Yep. I think you’ve co-created your relationship reality with your partner. There’s no good guys/bad guys in marriage, just folks trying to get through the day. It’s like a dance you’ve learned over time to do together. On the dance floor, who creates the dance? Even if one person is the designated leader, the other person actively agrees to it with each step.
When I work with couples I seek to understand the dance they do together. I want to understand how it works for them, and the ways in which it doesn’t work.
While it takes two people saying “yes” to make a relationship or a dance, it only takes one to end it with a “no.” Part of the difficulty of being left is how unfair it feels. You were dumped, and you didn’t get a vote!
The upside of this paradox is that it only takes one person to introduce change into the dance. One person changing his behavior alters the dance the couple does together. It is not unusual for each member of a couple to be impatiently waiting for their partner to make a desired change first, while they feel stuck and powerless.
It takes courage to step out into uncharted territory by speaking clearly about what you want, or by taking responsibility for taking the lead towards a desired outcome.
I view the couple relationship as an interactional system, with unspoken rules and protocols, shared values, and habitual patterns. This does not mean it is all sweetness and light. A particular couple may behave as if conflict and bickering are part of what it means to be intimate.
The question is always, Does the dance of your intimate relationship work for you? It is not the therapist’s place to attempt to impose his values on someone else’s relationship. My role is to help you clarify the choices you are making, and to encourage you to become more conscious and intentional about making choices that reflect as closely as possible your deeply-held values and desires.
Each partner’s hopes and dreams and desires are important. Transparent, respectful discussions of what each person wants is key to creating your better relationship.
Read Dr. Yarian’s companion article The Couple Relationship: Dysfunctional Interactional Patterns for more on this topic.