Movie Set Relationship
Photo by Christian Joudrey on Unsplash
Have you ever known a couple who seem to have the perfect relationship until you find out that they're getting a divorce? Sometimes relationships appear solid on the outside but are really empty on the inside. People can be really good at maintaining a facade and compartmentalizing their problems, but when you dig a little deeper you find that reality is not as it appears. For some people image and appearances matter more than facing the truth or living in denial works for them. Many of us hate to fail, especially at our relationships so we go through the motions and keep up the external appearance of normalcy. When we have busy lives and multiple distractions it makes it easier to maintain the facade. Others go to great lengths to keep up the "movie set" wall that looks beautiful on the outside, but lacks any other structure beyond the exterior wall. We can decorate the wall and spend time making it look very nice, but this only reinforces avoidance and denial. How does this happen?
Often when couples ignore their issues and conflicts over time resentment sets in and is followed by detachment. Rather than addressing the issues (possibly you've tried that and failed), another option is to coexist while maintaining a roommate marriage. Maybe you're staying in the marriage for the children, financial reasons, and/or not wanting to address the pain which all seem like valid reasons. In some cases, people don't have the physical or emotional energy to make a decision and remain stuck. I'm not suggesting to throw in the towel, instead acknowledge that the relationship can't sustain itself with the facade alone and work on the deeper issues to strengthen the relationship. My focus is to help couples stay together, work through their conflicts, and deal directly with their emotional pain. Often with conflict you have to go through it to get through it. Our tendency is to try working around it and fake it till we make it, but the problems don't go away with time alone. We need an action plan and both parties need to be on board with the game plan.
Let's face it, maintaining a facade takes a lot of energy. If we can shift the focus and energy to addressing the problems that will be a good start. We can begin by letting our partner know what we like and dislike about our relationship or share with them five needs for the relationship that each of you can work on providing for the other. Couples will benefit from forgiving each other for past mistakes and this is easier when positive changes are being made in the present. If you can have those difficult conversations without attacking each other and accepting ownership instead of defensiveness and justification than you can work towards resolution. If the conflicts are too big and the emotions too high, writing them out first and giving your spouse time to process them before a face-to-face interaction might work better. In some cases, working with a therapist who provides objective feedback and professional guidance may be the best option. Ultimately, dealing directly with the issues instead of maintaining the facade increases the probability of a successful outcome. Remember that which we resist, persists. Look beyond the exterior wall and fix the inside problems either individually or as a couple since the facade won't hold up forever.