So the bloom is off the rose, and your relationship has been heading south for a few months or perhaps even years. Both of you know it, but neither of you talks about it.
You have entered the relationship doldrums.
There have been broken promises, harsh words and hurt feelings. Add to that the combination of poor communication and avoidance, and you get to the point where just looking at your partner fills you with ire.
Divorce may be a thought but not an option. Between the kids and the economy, it would only cause more pain, and neither of you can handle that. So you choose to live as a couple but don't connect, and that has got to be one of the most difficult places to be in. If the two of you don't change this dynamic, you will only hurt yourself and your partner more by acting out your pain.
The pain can manifest in a number of ways, like affairs (emotional and/or physical), self-destructive behaviours like using drugs and drinking to excess, or even violence. If you have thought of any of these things, you really must find a way to heal your relationship, and you most likely will need some help figuring it out.
Of course, therapy or marriage counseling is what comes to mind first, but there are other ways you can begin the healing. The simplest is by just starting to talk about your feelings and how the relationship isn't working for either of you. Agree with your partner not to shame or blame, but to talk about your own emotions and to do it in a way that expresses your feelings versus venting your anger.
It can be a little difficult to keep your emotions in check during this kind of conversation (which is why I suggest professional help), but at least give it a try. By putting your feelings on the table, you will see them differently, and try looking at things from your partner's perspective if you can. This process will definitely give you some deeper insight as to what is going on between you.
Even though things are tough right now, if you and your partner can summon up the courage and the love to commit to making things better, by whatever appropriate means necessary, you will have got over the biggest hurdle. Then you both must do your best to remain on good behaviour and try being nice and respectful to each other. This will make being a couple less toxic and allow some healing to take place.
No one changes overnight, and when it's your relationship that needs to change, it can take a while, but don't give up. Remember that love and family are the greatest gifts, and even when you enter the doldrums, there is always a way out.
Dr Barton Goldsmith is a California-based marriage and family therapist and the author of Emotional Fitness at Work.
Author: Barton Goldsmith