship enough to make the efforts needed to keep the connection strong. They may start to take each other for granted and stop appreciating each other, eventually realising that they treat strangers and friends better than they treat each other.

* Low tolerance
Sometimes the D word gets uttered when the partners they cannot tolerate the hard times, thus not being able to repair a rupture in the relationship and not manage to ride out a rough patch. There can be an expectation on love to be ‘perfect’ in today’s society which makes us unable to tolerate when it is only just so-so. Relationships can also end when there is a low tolerance of the individual differences between the partners – wanting only the strengths but none of the weaknesses.

* Leaving it too late
The one pattern I see time and time again in my couples clinic is that couples leave it too long before they seek help. Regardless of the reason for the ruptures, they don’t take action to reconnect and repair soon enough. Often a couple has struggled for years before they seek help. This may well be a strong reason for the divorce rates – leaving it too late.

It may well be all of the above! Different couples have different factors leading them down the path of divorce.

It is important to note that some marriages and relationships end because of far more sinister reasons, such as domestic violence. If you are experiencing violence, threats of violence or feeling controlled by your partner, please seek help immediately.  
How can we make wise decisions about staying or leaving?
There are many reasons why the connection dwindles in a romantic relationship. Some couples go through traumatic experiences such as infidelity, where there is a lot of work needed to repair and rebuild the connection, should they choose that. Sometimes the couples work is focused on helping the partners to amicably separate and sever the connection. Sometimes the couples work is aimed at helping an already happy and functioning couple learn skills in enhancing the connection, as a way to protect the relationship and make it sturdier against any future ruptures. Helping the partners aware of potential storms on the sea that is their relationship, to help them develop skills in dropping anchors before they set sail on the journey. A good example of that is premarital preparation sessions, or preparing for having a baby.

Ultimately, couples therapy is not about keeping couples together. It is about helping couples make wise decisions and choices about their connection to each other. Helping them to choose whether to stay or to leave, and understanding that just deciding not to leave is not the same as making a commitment to the partner to spend time and effort working on the relationship when choosing to stay.

Living life, light and dark – weathering a storm and appreciating the calm

This is my invitation to you:
Do not wait for the connection to dwindle.
Do not wait until the positives of your relationship have gone, and the negatives have taken hold.
Do not just wait for the dark, stormy waters to come, threatening to drown you and your partner, or put blinders up to the fact that the storm is out there, perhaps on some other ocean for the moment.

Because the storm will come. We are all living this life, light and dark, and in the light times we forget how hard life can be and how much love can hurt. In the dark times, we think that things will never get better and the storm will never end. But often it does. The question is just what casualties it takes with it.  

My job is to teach couples how to weather a storm in the dark times and how to appreciate the calm, clear seas in the light times. Often we take the good times for granted and try our hardest to escape the bad times.

Our relationship wellbeing is as important as our physical health
This is my urge to you:
See your relationship with your partner as you might see your physical health.

Our good health is something we often take for granted until we do not have it any longer. We forget about it until one day, when we are sick, in pain or physically weakened. Then we make efforts to restore our physical health, to repair it, to revive it, to recover it, to rehabilitate it. The ‘re’ part is about a return, to good health. In some cases, unfortunately the cruelty and suffering of life means that our good health cannot be recovered and someone passes away. A life has been lost.

The same goes for our romantic relationships – we often take them for granted until the love has grown thin, become weakened, or there has been an injury causing pain, which is how we would conceptualise an infidelity or betrayal of trust. We then might try to work hard to recover the good health of the relationship, but in some cases the injury is so severe that the connection is permanently broken. A love has been lost.

When it comes to our bodies, we can choose to look after our health and wellbeing before we get sick, in pain or weak. We can make wise choices, choosing to exercise or move our bodies more day to day, as light prevention. Using self-care. If we wait until we are in pain or sick before we take some actions to look after our bodies, we cannot be surprised that we will need to see a health professional such as a doctor or physiotherapist. Of course we can do everything ‘right’ and still get sick or injured. But we can improve the odds, by being proactive and looking after ourselves. The same goes for your social connections, especially in your romantic relationship.

Prevention is easier than intervention
There simply are no guarantees and nobody can say with accuracy if your love and connection will last or not. We can do everything “right” in looking after our love, and still lose it. We have to tolerate that uncertainty in love and in life, as nobody holds the answer.

But we can improve our chances by taking action straight away, to invest in our relationship wellbeing and in creating a meaningful life together with our partners. Choosing to stay, rather than just deciding not to leave. Choosing to protect the connection, choosing to nourish it and look after it, and choosing to act with love and compassion. To let love and compassion flow from us to our partner, to be able to ask for and receive it from our partner, and to also show ourselves that love and compassion. Using self-care.

Not every couple needs couples therapy, but all couples need to look after themselves and their relationship. To both survive and thrive, through the light and through the dark. This is why I have created the Couples Compassion Course – not a couples therapy, but a skills training for couples wanting to protect their connection.

READ MORE HERE: Couples Compassion Course