October 7, 2019

What to do when your partner stops trying

Pulling dead weight is exhausting. Hopefully you've never had to move a real dead body. But maybe you remember the last time your toddler had a full tantrum and you had to drag them, or the last time someone fell asleep in a bad spot. It's much harder than moving furniture or groceries. Many of the couples I see in my office are at least on some level committed to change, but what happens when one person isn't?

How do I know when they have totally checked out?

You've been asking for change, either subtly or straightforward. You've been asking yourself, 'What can I do to make them happier?' You've been trying to be a better and better partner. And all of this has gotten little to no response from your partner. Often the small, positive things that they used to do to show you love have stopped. Or worse yet, they have started doing negative, hurtful things and don't respond to your requests to stop. Usually this stage takes a year or more before you finally realize that they don't seem to care how you feel. You've become fed up with crying, begging, and feeling disappointed.

Is there anything I can do? I feel like I've tried everything.

First, as a counselor, I would say that if you haven't yet, you should request that you both find a professional to help you repair the relationship. If they refuse, then I suggest you attend yourself!  You have gone through a long period of difficult emotions, and you need someone to help you sort out your feelings, your needs, and how to handle life with a checked-out partner.  

Either alone, or with a professional, ask yourself these questions:

1. Have I clearly let them know how I feel? Often people think, 'Well they SHOULD KNOW how I feel!,' but trust me, they may not know the serious level of your feelings. Sometimes they need to know you're starting to think of the D-word.

2. Are there blocks to progress? If money is tight, it may make sense that Date Night can't happen, no matter how much you need it. Using some logic may help you take the sting out of their inaction.

3. How do I ACTUALLY feel about this? Many, Many times I have seen people who are just reacting to the rejection (usually from past trauma with others), and not truly out of love for their partner. Again, a therapist can help you figure out if you really love and want to keep you relationship with your partner, or if you simply have a problem with abandonment.  

As you work through these answers, you may come to the point of understanding that you may have to accept the things you cannot change, if you are not ready to separate. And that's okay too. It is okay to stop begging and trying, and to wait and see if change may happen on it's own. As a counselor, I HAVE seen this happen out of the blue.

So what do I do in the meantime?  

Understand that you have been disappointed and hurt. Ask yourself, what have you neglected for yourself, by focusing on getting them to change? As one of my male clients put it best, "I totally lost the best version of me trying to make someone else happy." I've even seen clients who've put off medical and dental appointments! Focus on your personal growth and development. Also, what experiences have you passed on because your partner didn't want to join you in? Go to that concert, that movie, that restaurant. Take that skiing lesson, that vacation, that adventure. The things you passed on have built resentment, and that never helps repair things.  

I'm not saying you have to give up on your partner, I'm just saying that at the end of the day you are still responsible for your own happiness, so don't lose yourself in the process!

For tips on healthy self-love, check this out!