These moments are so tough and you are so not alone in feeling like you want to quit your relationship. This is SUCH a common feeling!
But there are a few tools and one metaphor I like to share with my therapy clients when they feel like this. Tools and a metaphor that, when considered, could help reduce your despair about the state of your relationship and, dare I say? even make you feel a little more hopeful.
“Someone once told me a story about long-term relationships. To think of them as a continent to explore. I could spend a lifetime backpacking through Africa, and I would still never know all there is to know about that continent. To stay the course, to stay intentional, to stay curious and connected – that’s the heart of it. But it’s so easy to lose track of the trail, to get tired, to want to give up, or to want a new adventure. It can be so easy to lose sight of the goodness and mystery within the person sitting right in front of you.” – Joy Williams
Why Your Relationship Is Probably Like The Stock Market (yes, really).
Your relationship is probably a lot like the stock market.
Specifically, your relationship is probably filled with high highs and low lows which, as we all know, is par for the course with investing in the stock market.
But there’s a really big difference between taking a snapshot of the stock market on any given day versus looking at the overall trends over time.
On any given day you could feel total despair and want to get out as you see your stocks plummeting, potentially costing you thousands. Or you could feel like a rock star as you watch your investments get bullish and contemplate buying even more.
But neither of these scenarios would be an accurate portrayal of your portfolio’s overall performance nor indicative of a likely long-term reality for you.
Because when we step back and observe and analyze 100 years of data from the Dow Jones Industrial Average, we see that, while wild ebbs and flows are inevitable, the stock market has steadily risen and gone up over time.
So what does this have to do with your relationship?
Well, if you take a snapshot on any given day, it’s probably not going to be a very realistic indicator of your overall relationship health either.
“We all have restlessness in long-term relationships.” – Helen Fisher, Ph.D.
If you take the snapshot on a day when you’re at each others’ throats, scrambling to get to work after discovering your engine won’t turn over and the dishwasher has flooded the kitchen, this isn’t likely to be representative.
Conversely, if you take the snapshot while you’re both on vacation, carefree and unencumbered and feeling blissfully back in love over margaritas, that’s probably not the most representative scenario either.
However, if you step back and look at the arc of history between you two, accounting for those daily/weekly/monthly highs and lows, would you see an overall upward growth trend, too?
For a lot of us, probably.
But it can be really, really hard to remember this when you’re in a big dip, a market crash, your own proverbial 2008 relationship meltdown if you will.
So what’s there to do then?
“You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships every day. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.” – Epicurus
Four Tools for Making It Through “The Market Crashes.”
First of all, I want to clarify that not every relationship is meant to be stayed in forever.
A successful relationship can be one that you stay in, and it can be one that you both decide to leave.
And certainly, if there is domestic violence, addiction, or severe mental illness in the relationship, you need to consider many different factors way beyond what the scope of this article is addressing.
But for many of us not in situations like this, life begs the question of us often: how do we make it through the inevitable dips in our relationship that we mostly want to stay in?
“I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders.” – Jewish Proverb
Tool #1: Remember it’s a snapshot, not the whole story.
Using the above metaphor, reflect on the general trend of your relationship. Since you both got together, despite the “market fluctuations”, has there been a general upwards trend?
Have you both grown up a little more together? Are you more compassionate and tolerant and a better team that you were at the beginning? Have you become a better person in any way because of time with your mate?
Challenge your thoughts if you can only/want only to see the “dips” in your relationship. In rare cases, this may be true. But for most of us, there’s likely some highs and upward growth, too.
Try and recall and reflect on that and see if it helps support you in those times of “market dips” in your own relationship.
“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” – Mignon McLaughlin
Tool #2: Be patient. Play the gratitude game. Reconnect back to why you fell in love with this person in the first place.
Like with so many things in life now, many of us want instant gratification and quick fixes. Swipe right, one-click ordering, all relationship problems resolved speedily.
But this isn’t really realistic.
Life is long and full of challenges. And so too will be our romantic relationships. And not all the problems within them will be solved overnight.
So it’s important to remember the secret ingredient of time as a balm to your relationship pain. The way things feel today may not feel the same in three months, six months, or a year from now.
Can you practice patience in your drive to see the unfulfilling dynamics between you resolved? I’m not saying that you need to be passive and do nothing about it (see tool #4), but I am saying, can you give it time to see the problems resolve? Can you practice patience?
And while doing that, can you practice the Gratitude Game with yourself, reflecting on 10 reasons you do actually like your mate (make this a daily practice!), can you reflect and reconnect back to why you fell in love with that person in the first place?
Those reasons are still likely true and valid and real and present within your relationship. They just may be covered up by what feels like “plummeting stocks” type feelings right now.
“I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.” – Anne Lamott
Tool #3: If you do want to break up, agree that you will break up in a regulated state.
If you feel like you want to quit your relationship and your partner does too, can you both agree to postpone and make that decision in a time and emotional space where you both feel emotionally regulated?
In other words, can you both agree not to break up when you’re at a low point and instead wait until things feel a little more stable?
Of course, definitely, give yourself permission to feel your feelings and reflect on them for the good information they contain. Your feelings are valid and contain clues for you. But making a decision when you are emotionally dysregulated or flooded is likely not going to be the best place to make a decision from.
So take some time and agree with your partner that you’ll discuss the possibility of separating and “quitting the stock market” on a day when you feel a little more stable.
And, indeed, bring this conversation to tool #4.
“Success in marriage does not come merely through finding the right mate, but through being the right mate.” – Barnett Brickner
Tool #4: If you are in a dip and are floundering, get help before getting out.
I cannot emphasize this enough: long-term romantic relationship can be HARD. Really hard. And sometimes you may need to get some professional support to help you both cope and heal the patterns and scar tissue that’s built up over your years together.
That’s totally okay and normal and natural!
You would go to the doctor to get help treating an infection, wouldn’t you? You’d hire a lawyer to create a will and trust? Similarly, if your relationship is in pain and needing support and it’s beyond your scope and capacity to figure it out, why not seek out professional help, too?
So to that end, when your “stocks are dipping” and you’re in a proverbial “market crash”, I really highly recommend you seek out a couples counselor that you both feel comfortable with.
Someone who can help you weather the dips and possibly “tweak your portfolio” without jumping ship and selling off all of your stocks. Find someone who can support you in the painful times of your relationship.
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day, saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” – Mary Anne Radmacher
Wrapping this up.
I hope you found this metaphor and these tools helpful!
Now I would love to hear from you in the comments below: Do you agree that relationships can sometimes feel like the stock market? What’s one tool or insight you use in times of struggle in your own relationship to help “weather the dips”? Leave a message in the comments below so our community of blog readers can benefit from your wisdom.
If you would like additional support with this and you live in California or Florida, please feel free to reach out to me directly to explore therapy together. You can also book a complimentary consult call to explore therapy with one of my fantastic clinicians at my trauma-informed therapy center, Evergreen Counseling.
Or if you live outside of these states, please consider enrolling in the waitlist for the Relational Trauma Recovery School – or my signature online course, Hard Families, Good Boundaries, designed to support you in healing your adverse early beginnings and create a beautiful adulthood for yourself, no matter where you started out in life.
And until next time, please take very good care of yourself. You’re so worth it.