One thing I’ve learned as a therapist (and as a human) about being in a long-term romantic relationship is this: there will be points, possibly many points, where you want to quit it.
Maybe it’s because you can’t stand your wife’s loud breathing for one more moment, or the breakdown in communication with your boyfriend feels insurmountable, or it’s been six months since you had sex with your partner since becoming new parents.
You may be fantasizing about breaking up, divorcing, getting on Tinder, finding someone better, smarter, more sexuality compatible, or just generally less annoying. You may think your relationship is dead and it’s not going to get any better.
These moments are so tough and you are so not alone in feeling like you want to quit your relationship. This is SUCH a common feeling!
But there are a few tools and one metaphor I like to share with my therapy clients when they feel like this. Tools and a metaphor that, when considered, could help reduce your despair about the state of your relationship and, dare I say? even make you feel a little more hopeful.
Why Your Relationship Is Probably Like The Stock Market (yes, really).
Your relationship is probably a lot like the stock market.
Specifically, your relationship is probably filled with high highs and low lows which, as we all know, is par for the course with investing in the stock market.
But there’s a really big difference between taking a snapshot of the stock market on any given day versus looking at the overall trends over time.
On any given day you could feel total despair and want to get out as you see your stocks plummeting, potentially costing you thousands. Or you could feel like a rock star as you watch your investments get bullish and contemplate buying even more.
But neither of these scenarios would be an accurate portrayal of your portfolio’s overall performance nor indicative of a likely long-term reality for you.
Because when we step back and observe and analyze 100 years of data from the Dow Jones Industrial Average, we see that, while wild ebbs and flows are inevitable, the stock market has steadily risen and gone up over time.
So what does this have to do with your relationship?
Well, if you take a snapshot on any given day, it’s probably not going to be a very realistic indicator of your overall relationship health either.
If you take the snapshot on a day when you’re at each others’ throats, scrambling to get to work after discovering your engine won’t turn over and the dishwasher has flooded the kitchen, this isn’t likely to be representative.
Conversely, if you take the snapshot while you’re both on vacation, carefree and unencumbered and feeling blissfully back in love over margaritas, that’s probably not the most representative scenario either.
However, if you step back and look at the arc of history between you two, accounting for those daily/weekly/monthly highs and lows, would you see an overall upward growth trend, too?
For a lot of us, probably.
But it can be really, really hard to remember this when you’re in a big dip, a market crash, your own proverbial 2008 relationship meltdown if you will.
So what’s there to do then?
Four Tools for Making It Through “The Market Crashes.”
First of all, I want to clarify that not every relationship is meant to be stayed in forever.
A successful relationship can be one that you stay in, and it can be one that you both decide to leave.
And certainly, if there is domestic violence, addiction, or severe mental illness in the relationship, you need to consider many different factors way beyond what the scope of this article is addressing.
But for many of us not in situations like this, life begs the question of us often: how do we make it through the inevitable dips in our relationship that we mostly want to stay in?
Tool #1: Remember it’s a snapshot, not the whole story.
Using the above metaphor, reflect on the general trend of your relationship. Since you both got together, despite the “market fluctuations”, has there been a general upwards trend?
Have you both grown up a little more together? Are you more compassionate and tolerant and a better team that you were at the beginning? Have you become a better person in any way because of time with your mate?
Challenge your thoughts if you can only/want only to see the “dips” in your relationship. In rare cases, this may be true. But for most of us, there’s likely some highs and upward growth, too.
Try and recall and reflect on that and see if it helps support you in those times of “market dips” in your own relationship.
Tool #2: Be patient. Play the gratitude game. Reconnect back to why you fell in love with this person in the first place.
Like with so many things in life now, many of us want instant gratification and quick fixes. Swipe right, one-click ordering, all relationship problems resolved speedily.
But this isn’t really realistic.
Life is long and full of challenges. And so too will be our romantic relationships. And not all the problems within them will be solved overnight.
So it’s important to remember the secret ingredient of time as a balm to your relationship pain. The way things feel today may not feel the same in three months, six months, or a year from now.
Can you practice patience in your drive to see the unfulfilling dynamics between you resolved? I’m not saying that you need to be passive and do nothing about it (see tool #4), but I am saying, can you give it time to see the problems resolve? Can you practice patience?
And while doing that, can you practice the Gratitude Game with yourself, reflecting on 10 reasons you do actually like your mate (make this a daily practice!), can you reflect and reconnect back to why you fell in love with that person in the first place?
Those reasons are still likely true and valid and real and present within your relationship. They just may be covered up by what feels like “plummeting stocks” type feelings right now.
Tool #3: If you do want to break up, agree that you will break up in a regulated state.
If you feel like you want to quit your relationship and your partner does too, can you both agree to postpone and make that decision in a time and emotional space where you both feel emotionally regulated?
In other words, can you both agree not to break up when you’re at a low point and instead wait until things feel a little more stable?
Of course, definitely, give yourself permission to feel your feelings and reflect on them for the good information they contain. Your feelings are valid and contain clues for you. But making a decision when you are emotionally dysregulated or flooded is likely not going to be the best place to make a decision from.
So take some time and agree with your partner that you’ll discuss the possibility of separating and “quitting the stock market” on a day when you feel a little more stable.
And, indeed, bring this conversation to tool #4.
Tool #4: If you are in a dip and are floundering, get help before getting out.
I cannot emphasize this enough: long-term romantic relationship can be HARD. Really hard. And sometimes you may need to get some professional support to help you both cope and heal the patterns and scar tissue that’s built up over your years together.
That’s totally okay and normal and natural!
You would go to the doctor to get help treating an infection, wouldn’t you? You’d hire a lawyer to create a will and trust? Similarly, if your relationship is in pain and needing support and it’s beyond your scope and capacity to figure it out, why not seek out professional help, too?
So to that end, when your “stocks are dipping” and you’re in a proverbial “market crash”, I really highly recommend you seek out a couples counselor that you both feel comfortable with.
Someone who can help you weather the dips and possibly “tweak your portfolio” without jumping ship and selling off all of your stocks. Find someone who can support you in the painful times of your relationship.
Wrapping this up.
I hope you found this metaphor and these tools helpful!
And until next time, take very good care of yourself.