I was talking to a man the other day who had recently found out his wife was having an affair. He got this info in a double-whammy conversation where she confessed the affair and asked for a divorce. He was running the gamut of emotions you might expect, like devastation, rage, and profound sadness. However, he was mostly shocked. He professed he had no idea their marriage was in, “that kind of trouble.” it’s just an unhappy relationship, but he didn’t know it was that unhappy.
Now I tend to think, men really can be blindsided by these kinds of things, where women will typically have suspicions, that most of the time they ignore. Women are no smarter than men, they are just built slightly more in tune with the emotional health of people and relationships around them.
However, this man did know something was wrong. He just had a hard time putting his finger on what it was. Bottom line, he knew he hadn’t been happy in the relationship for a long time. It wasn’t like something “serious” was going on, until the affair of course. They weren’t fighting much. The were mostly pleasant to each other. But, their marriage didn’t have any joy.
There was no looking forward to being together. There was no passion. As he talked about respecting her as a person, but maybe just not being “in love” with her, I was somewhat surprised he wasn’t the one who’d cheated.
In a recent interview, I was asked what the warning signs of a marriage on the brink were. I’m sure the interviewer was expecting to hear, abuse, infidelity, dishonesty, loss of intimacy, addiction, or any number of other big ticket relationship deal breakers. When I answered the question by saying it was declining marital satisfaction, he was tongue tied. He characterized that answer as elementary.
I think it’s anything but elementary. Not being happy in a relationship is the number one leading cause of all kinds of other bad things. In most cases, those other big ticket deal breakers are symptoms of just not being happy enough. Typically a couple won’t seek help for “not being as happy as they used to be” and that’s too bad. At the “I’m just not happy” stage of trouble, there is still a lot of hope for getting a relationship back on track. At the “I’ve had an affair and want a divorce” stage of trouble, not so much.
Not being happy in a relationship is the problem in and of itself. Quite possibly it is the most serious problem any two people can face in a relationship. Ignoring declining relationship satisfaction is like ignoring a grapefruit sized tumor on a cat scan. If your relationship isn’t bringing you joy, it’s sick.
Ignoring that sickness won’t get you more joy, that’s for sure. Get face to face with your partner and start a discussion. Get professional help, alone or together. Get clear on what’s missing, where you want to be as a couple and how to get there. The bottom line is an unhappy relationship can’t be dismissed for long because it develops symptoms you can’t ignore.
Here’s the truth. If you aren’t happy, that’s plenty of cause for alarm and plenty of reason to get help or get out. Happiness is the point. Unhappy relationships make for unhappy lives. If a relationship or a partner doesn’t contribute positively to the overall balance joy in your life, then it’s time to retool it or ditch it, even if that relationship is a marriage. There’s no point sticking around until a relationship develops destructive symptoms.
Lisa Hayes, The Love Whisperer, is an LOA Relationship Coach. She helps clients leverage Law of Attraction to get the relationships they dream about and build the lives they want. Lisa is the author of the newly released hit book, Score Your Soulmate and How to Escape from Relationship Hell and The Passion Plan.
Posted on 06/05/2011 at 12:00:00 AM