Read an Excerpt
How Deep Is Your Love?
Why You Need to Diagnose
the Potential Love Killer in Your Relationship
Here you are, a smart, savvy person who's worked hard to have a good relationship. What's scarier than finding that your hard work isn't paying off? Especially when you've put your whole heart into trying to make things better.
Well, you're not a fool. I believe that what you suspect is true: all the good stuff there ever was between you is still there. Buried, perhaps. Bruised, possibly. But it's alive and well. You will get it back, and the way to get it back is to diagnose exactly what's been causing all the trouble.
But make no mistake about it. Being baffled about what's wrong between you doesn't just feel bad -- it can seriously damage your relationship.
How Not Knowing What's Wrong Can Make Things WorseWhen problems appear in our relationships, first we ignore them, then we try all the obvious solutions, from "talking things out" to going on a romantic vacation. But we quickly run out of answers. Here's what three people have said to me recently:
And when we run out of answers, we start believing our problems must be incredibly deep and complex. It's a basic psychological principle: When you don't know what's wrong, it seems as though everything is wrong. When my car has problems, I don't know why and so with every glitch I think, "That's it -- the car's no good." If you feel sick and you don't know why, it's easy to think you've got something major wrong with you.
It works the same way with love. When you can't put your finger on precisely what's wrong, you think there's something wrong in every part of your relationship. And you know what happens to people who look for trouble? They find it. Soon it feels as though everything between you needs fixing. And if everything needs fixing . . . well, that's discouraging as hell.
Here's a story of two people like many of us. In an attempt to deal with the problems in their relationship they ended up so confused that it nearly destroyed their marriage.
Helen and Phil
The problem that first sent them looking for help was common and incredibly baffling: fights that seemed to come out of nowhere kept ruining their time together. Helen and Phil decided to go for help. In the two years before I saw them, a variety of therapists, books, and workshops had gotten them completely confused. Take Helen. From saying something clear like "I wish we could stop fighting," Helen had reached the point where she was saying things like:
HELEN: "We have so many problems, I don't know where to begin. We speak different languages, which is why we can't talk to each other anymore. But even if we spoke the same language, we still can't negotiate. Phil really wants me to be his mother. But the thing is that every time he says no to me he reminds me of my father and of all my deprivation issues. In a weird way trying to grapple with Phil is away I try to feed myself love, but the more we tangle with each other the hungrier I get for love. Phil represents power to me, the power I feel I lack, so in a way I must be collaborating in Phil's not giving me what I want. But that just enhances his power and makes Phil even more attractive because I have issues around disempowerment, and so I have a deep need to affiliate myself with a powerful person even if his power just ends up disempowering me. "
Whew. What a lot of . . . words. But aren't you impressed? Doesn't Helen sound smart? Look at all the deep complicated issues she talks about.
Let's get real. How smart are you really if slinging the bull does nothing to pinpoint your problem or help you solve it, but instead only digs you deeper into despair? Ultimately the trap people like Helen and Phil fall into is believing they can't solve problem A until they solve problem B, but they can't solve B until they solve C, and the thing is that they can't solve C because what about D, and on and on through endless alphabets of problems.
And so they start giving up. Why be nice to your partner when nothing good is going to happen anyway? Why risk telling the truth when things can't get better? Why not act selfish when you can't get what you need from your partner anymore? Because you don't know what's wrong, you end up feeling like your relationship is a piece of junk. And you know what we all do with junk. We start thinking of how to throw it away.Our Love Is Too Good to Feel So Bad. Copyright © by Mira Kirshenbaum. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.