Two Sides of the Coin is a series of articles written by Ian Steinberg, a matrimonial and family law attorney, in conjunction with an array of other professionals from different industries. The series provides insights into issues from the perspective of each party to a divorce. Each article provides readers with practice tips that are helpful when navigating through the divorce process.
Relationships are not easy. It is not uncommon for couples to find themselves going through a rough patch or stuck in a rut. What do you do when this happens? When you love your spouse but you are not getting what you want out of the relationship. When you are having arguments or you feel like you are drifting further apart.
How do you decide if it is just a setback or a reason to part ways? This is an incredibly tough decision to make, but there can be a feeling of regret if you do not at least give it one more shot. Here are some tips to help get your relationship back on track:
- Be Willing to Have the Hard Conversations
One of the most important questions to ask yourself is whether or not you are willing to have the hard conversations with your spouse. Do you have the courage to sit down and express what you feel needs to change and ask them to do it?
Most people tend to check out, disengage, and avoid the difficult but necessary conversations. This is often out of fear that we will be given answers that we do not want to hear or that our words will be met with resistance from our partners. Instead of staying silent, find the courage to address what is bothering you.
Oftentimes, the difficult conversations will bring you a sense of relief, because you may discover that your partner is actually willing to look at the problem and try to resolve it with you. Perhaps your spouse was feeling the same way but similarly did not want to rock the boat. No matter whether you are the monied or non-monied spouse or the custodial or non-custodial parent, having the difficult conversations will often give you clarity as to the next step forward, one way or the other.
- Be Aware of Your Spouse’s Needs
One of the best ways to strengthen your relationship with your spouse is to make sure you are aware of his or her needs. When times get tough, people often become so focused on making sure their own needs are met that they often forget that there is another person in the relationship.
It is important to take a step back and ask yourself if you truly and honestly understand your spouse’s needs. If you do not know their needs, it is unlikely that you are meeting them.
If you are the spouse who tends to spend more time with the children, are you making sure to encourage a relationship between the children and the other parent? Perhaps what your spouse needs is your assistance in fostering the relationship with the children without your handling every task. If you are the spouse that typically handles the finances, are you being transparent to ensure your spouse feels involved? Taking the time to remember your spouse‘s needs, what motivates them, and what makes them feel loved and fulfilled, will go a long way toward building a better relationship.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Express Your Needs
Being able to identify your own needs is just as valuable as being aware of the needs of your spouse. We all have core needs - to be loved, heard, understood, and seen. The first step is to identify which of your needs are being met, and which are not. One option, as discussed above, is to have that challenging conversation in which you express your concerns with your spouse. However, you can also meet some of these needs on your own.
It is important to make sure that you take care of yourself because that will allow you to have the space to be there for your family. This is especially important if you are the spouse who is the primary caregiver to the children. It is easy to neglect yourself in the name of being a good parent. If you express to your spouse your need for a “break” this could allow you to be more relaxed and therefore more present in your relationship. If you are the traditional breadwinner, maybe all you need is for your spouse to acknowledge your contributions to the family instead of highlighting the time you spend away. Expressing your need for your spouse’s recognition will go a long way toward strengthening your relationship. As the old adage goes, you cannot pour from an empty cup.
- Be a Part of the Solution
While it certainly is challenging, it also is critical to take a step back and ask yourself “what is my role in this?” It takes two to tango and recognizing this is a great first step. When the going gets tough, people tend to withdraw or disengage and build walls that make it impossible for anyone else to break through. Have you been making it hard for your partner to break through to you?
Instead of being a part of the problem, try to be part of the solution. If you were not the spouse typically involved with child-rearing, make a conscious effort to engage in more activities with the children, or even plan family events. As the more child-centric parent, be receptive to these events and keep the lines of communication open. It is often surprising what a big impact a little effort and a little communication will have.
While it can be frustrating to stay in a relationship and keep fighting, if your issues are addressed in the proper way, you and your spouse can become stronger together. And sometimes, it’s really best to leave and start anew, however daunting that may seem.
Ian Steinberg is a matrimonial and family law attorney with Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at (212) 867-9123.
Ana Weisberger is a certified life coach and her mission is to help people create great relationships, primarily with themselves, then with their significant others. She specializes in helping those who are struggling with dating patterns, or going through a divorce or breakup. Ana can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can schedule a complimentary assessment session with her at calendly.com/talkwithana/consultation-call.