Still Turning, Definitely On the Right TrackMy partner and I wound up so enmeshed and embittered by hard stuff we'd gone through together that we were right on the edge of the cliff of ending it all, and we were peering over the edge of that cliff every single day.
We would scrape up what little trust we had left and try to talk, try to make it work. Usually we would wind up shouting.
Then suddenly we came up with the thing that saved us. We've tried all the old stuff: doing what we thought we were supposed to do, doing what we thought the other one wanted us to do, doing what we each felt we had a right to do because we couldn't stand it any more. And we'd been together enough years we'd done all those things over and over again.
But one day one of us said: none of the old ways work. We've tried them. If there's any chance for us to make it, it will have to be because we find a new way.
In other words, when she answers a question in a way that feels familiar and makes me want to scream, I have to find a new way to respond. I've tried screaming, I've tried being reasonable even while all I wanted to do was scream and neither of those things brought us any closer. What if I try stepping back from my powerful negative reaction to what she said, and leave open the possibility that maybe she wasn't just trying to infuriate me, maybe there was something there I wasn't getting at all and I won't know till I give her the benefit of the doubt and ask her, and listen carefully to what she has to say.
This is so hard to do! I had to give up being righteous. I had to give up being the wounded party. Instead I had to trust that we both still loved each other, and that however awful everything had gotten, we both shared the responsibility for letting it get so bad and we were both going to have to do the heavy lifting of making it better.
Well, that was two years ago. We now have the best relationship I have ever been in, with some of the intoxicating in-loveness we started out with all those years ago, but more amazingly we both have a profound sense of how much we are here for each other, and how well suited we are. And when we get stuck, we go straight to: what new way can we find to fix this?