I have a client who broke up with a partner recently and is back on the dating market — yet again. This time, however, the former partner, whom I also knew, reached out to me to get advice on what to do, and to see if the relationship could be saved.
The fact is, both of the partners in this relationship are really good people who were very happy not so long ago. But as you're about to find out, a simple mistaken conclusion and a very easily corrected challenge have turned seemingly fatal. It's always sad when two good people lose their way, but this story is so tragic and easily preventable that I knew I had to share it as a teachable moment.
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Here's where it really gets interesting:
Working with both parties in the relationship gave me a unique perspective on some of the key challenges that led to the breakup — or should I say — the perceived challenges. One of the parties made the assumption that the other couldn't fulfill their sexual appetite because they weren't receiving the frequency of intimacy they wanted in order to feel loved. Now to be fair, that's an important aspect of relationships and it's important to find a partner with similar values. However, perhaps you've heard the saying "Never assume, because it makes an ass out of u and me." That was certainly the case here.
Here's why you shouldn’t believe everything you think:
As it turns out, that assumption, which was kind of a big factor in the breakup, was simply wrong. In fact, there wasn't a grain of truth in it. Yet two very good people who were well-matched in some really critical and powerful ways began moving on in different directions. The truth was there was another, different important factor that influenced the incorrect assumption.
It wasn't that the other partner didn't enjoy a similar sexual frequency at all. The other partner simply had another value they hadn't fully shared with their partner. They had a preference for cleanliness and preferred sex after a shower. Simply put, had there been more timely personal grooming, the sex part would have taken care of itself. Can you see how tragic and permanently life-changing one simple mistaken assumption can be when it comes to a lifetime partnership?
People have a need to be right even when they're dead wrong:
I can't think of a better illustration of why we need to be very careful about our beliefs and the conclusions we make. A belief is like a table top: in order for a table to be useful, it has to have legs on it. Those "legs" that support a belief are called "references." In this case, every time one partner wanted sex and didn't get it, a new leg or reference was added to the belief that, "my partner doesn't enjoy sex as much as I do," and it eventually killed the relationship.
As I've already pointed out, those assumed "table legs" were wrong, so that belief never should have been "supported." This is how our occasionally unquenchable desire to be "right" can be devastating when we make assumptions with incomplete or incorrect opinions we call "facts." In any situation, no matter how thin you slice it, there’s always two sides — and the truth is often a combination of them both.
Effective communication would have prevented this breakup:
If this couple had simply just discussed their reasonable and very mutual frustrations with a focus on effective win/win resolution, they would still be together. They would also probably still be happy and grateful to have finally found one another as well, just like they were in the beginning. Unfortunately, the false assumptions, frustrations and deadly silence eventually "poisoned" a nice relationship between two good people.
The truth is, this situation was an easy, one-session fix if they had come to me during the breakdown, but prior to the breakup. I could have very simply helped them navigate this challenge and come out closer, more sexually satisfied and more in love than they were previously. Now I'm not sure what's going to happen between these two. But I know a great teachable moment when I see one; that's why I'm sharing this heartbreak with you. My hope is that you will learn the lesson and not let this happen to you.
Ask a better question:
What if you had a great love that "got away" simply because your ego, fears, or your need to be "right" caused you to make up a story that seemed true but simply wasn't accurate? What if your unshared values and conflicts are sabotaging the relationship you're in right now, and you don't even see it? The fact is, if you and your partner are not happy and grateful to be together right now, there's a good chance that something simple, similar to what I've just described could be sabotaging your happiness. I would hate to see that simple misunderstanding turn fatal. It doesn't have to turn out that way. Please feel free to reach out, and let's discuss how we can get things moving in the right direction again.
At the very least, I would encourage you to get in the habit of giving those close to you the benefit of a doubt. Ask yourself a much better question the next time you're starting to get annoyed, perturbed, or angry. The question that can turn it all around and immediately improve the situation is, "What else could this mean?" One of the most endearing, profound and life-changing gifts you can give an intimate partner is the gift of grace, even if they've made a mistake. Who knows? The next time someone needs to be given the benefit of the doubt, it might be you.
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