In last week’s post, I discussed one powerful way to deal with stable misery in your relationship. To recap, you might be living in stable misery if:
- Your relationship feels bearable but unfulfilling.
- You want your relationship to thrive but you’re too emotionally, mentally, or spiritually drained to put in the effort.
- Your relationship has gone from a perpetual slumber party between best friends to frustrated roommates.
- You feel more competent and fulfilled in your career and with your kids than you do in your relationship.
Once stable misery seeds begin to sprout in your relationship, there are many roots that keep it fed — triggers from painful parts of your past (many that occurred before the relationship even started); overwhelm; an inability to find balance between the kids, other priorities, and the partnership; beliefs that you or the relationship itself are “broken”… just to name a few.
But here’s the thing, the roots I described above, in and of themselves, aren’t the main issue.
Something I hear people in a stable misery relationship say things like —
“Every time we try to talk, we end up fighting so we just don’t try anymore.”
“We just talk about safe stuff and ignore the rest.”
Does this sound familiar?
When my husband, Patrick and I were in hard core stable misery, these phrases were our theme song. We tried attacking the roots – I entered therapy to deal with my past “stuff,” we went on regular date nights, and cut back on stressful things at work. These things helped for a while, but eventually we found ourselves right back where we began.
It was SOOOO frustrating! Then I had an ‘ah-ha’ moment.
I realized that we trained ourselves to be this way! The roots weren’t the issue, the unhelpful patterns we fell into while trying to talk about the roots were the issue.
More specifically, we entered into a pattern where we learned to speak from the triggers, overwhelm, and unhelpful beliefs as opposed to speaking about them.
When stuck in these unhelpful patterns we often evoked what I call the 4 Horseman Mindset — pain, blame, shame, and avoidance — we blamed and sometimes shamed each other, which caused pain. This cycle ultimately led us to feel exhausted and avoid difficult conversations all together (which of course just gave the roots time to burrow deeper into our marriage — breaking many sewer lines along the way…yuck…lol).
So How Do You Interrupt these Patterns?
You just avoid having difficult conversations, of course!
Look, cut yourselves some slack, if you’re anything like Patrick and I were, you ignore difficult conversations for a good reason! Because if you’re living in stable misery, you’ve likely learned that difficult conversations lead to painful consequences — yelling, shutting down, resentment — again and again. Eventually, just the possibility of a difficult conversation sends your brains into fight-flight-freeze mode.
And if you’re still anything like us, once fighting and walking away zaps your energy, you enter “relationship freeze mode” aka Stable Misery.
Have ya been there? Are you there now?
To get out of stable misery, you have to start retraining your brain to once again feel safe in deep conversation by engaging in safe (non-root) conversations that go deeper than “how as your day?” and “how about the kids?” The more you do this, the more you remind your brain that vulnerable conversations do not have to lead to arguments. You get in the habit of leaning into vs away from one another for connection and fulfillment.
My Gift to You!
I’ve created a list of powerful questions that you and your partner can use to begin interrupting those pesky patterns:
These questions can help you and your partner:
- Form new patterns that lead you to feel calm during conversations.
- Get that fire going between you again through reconnection.
- Interrupt unhelpful patterns that raise the, “Beware not to go there!” flags in your brain.
- Learn to see each other as you are now (versus the stagnant stories you’ve created that may lead to resentment or hopelessness).
- Start engaging conversations that aren’t so charged.
- Go deeper than, “what’s for dinner” or “how are the kids.”
- Have FUN!
Print them out, plan quiet time together, grab some dinner, pour a nice glass of [insert your fav drink here] and start with the questions that spark curiosity within you.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
I created this gift to inspire you and your partner, not to limit you to the list. So, if additional questions bubble up within you, break from the list and go with yours!
Also, you may hit a question that tap dances on one of your root topics. You’ll know it because you’ll begin to feel discomfort or anxiety. Ease into these questions. Start by simply sharing the emotions and body sensations they trigger within you.
If you’re in stable misery, I invite you to begin interrupting those unhelpful patterns with your partner today! Download and print out your free copy of the Elemental LivingTM: 25 Powerful Questions to Strengthen Your Partnership today!
P.S. If you’re reading and thinking, “CRAP! This is us! We’re in stable misery.” Take a breath and let’s hop on a call to discuss how I can help. As always, ya know I love hearin’ from ya!
P.S.S While interrupting patterns is a valuable first step, making sure they stay that way is even more valuable. Maybe stable misery has become your relationships twisted “safe space” to avoid arguments. Or maybe there is no “safe space” and you’re just arguing. In either case, I’ve been in both places and so have many of my clients. Let’s talk about how I can help you go from stable misery and into that fulfilling relationship you and your partner so deeply crave.