She Said, He Said: Marriages, relationships benefit by looking from within |

She Said, He Said: Marriages, relationships benefit by looking from within

Lori Ann Kret and Jeffrey Cole
Courtesy photo

Dear Jeff and Lori, 

My husband and I have been together for 16 years and have been struggling beyond what I would call a normal slump. It feels as though we’re constantly walking on eggshells with each other and only ever talk about our daughter or what needs to be done for the week. It would be easy to blame our problems on COVID-19 and both working from home, but these issues were brewing for years before. I know we both have love for each other, but I don’t want to spend the rest of my life with a husband who feels like a roommate. We’ve both expressed being unhappy at various times, but nothing has changed. How do we know when it’s time to move on?


Raise The White Flag?

Dear RTWF,

Lori and Jeff: Many Americans are aware of the statistics that nearly 50% of marriages will end in divorce. Yet most who say “I do” are naive in failing to anticipate a day when they’ll think, “I don’t anymore.” This isn’t to say that we should all just be prepared for our marriages to end. Instead it’s a call to acknowledge that lasting marriage doesn’t just happen, it’s something that needs to be continuously fed. 

Lori: I respect the fact that you and your husband have had conversations about your mutual discontent. It shows there’s at least a foundation of emotional safety for you to be honest with each other. But then what? Talking about a problem is important but not the solution when it comes to a relationship hanging on by a thread. Lasting, happy marriages are built on companionship in which partners are affectionate, authentic, feel seen and heard, and support the best in each other. Living under the same roof is not enough. 

You can’t know whether to call it quits until you’ve established what your true capacities are as partners. One of the key predictors of divorce is one or both partners being unable or unwilling to put in the effort to grow. The first step is for each of you to identify what specifically is missing and what you want and need from each other and the marriage. Then commit the next three to six months to prioritizing growing as individuals and making your best efforts to show up in the ways your partner has asked. Learn about your own triggers and protective patterns that keep the other on eggshells, explore your vulnerabilities that have created walls, be willing to look at the parts of yourself you’re unhappy with and take ownership of changing it. If after that time, it still doesn’t feel like you’re closing the gaps, you’ll have a clearer answer to your question. 

Jeff: All relationships — especially marriages — go through many transformations over time. More significant transitions like having kids, changing careers, moving, health concerns and retirement can shift the dynamics of even the strongest of relationships. It is crucial that you recognize these pivot points and make the necessary adaptations to grow. It might even feel as though you need to end one iteration of your marriage and begin a new one. When navigated with intention and awareness, transitions can keep a relationship vibrant and healthy. However, ignoring or avoiding the exploration of these changes can bring upheaval and discord or complacency and resentment to a relationship. Yours sounds like the latter.

Try to figure out what transitions might have caused you to lose your connection and when you and your husband began to drift apart. Was it around the birth of your daughter? Were there significant shifts in roles and responsibilities? Did either of you resent the other for missed opportunities or unmet needs? Talk with your husband about how you might get back on track by revisiting these historical markers and see if you can make changes today that you wish you had made back then. It might not be too late.

Jeff and Lori: Don’t fall into the new-and-shiny-is-better trap that many social media platforms provide. Commit to giving your marriage another chance by looking inward and leaning into your relationship. Find something that helps you have honest, transparent conversations about where you are and where you want to go.

Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Visit ​​ for all previous She Said, He Said columns.

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