As a relationship coach, I hear different people’s theories about love and relationships. I hear what I know to be myths. However, sometimes they are rather explanations which we have adopted to make sense of the fact that a marriage or long-term relationship ended, or as we tend to look at it, “failed”.
One of my clients in his late fifties said the other day, ”I was married for 13 years in my twenties and early thirties, I have had three other long-term relationships since then, which all lasted between 4-8 years, but I don’t see how I could have continued any of these relationships beyond that time. Do you believe a relationship has a shelf life?”
What he experienced is quite typical. Statistics Canada describes in their 2008 report that an average marriage last 13.7 years. Second and third marriages end even earlier. And that statistic does not include long-term relationships.
But to answer my client’s question, I do not believe that a relationship has an expiration date, per se. I do believe that relationships change and go through different stages. I also know for a fact, that we are very ill-equipped to make the transition to the next phase and to handle relationship challenges in general.
Nobody ever teaches us how to “do relationships”. My wish for future generations is to have the school subject “Living Successful Relationships”. That subject would need to include how to connect to our own feelings and protective responses, how to self-soothe, how to truly listen and communicate from a vulnerable place, how to solve conflicts, make compromises and create win-win situations. This school subject could help us in our intimate love relationships and in all our professional relationships. It would allow us to create a different society in which everybody is capable of connecting. I even believe that by teaching non-violent communication and other relationship skills, we could prevent wars and save the future of this planet.
So why do relationships end? A friend sent me this quote by relationship coach Mark Groves the other day which summarizes it perfectly:
What does it mean to outgrow a relationship? It often means that two people have grown away from each other, instead of having been able to stay connected. I used to say that this is what happened with the father of my daughters. However, it is just as true that in my thirties, I did not have the skills necessary to navigate this relationship and steer it back on course.
Another aspect of relationships deteriorating which the quote highlights is our level of investment. The moment one or even both partners are not invested in the relationship anymore, or maybe never were all that invested in the first place, the relationship has received its death sentence. One person alone cannot keep a relationship going. When it feels like you are dragging a partner along who is not willing to devote the necessary time and work into the relationship anymore, you have no other choice but to accept that. Both people need to be invested in the relationship.
One important investment you can make into your long-term relationship or marriage is to see a counselor or coach. You can learn the skills you need to navigate the changes every relationship undergoes. If you are longing to connect with your partner and steer your relationship boat through a tough time, reach out for a free phone consultation.
Also check out my packages for couples.