Most romantic relationships begin where everything is lovey-dovey and your time together as a couple is just wonderful. But once children, property and finances are added to the relationship mix that “honeymoon phase” can quickly wear off.
Change in a relationship is inevitable as you face challenges and hurdles over the months and years, but it’s whether you can work through it together that makes the difference to your relationship’s wellbeing, continuity and resilience. That resilience can be sorely tested and it is natural to sometimes wonder if what you had at the start of your relationship is still as strong.
When you are feeling emotional, it can affect your ability to calmly find solutions to concerns or problems or even consider answers to relationship issues. In the heat of the moment you may perceive a relationship problem – or difficulties – as impossible to solve or unacceptable, when that may not be the case. It can also seem less straightforward at that time to see the good in our partner and remember the happy moments you have experienced together as a couple.
You may reach a point when you question whether to stay or leave a relationship. This does not mean you need to make a decision today. When it feels right, you may want to consider the reasons you would want to stay in the relationship – what are the positives and how does it enhance your life? You may want to try and get an overview of the relationship dynamic and look at factors such as:
- Has good communication between you been maintained throughout your relationship?
- Do you speak to each other respectfully?
- Are resentments being held onto and rehashed?
- Are you going through a period where everything seems to be going wrong?
- Does your partner continue to support you and vice versa?
- Do you feel a strong connection or bond is no longer there?
If these and other factors reveal that you are noticing more negatives than positives in your relationship, this could be a sign that you need to put more energy into your marriage or partnership. Most of us are aware of the notion that great relationships take effort to maintain. You may want to list what you believe has changed between you – it may help you to see if this a bad patch, a bundle of irritations and frustrations that will pass or something deeper and more complex?
After a while, you may weigh up your lives together and reach a point where you want to consider working through this fracture in your relationship and your partner does too. Guidance from a trained relationship counsellor at Relationships Australia NSW can help couples or individuals reach constructive, positive insights on how to address current or ongoing issues in the relationship.
One way to do this is to look at how you communicate as a couple and ask yourselves could it be better? Relationships Australia NSW has a Couples Communication Course to help people communicate more effectively and strengthen your relationship. It can assist you to learn new skills to clarify and reflect on problems, set goals and learn to see things differently to reach more positive outcomes as a couple.
It could be that recent unexpected events have caused a serious breakdown in the relationship such as an admission (or the discovery) of infidelity. It may be helpful to know that determining whether to stay or leave a relationship after such a revelation is something you do not have to do on your own. A counsellor is not there to tell you to stay or leave your relationship – that is between you and your partner – and your decisions about your future need to be about what is best for you – but they can help you determine whether you can work through this and even eventually feel forgiveness for what has occurred.
In some cases, the process of thinking of leaving a relationship can be easier to navigate emotionally because you feel that the spark between you is no longer there or you have come to the conclusion that you have drifted apart and no longer want the same things. This could be a one-sided perspective and your partner may ask you to reconsider and look at ways of finding that spark again.
Or you may reach the point – before, during or after counselling – where you come to the conclusion that the relationship is broken and cannot be mended.
You may worry about how a separation or divorce will affect your children. However, “staying together for the sake of the children” can be more harmful than leaving a marriage or relationship – living in a hostile environment can teach children to only know a relationship where there is no affection, clear communication or love.
A six-session program run by Relationships Australia NSW for separated parents can also help your children during a family separation. The Parenting After Separation course helps you to co-parent and support your children through a relationship change. These group sessions for separated parents will be able to help you see your problems more clearly, reach new perspectives and more positively accept change. You will also be guided about how best to manage an ongoing relationship with an ex-partner and minimise conflict while also supporting your children.
As your relationship comes to an end, remember to try to make the right decisions for you when you feel you have gained the necessary perspectives and feel strong enough to move forward. It is okay to take small steps rather than try to deal with everything at once.
While it is true you do not need to make a final decision about staying or leaving your relationship immediately – an exception would be where you (and your children) are at repeated risk of physical, mental and emotional harm such as domestic abuse. Seek professional help as soon as you feel safe to do so.
If you feel that you need help to deal with your relationship, Relationships Australia NSW offers various counselling services, including face-to-face and online. To speak to a counsellor today follow this link: http//www.relationshipsnsw.org.au/support-services/face-to-face counselling/ or if you would like to know more about our courses, go to www.relationshipsnsw.org.au/support-services