Getting through rough patches in a relationship

Archived Q&A and Reviews

related page: Marriage Maintenance
Dec 2003

I was wondering if people could share their experiences regarding really stressful/rocky periods in their partnerships or marriages and how they were eventually able to get through them and return to a fairly happy coexistence. My partner and I have been having a really rough time for about the past six months. Multiple stresses including having to make major job/relocation decisions, young children and more are going on right now and it is starting to feel hard to remember how wonderful and how in love with this person I was. We starting going to counseling, which is helping, but I guess I'm looking for any words of encouragement that lousy periods happen and it's possible to get through them.

My husband and I have had many rough patches in 14 years of marriage. One of the more recent ones felt like we just could not communicate and I was seriously wondering if we would be able to make it. My husband is not someone who communicates very easily so it's always up to me to bring things up. I never know if he thinks everything is just OK, or if he's fuming and just being a clam.

What did we do? We went away for a weekend by ourselves. Got the kids, cats and dogs squared away with friends, relatives and neighbors so that there was NOTHING to think about back home and spend Friday night through Sunday afternoon in a wonderful cottage on Tomales Bay.

You don't have to travel far around here to feel like you are 100's of miles away. We were able to talk about EVERYTHING that had been bothering us about each other, about our lives, figure out ways to work together. The important thing was for me to tell him how I felt without making it ''it's all your fault''. So, in a non-accusing, ''lets work this out together'' way. That weekend put a spark back into our relationship. I can't say it's been magical since then but it gave us back a connection with each other that we had lost. Good luck. anon

Recently, I was given a copy of a wedding homily that contained a passage from an essay by Madeleine L'Engle from her book, ''The Irrational Season.'' It's not a cure-all, but to me it was like balm on the wounds of a hurting relationship. It's not a don't-worry-be-happy message but rather some throughts about how one in a relationship (marriage) will experience different seasons of that relationship, and how one will meet those rocky times. I can't cut-and-paste the whole passage here, but if you'd like a copy I can email it to you. Clarisse
Oh boy do I understand. I think I hope knock wood that my husband and I are just coming out of one. What made a difference? We started seeing a therapist, too, and the effort of both of us trying and seeing the other trying is as necessary as any words we say in the therapist's office. Also, date night or date weekend afternoon. Do fun stuff besides just seeing movies. And sex. Don't forget how important it is, and how fun it can be. And remember to do things to feed your own spirit, too, things for yourselves. Then tell each other about them. Isn't that part of what we do when we are first falling in love? Tell about our days and interests, and listen? Doesn't that feel good? And isn't it easy to let that go? Good luck to you. Keep at it. Us too
Hang in there. I know how you feel. It is possible to survive stressful/unhappy times and come out all the stronger for it. I think the key to coming out the other side stronger or at least not worse off is to keep communicating throughout. Counseling is great and I applaud you for already getting this going. The thing about counseling that is especially helpful is that it gives you a safe place to discuss difficult things. However, its not enough to really cover all angles of communication.

What my husband and I have done is set up a weekly ''date night''. We have a standing time with a sitter for a couple of hours on a week night. It's not associated with any specific event or activity aside from just grabbing a bite to eat. Its a great time to extend a conversation or thought that has come up in therapy, talk about schedules, catch up on personal news, gossip about the neighbors :-), what ever. What's important is that it is uninterrupted and unstructured time with just your partner.

Sometimes we go to nice resturants, sometime we just get sandwiches and sit on a bench somewhere. Sometimes all we do is talk about the kids or our schedules (which are very demanding) but sometimes we have a lot of laughs or end up in deep philisophical discussion about things.

You may not be able to do this specific thing but its an example of a way to keep the communication flowing with your partner, which I think is paramount to keeping your relationship in tact and meaningful. good luck

My Husband and I spent our 10th wedding anniversary living separately -- he was in love with someone else, but not having an affair, and I was heartbroken and had given up. Maybe we were the lucky ones -- the act of giving up and my moving out saved our marriage. We remembered two things we'd forgotten... ''that I could live without him, and that he couldn't live without me.'' The dynamic changed for good when we figured it out.

In retrospect the stresses between us, associated with a dissertation, a 2 year-old and two jobs, in addition to everything else put us in a high risk category. We got back together, conciously choosing to stay married ''for good''. We have had good times and some bad ones, and are blessed with two more children who would not exist if we hadn't gotten back together. We have been married for 23.5 years now, more than half our lives! I cannot picture a world in which the two of us aren't together.

Bad times aren't always the end of a good (or o.k.) relationship -- sometimes they are just part of the way to a better relationship.

Good luck, follow your heart -- whether you stay in or get out, there is a better time ahead of you. Anonymous on Behalf of my First/Last Husband

Hi - We are in a similar place and it's tough and scary. I want to recommend a book that has given me a lot of hope and that I think will be essential to us. ''Becoming Parents'' - the authors know how stressful and demanding a job parenting can be and in concrete, practical, hope-giving chapters teach how to replace the destructive patterns that destroy closeness and fun with tools that help you work together and connect. Holding out Hope