“When did these problems begin?” is the question I ask many couples at the start of couples counseling. The average answer falls into the range of five to ten years; a long time to needlessly be in pain. If the couple has informed me that I am their last hope before contacting a divorce lawyer, I then ask, “Why did you wait so long to try to fix these problems?” For this most patients have no good answer. There are those unfortunate brokenhearted souls for whom the work on their marriage is simply too late. For these people the damage done by neglect, by lack of consideration, selfishness or even meanness completely drained the goodwill dry from their romantic connection. By their nature people are hesitant to invite a stranger into the most intimate relationship of their lives. In all too many cases their hesitancy to seek help proves fatal by ending in divorce or breakup.
The test is quick. Ask yourself these questions; “Is this the best my love relationship can be?” and “Am I or is my partner capable of loving more deeply?”
Where is the invisible and hard-to-detect line that separates secure territory from that dark area in which lovers are no longer connected? It is invisible and is often crossed without a lover’s knowledge. Further travel into that darkness exists a different line demarcating where damage becomes permanent. Once passed, the relationship grows increasingly vulnerable to affairs, to conflicts and emotional distance. Even little problems, if unaddressed for long periods of time cause toxic resentment to accumulate.
A lover’s heart becomes fragile if denied the nourishment that loving acts provide. A car’s battery, if drained too many times cannot be recharged. A heart is similar, if depleted of love, it, too, cannot be refilled. Some relationship problems are not easily fixed without a third party to provide guidance and objectivity. Relationship problems, if not fixed, will permanently contaminate a togetherness. Please don’t wait until it is too late. If there are problems in your relationship, the sooner you seek help, the sooner you may have a healthy and satisfying love. Otherwise, without you knowing it, love’s expiration date may have passed. Andrew Aaron, LICSW, AASECT is a marriage counselor and sex therapist who practices in downtown New Bedford.