Is the Issue Me, My Partner, or an Outside Force?
How to overcome outside stressors wreaking havoc on your relationship.
I theorize that a great many relationships end because one person wanted something the other was not providing. I also think a great deal of drama and anguish in relationships stems from this basic issue. But we tend to hold on as long as we can, hoping, praying, that the other person will realize how much we love them and want to provide us with that one thing we keep asking for that they are failing to provide. But is the issue actually something they are failing at? Or is it something, some pressure from the outside that is causing the issue?
I am in the midst of this struggle right now. Torn between leaving to find someone who will give me what I want and staying with the boyfriend who brings more happiness than I have ever had. Because it can be both ways, we can be desperately unhappy with someone who makes us happier than we’ve ever been. It is the height of our happiness that shows us just how unhappy we are when things aren’t going well. And this isn’t some drama-laden, desperately in love romance I am in. It is a healthy relationship with two mature adults who enjoy their time together. The issue here is when we are together, we are happy, when we aren’t, we are not — yet he refuses to take time to be together. And it is incredibly frustrating for myself, and in your situation, for you as well.
Why is this relationship so frustrating?
You are likely asking yourself this question when you lay in bed at night wondering exactly what you are supposed to do. Wondering how you can fix it, even though nothing is technically broken. You have probably thrown logic at your partner and even tried emotional please, thinking the issue is their failure to react to what you are saying. No matter what you do or say, the issue remains. So, you start to think perhaps the issue is bigger than something that can be solved by either one of you making a change or adjustment. Maybe you start searching the web for articles or advice on how to handle the issue, but none of the advice really speaks to your specific issues, your specific parameters, or the specific pressures on your relationship.
This is why it can be so frustrating. But it isn’t the relationship itself that is frustrating, it is the process of trying to “fix” something that isn’t exactly broken. What you are really experiencing is a variation in the way the two of you think about or look at things, coupled with the unique pressures placed upon your relationship. For myself, the lack of time derives from busy (and varying) schedules, an overbearing and controlling father, and a busy LA freeway between the two of us. In my case, I have to pull back and realize these are the frustrating circumstances that are creating the issue in the relationship. For yourself, whatever the issues are, take a step back and try to find the actual stressors that are causing the pressure. Isolate them and acknowledge the effect they are having on the relationship. Realize that the relationship itself is not (necessarily) the irritating thing, nor is your partner, it is the variables that are irritating.
But am I just making excuses for the reasons why this relationship isn’t working?
Good question! I ask myself this A LOT. In a way, yes, you are. You are isolating the issues and breaking your relationship into parts, and that can detract from other issues you and your partner have with each other specifically, (i.e. you can’t stand how he treats your family, or how he is always 1 hour late to pick you up and never says sorry). If you use this to avoid those actual, legitimate respect issues, then it is an excuse. But if you know you and your partner are actually strong, healthy, and happy together, this is not an excuse.
I finally stopped questioning whether I was making excuses when I realized that the time we actually spend together is wonderful time. Even if we happen to be arguing about something, we are not unhappy together. We are both happy to be in each other's company and we thoroughly enjoy our conversation and time together. When we aren’t together, when he’s being hounded by his father, and I am missing him, we both get touchy and sad and neither of us manage that well. This is where our issue stems from. Those issues aren’t an excuse for an underlying issue, they are the actual issue.
Okay. I figured out the actual issue, how do I fix it?
Again, the issue may not be something that can be easily fixed. Honestly, for myself, leaving the state seems to be the easiest fix. But even then, his father will still be overbearing and controlling… just from another state. The trick here is to determine if the issue is something long term or short term. If the issue is his father’s domineering nature, is he ever going to put his foot down and protect your relationship? Or is he planning on hiding out from his father and avoiding the issue? Perhaps he has no interest in leaving at all and intends to remain under his father’s control.
You have to determine if the issue is something you can live with or not. If it is short term, can you wait it out and then try and make the necessary adjustments down the line? Or, if its long term, can you two find a way to deal with the issue, or at least find a way to work around it? If the two of you can’t acknowledge the issue or work together to find a way to work with it, then you should question if the relationship does have some underlying problems you didn’t originally see. In order for this to work, the relationship has to be a partnership with both of you working towards common goals together. If that is missing, your relationship might not be long lived.
But what if we figured out a work-around and I am still frustrated?
I wish I could say more about this than I am about to… but you’re going to be frustrated. Just because you have a game plan to deal with the issue doesn’t mean the issue will no longer be irritating. Afterall, it is an issue for a reason. You are more than welcome to feel irritated about it! But it is even more important to try and focus on the solutions you and your partner have developed together.
Take refuge in the fact that both of you realize the issue and have acknowledged the stressor. The work-around or solution the two of you have developed is the fruit of your labors. That is the precious thing the two of you created together. Sort of a pre-marriage practice, if you want to see it that way. You two have been bombarded with a stressor, you determined the issue, you addressed it, discussed it, and came up with a solution/temporary work-around. Those are some heavy duty, healthy relationship skills right there! Bask in that, focus on that, and realize that by doing that, you and your partner are stronger than you were before. Irritation be damned!