So, how about this new year that’s coming? Some people may be eagerly looking ahead, planning getaways, revelling in all that Christmas fun, and may be quite optimistic about the year ahead. Which is amazing. I am thrilled that this is your story.
But in working as a therapist, I am confident that there are a lot of folks out there who are dreading the calendar change, as it signals another year of the same hard stuff.
For some people the hard stuff may be heading to an unfulfilling job, or navigating a difficult stage of parenting, walking with aging or ill parents, or for some folks who are holding lots of pain on the inside – the hard of the year ahead may be simply staying alive.*
What the Christmas season is especially good at though, is putting a magnifying glass on tension in people’s relationships – all that time with family, being out of routine (and if you were in Winnipeg this year, being snowed in) can really highlight the prickly points in marriages that can be carefully overlooked during the rest of the year.
When the activities have stopped, work is on hold, and both parties are locked in to the same activities, the relationship is without the day-to-day buffers that can help take the edge off the conflicts that might be bubbling under the surface. These buffers may help keep the relationship on life support throughout the year, but when holidays come it’s like someone came in and pulled the plug on your marriage.
Maybe you’re here thinking, not another year of a marriage like this. I. Just. Can’t.
To start, let me say that I’m sorry to hear that it has been hard. I’m sorry that the vision of partnership you had at the beginning has been slowly eroded – and that you’re left with this instead. This was not what you signed up for. This is a heart-breaking, grief worthy reality.
Some of you may have partners who feel the same, and you both may be aware of the dissatisfaction with the way the marriage/partnership is going. Or maybe only one partner is feeling hopeless, carefully holding in their sadness and expectations so as to not disturb whatever tenuous peace may exist.
No matter the starting point, I want to assure you that this year does not have to look like the hard one that is almost finished.
It doesn’t have to be another crappy year of just getting by. Perhaps this year is the one that your old marriage or partnership can be put to rest – where you can express and grieve and make sense of all the ways in which things have gotten off the rails in the marriage. Maybe this year is the one you put words to your pain and hurt and loneliness and that feeling of being unseen – and you take the stand and stop putting up with it.
Maybe this year it is time to build something new and solid and safer.
What if I said that this may be possible to do with the same partner you have right now?
Marriage counselling is an interesting thing. A hard thing. Like, really hard. Especially at first. But it is also a space where you and your partner, with the help of a skilled clinician, can dismantle a broken relationship, grieve the losses, and then work at rebuilding the marriage using some still-good old parts along with some newly acquired ones.
Maybe it’s possible for this year to be hard in a different way. Not in a hard that leads to more pain and diaconnection, but rather a hard that leads to new growth and a new depth of connection with your partner.
So if you’re feeling like you want to crawl back into bed rather than usher in a new year – maybe it’s time to get help and do the hard work so that it doesn’t have to be so hard anymore.
If you need some help with this, contact Sabrina to get moving towards a better 2017 than you can right now imagine.
*and for those who are working hard at staying alive, I see you. I know it’s hard. But you matter, and I’m glad you are still here. In the event of a mental health emergency, please contact your local crisis line or head to an emergency room. Links to resources can be found here.