If you’re like me, when you hear or read these words, you probably think of the song by The Clash. But that’s not what this post is about, I promise. For the last few days I have been busy creating a Master Class called Question your Connection, which centers around the topic of whether or not to leave your current marital or common-law relationship.
I hope many of you who are reading this have not questioned whether they should stay or go, but from my own experience as a therapist and coach, I know that many people entertain this thought – even just briefly.
Unfortunately, for many people it is not a fleeting thought. In fact, as I was creating my Master Class, I realized that one of the signs that your relationship is struggling is spending a lot of time dwelling on the relationship – whether you need to exit, seek counselling, where you might live (even temporarily), finances, custody, the reactions of your friends and family, and of course, the children.
That’s why, I chose the title of the post that I did. It is not a question that anyone wants to find themselves asking and yet many couples are faced with this push-pull emotion. You love your children so much and do not want any harm or hardship to come their way because of ‘your problem’. But the fact is, it is not ‘your problem’ – it is a family systems problem. There are all sorts of reasons for a relationship to break down, so of course I cannot assume any party’s level of responsibility or provide specific marital advice, but I feel it is safe to say that if you’re having these thoughts, it is now a family issue.
Referring to the title of the post, maybe a better question to ask is: What is More Important? My Own Mental Health or My Children’s? The answer is …your own mental health is more important.How can you be the guide, mentor, educator, and provider for your children if you’re suffering and consumed with negative thoughts? I am not saying that separation will immediately relieve anyone of unhealthy thoughts, but if the root cause of your happiness is not being aligned to your partner, then how are you showing up for your children? If you do not respect your partner, if you cannot love your partner without evidence of his or her love for you, then how are you showing up in the world? You shouldn’t need to have evidence of your partner’s love; it is instead a type of knowing. You should just know. Regarding your children’s well-being, there are a few things we need to realize. The first is that we don’t know how the children will move through this and, in fact, if both parents have the children’s best interest at heart, it might not be as emotionally disruptive as some couples think. Of course, the extent of the impact on the children is extremely variable and largely dependent on their age at the time of separation, whether both partners agree with the need to separate, the parents’ own mental health at the time of the separation, and so on. However, for the sake of simplicity of this post, a parent’s mental health is far more important than the child’s emotions upon separation. Why? For the same reason that you’re instructed to place the oxygen mask on your mouth before your child’s if the plane goes down. How can you raise, nurture, and guide your children in a loving and respectful way if you can’t authentically present those qualities as a parent?
“You shouldn’t need to have evidence of your partner’s love; it is instead a type of knowing.”
We also need to realize that children are much more resilient than we might imagine. In other words, they are quite adaptive to new circumstances if they’re handled in the right way. This is why I am a huge advocate for collaborative practice family law. As mentioned in an interview that I conducted on my podcast I Think, I Can, it centres on what is best for the children, and it incorporates the use of professionals in the separation process, such as financial advisors, relationship coaches, and child specialists. You wouldn’t expect your plumber to know how to install a light fixture, so why are you depending on your lawyer to advise you what is best for your children?
Once the children understand that mom and dad seem happier and calmer when they are apart and that they themselves are still well cared for, attended to, loved, and supported, they will adapt. The length of time for adaptation is, again, very much related to how mom and dad are conducting the separation process. Some examples of unhealthy practices include parental alienation, using their children as messengers rather than speaking to one another, and just plain kindness. My advice always is to treat your ex as you would a business partner; be cordial and respectful.
My Master Class will touch on other nuances to consider when deciding if separation seems to be the right course of action, or, alternatively, measures that you can start incorporating immediately to see if YOU can change the trajectory of the marriage. I will list some suggestions of ways you can empower yourself and change rather than rely on your spouse to change. The advantage of this, of course, is that you become a better person overall, a better friend, parent, employee, and so on. This way, no matter how the relationship manifests, YOU as a person will come out on top. It is for this reason that I prefer relationship coaching rather than the traditional couple therapy work. It brings a sense of you knowing that your partner’s happiness is their own responsibility, and that your job is to focus on your own. When you start focusing on your own happiness, you take responsibility for your feelings. This then comes from a place of empowerment, rather than surrendering to the situation.
There is so much more I could write on this topic, especially due to all the variables involved, only some of which I have listed above. If you are one of those that asked yourself this question, I strongly recommend taking action and finding the answer – whether that be through speaking with a professional, taking a course such as the one I am creating, journaling, and so forth. The most important thing you can do is to attend to it! Do not suppress it, as suppression will ultimately lead to resentment, and further escalate the problem.
If you are questioning the state of your relationship, I am happy to share that I am hosting a Masterclass on this topic.
It is a paid Masterclass that will be held June 8-10 at 12 pm. If you cannot join the live class, then you can catch the replay and listen at your convenience. The cost is $77 US for three hours of content. June 10 will be a Q&A which I feel will be extremely helpful for you to get some answers.
As you can see this is an extremely affordable way of helping you navigate through troubling times.
I trust that you found this information helpful. Do not hesitate to reach out if you require further insight into a troubling relationship.