Dr. Shirley Glass

"Reflections By Glass"
HANG IN -- OR HANG IT UP?

Every relationship has its ups and downs. People in long term marriages often recall times when they were at the brink of divorce and not only survived but recovered and had a wonderful life together. Others stay together for a lifetime of bitterness and unhappiness. I see people leave relationships impulsively and regret it, and I see others who can't believe why they didn't leave sooner. When we are in a big slump, how do we know whether it is time to call it quits and throw in the towel, or whether we can pick up the pieces and make it work.

1. Physical and emotional abuse

   Throw in the Towel:

  • If you are only staying because you are afraid to leave.
  • If you feel like a prisoner in your own home.
  • If partner blames you for provoking their anger.
  • If you feel like you are losing your sense of identity.

   Pick Up the Pieces

  • If the abuse has been linked to drug or alcohol, and your partner is in recovery.
  • If the fights are interactive ones where you participate equally in the escalation, and you are involved in couples therapy to learn conflict resolution.
  • If partner admits responsibility for the abuse and is committed to long term therapy and/or medication.

2. Financial irresponsibility

   Throw in the Towel:

  • If you have lost vital assets due to partner's reckless spending or gambling.
  • If partner acts entitled to buy extravagant personal items but doesn't have money for the basics like groceries.

   Pick Up the Pieces

  • If you have enabled your partner by encouraging their spending or by continuously bailing them out.
  • If their over-spending is a symptom of power struggles in the relationship.

3. Infidelity

   Throw in the Towel:

  • If partner has no compassion for your pain.
  • If partner justifies the betrayal or minimizes the significance of the infidelity.
  • If partner continues to lie and deceive you.

   Pick Up the Pieces

  • If partner shows remorse and empathy for your devastation.
  • If partner takes responsibility for understanding their vulnerabilities.
  • If partner is willing to discuss the betrayals openly and honestly.
  • If the unfaithful behavior has stopped.

Sometimes people leave relationships because the passion is gone, or because the loving feelings have diminished. This could be a big mistake. Most relationships shift from romantic idealization to a period of disillusionment. Those who keep working at it then move into a reality based mature love in which differences and minor flaws are accepted. Lack of loving feelings can be caused by unresolved resentments or insufficient of time and attention on the relationship. Remember if you leave to start another relationship, you will eventually have to struggle with many of the same issues.Why not try to maximize the one you are already committed to. If you can't improve things by yourselves, then try couples therapy or a marriage education course (www.SmartMarriages.com) before you give up. Behave in loving ways, and the feelings will start flowing back. Remember, love is not just a feeling -- love is also a verb.

This column appeared on oxygen.com, part of Oxygen Media. All rights reserved

© Dr. Shirley Glass