It’s that liminal in between time that people usually don’t talk about. You know, when the relationship is emotionally over, but on the outside it appears to still be a relationship. When there is no more togetherness or connection. When the will to try to resolve problems is gone. Every option has been exhausted in trying to make things better. You have finally given up and accepted that this just isn’t going to work. At least not in the way you had hoped. Yeah, you’re still living together or raising kids together, but the connection that keeps a partnership going is, well, gone. What do you do?
Sometimes in life we find ourselves in situations we would never have expected to be. And trapped in a relationship that we no longer want to be in, but cannot yet leave, can be one of them. If you’re an independent, educated woman it’s likely that you’ve worked hard to create a sense of independence through establishing a professional identity and a sense of financial security.
But on occasion the best laid plans cannot prepare us for what life delivers. Even the strongest, most independent women can find themselves in situations where their options are limited or they are at the mercy of another person’s choices. Maybe you have small children that depend on you to care for them and the idea of separating your children from their father seems unbearable. Or it could be that you have a chronic illness and despite your best efforts, working full-time is no longer an option while health insurance is a must. Some women end up caring for loved ones that are ill and therefore don’t have the time or opportunity to focus on their career they way they did in the past. The thing these women have in common is their vulnerability.
When you’re in a vulnerable position like this and want to leave a marriage or relationship it can feel daunting if not downright impossible.. Part of you knows in your gut that this relationship is no longer serving you or meeting your needs. And another part of you is painfully aware that leaving isn’t really an option, at least not immediately. So, what is a girl (woman) to do in such a predicament? How can you get through it without feeling like it’s compromising your integrity or not being faithful to your “highest self?”
Here are 6 strategies for making it through the in between time:
1.) Use this experience to figure out what you need that’s missing. Spend time actively focusing on what you need that you’re not getting out of this relationship. That way in your future relationship(s) you will know what you absolutely need to stay invested.
2.) Take the info you’ve gathered and consider if there’s anyway that you are unconsciously contributing to the problem. Is it your behavior? Approach? Tone? Ability to ask for /receive help?
3.) Think about other ways you can get what you need (as identified in #1) other than from your partner. Do you need emotional support? Maybe you can reach out to friends or family for that. Maybe it’s fun and excitement that’s missing for you? Could you join a new group or take up a new hobby instead of relying on your partner for that?
4.) Ask yourself if you’re expecting too much from one person. There is a social myth that exists about people finding their “soulmate” and finally feeling complete. This is both unrealistic and dangerous. I see many people that are disappointed that they partner doesn’t meet all of their needs. It’s just not possible for one single person to meet all of our complex needs as humans. Get clear with yourself as to whether your expectations are realistic.
5.) Make sure you have really tried everything in your power to address the problems in the relationship. This can include, but is not limited to: Marriage counseling, reading books/articles/blogs on relationships and intimacy, taking risks to really be open about your needs with your partner, individual counseling, dealing with extended family issues, improving yourself/self-help.
6.) If you’re committed to getting out of your marriage/relationship, create an exit strategy. Making a plan of action, even if it will take awhile to come together, can help you feel less trapped. Knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel keeps you hopeful about the future. And as you complete steps along the way, freedom will feel a little closer each day.
According to Steve Stosny (couples’ therapist) and much research, when women finally leave a relationship they have often agonized over the decision for years. By the time they file for divorce they are completely detached and often have been for quite some time. These tips above are for any woman that has one foot out the door but is still physically in the relationship. This difficult experience is much more common that you might think.
Want some help sorting out if or when it’s time really leave? Let’s talk.