What’s Ebb-and-Flow and What’s Permanent?

6 Oct

I love seeing interviews with long-time married couples. They’re always so honest. For example, you won’t much hear about a 60 year-marriage that was total bliss or total despair. Instead, you’ll often hear stories about ups-and-d0wns, ebbs-and-flows, and peaks-and-valleys.

In fact, most couples who have been together for decades can talk about entire weeks/months/years during which questioned if the relationship would work out at all. But, here they are, decades later, laughing and smiling about all the love and good times they’ve had together.ebb-and-flos

As much as I love their stories, their tales make my job as a couples therapist much harder. Why? Because they illustrate the truth: In relationships, it’s hard to know if your problems are just an “ebb” in the relationship. Or are these problems reflective of a permanent change in the relationship? I’ll be the first to tell you – it’s hard to know!

So, as in most situations, I use my “reasonableness” barometer when I discuss this with couples.

What’s a “reasonable” time for the problem to persist? If one partner has been questioning the relationship for a day/week/month, does that mean he/she is on the way out? Probably not.

But, what about couples in which one partner has been considering leaving for years? If one partner is hoping for a “turnaround,” is it reasonable that might happen?

The real question is: How long is TOO long for a problem to persist?

It’s a question that may be different for every couple. Or, is there a reasonableness-factor to consider?




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