Women's Health

How to Talk About an Unhappy Marriage Before It’s Too Late



Former New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, announced Wednesday that they are separating after nearly 30 years in an interview with The New York Times. Their story begins with an “aha” moment in the middle of what the article calls yet another “stale Saturday night of binge-watching TV” together.

“Why aren’t you in love anymore?” Mr de Blasio reportedly asked his wife, a question likely to sound familiar to anyone in a long-term relationship who has felt the slow decline of lust and excitement.

Admittedly, the couple – who are not divorcing and will continue to share the Brooklyn townhouse where they raised their children – have had to deal with other complicating factors that go far beyond mundane weekend plans. , among them the grueling pace of electoral politics and the failure of Mr. de Blasio. presidential candidacy.

Still, for those who see a kernel of themselves in the couple’s story, experts say there are some simple but helpful questions to ask yourself and your partner before they’re too late.

Falling into comfortable patterns isn’t inherently a problem, nor necessarily a red flag if you’re not as physically affectionate with your partner as you once were, said Megan Murphy, licensed mental health counselor and co-founder of ‘Expansive Therapy, an LGBTQ-focused psychotherapy group.

“I think it’s fabulous to binge on something with a loved one on the couch!” she said laughing. But what the article about their separation describes is that moment or scenario in which a couple realizes, “Oh, I think we want something more,” Ms Murphy said.

Ms. Murphy encourages people in relationships to ask themselves: what do I want from my relationship? And do I understand?

“Can you be honest with yourself about it, and then can you bring that honesty to the relationship?” she says.

Of course, these are big and often thorny questions to explore, and Ms Murphy pointed out that therapy can help. Sometimes it can be helpful to start with individual therapy rather than couples therapy, she added, because it provides a safe environment in which to say what you want out loud.

Elizabeth Earnshaw, a licensed marriage and family therapist and author of the book “I Want It to Work,” often counsels couples who worry about patterns they might have fallen into.

In the case of a couple who spends a lot of time watching TV, for example, she encourages thinking about questions such as: is this a way to stop you both from connecting?

“Be honest and direct about what you notice, and also ask what they noticed,” Ms Earnshaw said. “Something like, ‘Hey baby, things seem stale. Have you noticed that? Then ask what your partner might need to feel recommitted to the relationship with you.

Galena Rhoades, a clinical psychologist and research professor at the University of Denver, said it might be helpful for couples to have “mini assessments” or “checkups” in which they ask themselves things like : Are we satisfied with the way things are going? ?

Experts sometimes recommend having check-ins as often as daily, but the general idea is to have them often enough that you can “make those little adjustments along the way,” Dr. Rhoades said.

Relationship experts who spoke to The Times did not work with Mr. de Blasio and Ms. McCray and were loath to speculate about what contributed to the end of their relationship. However, Ms Earnshaw noted that the partners both described how outside pressures and demands on their time kept them apart.

It might seem obvious, but sometimes couples need to be reminded that it takes energy to keep romantic relationships alive, Ms Earnshaw said – although she acknowledged how difficult it was for anyone facing the myriad of pressures from work, parenthood and other stressors. life. (Dr. Rhoades also noted that Mr. de Blasio and Ms. McCray were in a privileged position, financially and in terms of community support and resources, which may make the separation easier.)

Still, couples should strive to “constantly assess” what matters to them and do what they can to set limits and boundaries around daily tasks that drain energy from their relationship, said Mrs Earnshaw. She added that it might help to start by asking yourself: what role do stress and turmoil play in your life together?

“When couples stay in a state of low energy towards the relationship,” Ms Earnshaw said, “it becomes harder and harder to get out of it.”



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