There is a poem by the famous Sufi master Rumi. One verse goes:
Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing
and right-doing there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.
Listen and try to understand your partner's point of view. See if your partner will listen and understand your point of view too. See if the two of you can meet in the middle. Be willing to walk to the other side and look at it from your partner's point of view. Then ask your partner to walk to your side and look at things from your vantage point.
Be sure to speak of your own experience in the relationship. Ban the accusatory word "you" from the beginning of every sentence. Ask your partner to do the same, and with all that in mind, tell your partner why things are not working. If you are struggling, fall back on the very reliable method of starting each sentence with "I feel."
Many times, a partner faced with the possibility of their relationship dissolving will become responsive, start taking responsibility, and may even change for the better. If the two of you, possibility with the help of a couples counselor, can have this non-judgmental, mutual exploration of the issues, you will find that problems can dissipate and the intimacy between you will start to increase.
I have found that when a couple can start to engage each other this way, the animosity between them lessens. Some couples still choose to end the relationship, but if that is the choice they make, they do it with love and respect, not hatred and vitriol. If the couple chooses to stay together, they are now able to build a strong relationship where the sum of the two is greater then the individuals involved.
If your partner cannot go through the four steps with you, then you have your answer. You have to leave for your own wellbeing. There are people out there that, due to their psychological and emotional issues, cannot be intimate and emotionally present. The potential vulnerability of being intimate is too scary for them and so they will never let their guard down. To stay with someone like that with no hope of change is beyond anybody's responsibility or duty in a relationship.
You tried, it didn't work. So cut your losses and get out. You've answered the question: Should I stay or should I go?
Larry Cappel has been doing couples counseling since 1999. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist. He can be reached through his website if you'd like to talk about any aspect of your relationship.
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