What Is It About Apathy?

I’m continually astounded at the lengths couples go to in their quest to hurt each other. Most of the people who are looking through this blog are thankfully committed on some level to changing their patterns of behavior, but in thinking about the number of people who contact me in times of crisis, it leads me to wonder…

What is going on in our relationships that we leave it so long before we fix it?
Is it lack of awareness that there is a problem?
Is it the thought that this is what all relationships go through?
Is it a lack of skills to deal with the problem?
Or is it apathy to the situation you are in? Does it all look too hard?

When couples get married, there is often the romantic illusion that you will "live happily ever after", much like the role models of healthy marriages do. Nobody ever told us how hard marriages might be, much less equipped us with the knowledge and skills to deal with crises as they came up.

And there are crises. In every marriage. Don’t delude yourself that some couples live in wedded bliss their entire lives, and even if couples like this did exist, would you really want to be one of them? The thought of marrying a clone of myself would give me chills, so marrying someone different to oneself is logical, but bound to lead to differences from time to time. The problem here is that a little difference is good, but how much difference are we prepared to put up with? 

My thought here is that marriage problems are left to develop for such a long time because people look at the problem and the thought of making an effort to fix it just seems too much. Its so much easier to dig your heels in and have a good fight. And that is where it all goes wrong. Action sparks reaction, and vice versa, and a seemingly small problem can balloon into something of mammoth proportions. Scary huh?

Some of it can be denial too. Sure, you say, its a normal part of marital ups and downs. To call it a marriage problem or an issue is to make something of it that it isn’t. Worse still, calling it a problem can indicate to others, or more particularly yourself, that your match is not one made in heaven. So when does a wee problem stop being a regular part of life and become a "marital problem"?

That’s easy. When emotions become involved. Emotions are powerful things! And it is perhaps because we are so emotionally invested in our relationships that it is hard to admit that a small problem has become a "marital issue" To admit that you have a "marital issue" can bring up some scary connotations or images. Fighting couples, sleeping in the spare room, separation or… divorce.

So what do we do about it? Do we pretend it’s not happening and hope it will go away? That’s pretty wishful thinking. So the key to dealing with marital problems is to recognize them as such and have the motivation and courage to want to tackle them. It’s not always the most pleasant thing, especially when emotions are involved and solving your problems might involve hurting the feelings of the one you love. It might also involve hurting your feelings.

But why do you want to solve your problems? Because you can see past the immediate struggle, hurt and turbulence and see the calm waters in the distance. You also want to solve your problems because you love your partner. Yes, you LOVE your partner. That’s what makes the heartache and the struggle of marital conflicts worthwhile.

So next time you encounter a bump in the road to marital bliss, reach down to that place inside you and let your love for your partner give you the strength to face your problems instead of letting apathy win.

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