Doing Hard Time: Love on the Rocks

Tonja Weimer

With a Masters in Human Development, Tonja is an columnist, coach, speaker and author. Her latest book 'Thriving After Divorce', offers insight on how to become a better person and getting through after a break up.

Lately, I have had some clients doing hard time.  They are unhappy with their lives the way they are and can’t understand how they let them get so bad.  Their romance has become an unsolvable problem.

Doing hard time is putting up with a relationship that is wearing you out, both emotionally and physically. 

Consider the following questions:
What were your top five needs at the time you got in the place you are in? 
Were you frightened, so you settled for where you are out of desperation? 
Did you think you didn’t really have any other choices?
Have you currently outgrown those needs? 
Or do you need to find better coping strategies if you want to stay where you are?

Think about the following ideas to help you resolve your situation:

Perceived needs aren’t necessarily the truth. 
Doing hard time can happen because you had a perceived need or value that has become too expensive in your life.  For example, you may have had a need to marry someone who could take care of you financially because you thought you couldn’t survive.  However, after living with this person, you may find that the cost has been too high to your mental and emotional health, and that in fact, it would be easier to learn how to take care of yourself. (AND…when you do that, you may find that your relationship turns around for the better.)

Some commitments are costly. 
Sometimes we have an unrealistic commitment to a value, which causes life to be difficult.  For example, you feel you must be loyal to a friend, or a relationship, no matter what they do or say to you.  You may be so committed to the value of being loyal, you have forgotten how to be kind to yourself.  Your health and happiness therefore suffer.  

Picture the future. 
How long can your intolerable situation continue in your life?  Can you picture what your life will be in 2011 if you continue being where you are?  How about 2015?  Sometimes picturing the future helps us let go of what is intolerable in the present because we know that circumstances will change.

Discover your choices. 
When we are in intolerable situations, it is difficult to access our creativity to generate what we need and want.  What are your methods and patterns for coping with stress?  Can you consider a different strategy to deal with this situation?  We often get access to our own solutions by understanding that we always have choices.

Take one action; change one thing. 
Go back and look at your life in the past. When was it as bad as it is now?  How did you deal with the stress then?  What one thing could you change that you did not do in the past that would have made your situation easier?  For example, perhaps in your former breakups you waited until the situation was so intolerable it became ugly.  Then you told everyone who would listen all the terrible things this person did to you.  (This helped you not feel so guilty about leaving.)  What recognized the problems in the relationship before it got ugly and went to see a counselor, or, if that didn’t work… left with grace, and did not need to badmouth anyone?

False, unrealistic hope can make all of us gullible.  Many people commit to a relationship (or a job) because they have an illusion of what they want, rather than being able to see what truly exists.

After you make a list of all the possible choices you have, and the actions you can take, make a list of people you can talk to about them.  Ask for insight into your patterns, history, and reactions to stress.  From this information, look to see if you can identify recurring behavior that has not served you.  For instance, if you have always been known to yell at people when you are upset, see if you can hold your temper and watch your words the next time the circumstances get crunchy where you are.  Look to see where you can change just one act of behavior that has caused you to become more upset in the past.

Once you get yourself unstuck, you will become more available, more identifiable, and more alive with your own possibility.  Have a meaningful, safe journey towards the center of yourself. 

Remember...the way to have a great relationship is to have one with yourself first.

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  • KH says
    Good article. I'm sure everyone feels like they are at this stage at some point in a relationship.
  • Anna says
    great article.... like kh says im sure we all feel like this at some point... but you can get through it!!
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