As a couple therapist, I mostly meet people who know their relationship is not working for them in the way they want. They believe it could be much better, they just don’t know how to do it.
Often anger and disappointment have got in the way of showing kindness and love. My job is to help them back into the relationship that fulfils and satisfies them. With folk like these, if they can take the step of coming to therapy, they can create the relationship they want to live in.
However I sometimes meet people who have come to the realisation that they want to leave their relationship, but cannot bear to do so., are afraid to do so, or think doing so might be a huge mistake. When a relationship ends it can be very complicated, separating is not what was intended when we got together, there may be property, children, friends all sorts of things involved by the time we realise it is not working for us.
Sometimes the seeds of the ending were there in the beginning, if people felt bullied into the relationship, or got into it in order to have children, not because they really loved the person. Sometimes they were in love with the idea of a relationship, not the reality, or they needed security and money, but not the person that goes with it. A relationship is sometimes harder than expected, and if the love is not there in the beginning, making a success of it lacks a vital ingredient. In arranged marriages the situation is entirely different so that is not what I am writing about here.
About thirty years ago, I met a couple who had been married for a long time and were tense and irritable together, they were arguing, not having sex, did not seem to like each other at all. Originally the wife had rather chased the husband into marriage when he was not quite over his previous girlfriend. They came to therapy to see if fixing the sex would help. Suddenly out of the blue they realised that it was not about sex, they truly did not want to be together. The husband blurted it out first, to his astonishment, then the wife realised that she agreed, and suddenly they relaxed. They had both been hiding from the truth, afraid of what it would mean.
Over the next few sessions we had helped them to separate amicably, which they did, and I heard from each of them about a year later that each had met somebody else and was happier than they had ever been.
When faced with something we are afraid of, we find all sorts of reasons not to do it, a very human reaction, but not facing things can make us anxious, depressed, preoccupied , irritable, struggling with daily life. One of the reasons people stay is because of the fear of being alone, and the very act of staying prevents them from ever meeting a person they could love and be happy with.