Stuck in the Mud?

Ever feel like your relationship is stagnant? Like it’s stuck in a place that has become blah, boring, or even unfulfilling. Do you worry if it will stay there forever? Do you ask yourself, “Is this it”?

This is totally normal and really should be expected. We all get busy with our lives and our routines are what keep us on track. There’s comfort in the familiar. Plus, having a plan and sticking to it makes things efficient and predictable allowing us to have space for new things as they pop up in life.

When the humdrum-ness of our relationship routines start to take center stage though, it’s time to mix things up. To keep a relationship thriving, we have to keep some excitement or at least new-ness in it. The type and level of excitement varies with every couple. For some it might be trying rock climbing for the first time whereas another going to a new restaurant is enough “new” to last a while.

In mediation, when I see the disputing couple go into their well-worn patterns of argument I know it’s time to help them mix things up so we can keep moving forward. It may be that they delve into the past with the classic “You always… (insert something negative here)” or it might be where one person gets a little louder while the other person shuts down. Regardless of their patterns, I know that if I let them continue on that path, it will make any hope of settlement a distant dream.

So what magic do we mediators inject to change the course of the conversation? First, we interrupt them. While this is rude in usual conversation, in mediation it is often a necessary tool to help get folks back on track. Sometimes, I literally say, “Stop!” to get their attention. And then I immediately follow with something like, “Let’s not go down that path” or “Let’s get back to ideas for… (fill in the blank).“ And sometimes, I suggest we take a break or go into separate rooms so everyone can have a breather.

The same techniques can be used in your regular, not-in-mediation relationship. When you notice that you feel stagnant or stuck, remind yourself that it’s normal. Tell your partner you feel this way and that it’s no one’s fault and you want to do something new or different. Then do it. You might go to a show or on a hike or try that restaurant you’ve never been to. Or maybe you go on a girls/boys weekend with friends to give you and your partner some space. I know you’ve heard the saying, “Absences makes the heart grow fonder.” It really can be true.

And when you see yourself falling into the usual argument patterns, try to change course by asking your partner for a break. Take some time alone to think deeper about what it is that’s upsetting you and what it is you really want. Maybe write it all down and try to organize your thoughts. Focus on current actions rather than all the past frustrations. Think about what you want to have happen rather than what you don’t want.

It is possible to get out of the mud. Often we just have to see it for what it is then decide to do something about it. Keep moving forward!

Photo by Nick Demou from Pexels