QUESTION: I feel really sad. I really want to do work on my marriage, but sometimes I feel really discouraged. I have done a lot of talking these past months and felt like we made progress. But my husband loses his temper on me regularly, despite our discussions, and it makes me think, is this worth it? Is he even still in love with me? Am I in love with him? Should I stick this marriage out? I am exhausted and in pain from the constant battle and want some relief.

ANSWER: No one can answer such important questions but you. It sounds like it has been very intense for you, but that is the energy for everyone right now. We all need to dig deep and figure out our lives; the times of phoning it in unconsciously are over. Everything is coming up to the surface so we can examine it. Not easy, but certainly meaningful. You have to keep the focus on you: what do you want, what are your fears and hopes, how do you gauge the work being done? Again, not easy, but there is really no other option. 

The use of a couples therapist at such junctures is immensely valuable to help us navigate the stormy waters. It can help you to see what is your stuff and what is his, what needs to be tended to on your end and what on his. Do investigate your own feelings here. Are you questioning your relationship because of his temper or are there other issues at play? If you felt love from him would you automatically reciprocate or are there issues around intimacy or love from your end? Is the anger the straw that broke the camel’s back or is it the main issue? These issues need to be teased out so you can fully understand the lay of the psychic land in your marriage. This is best done with the expert help of a neutral third party.

Many of us enter into relationships with unconscious motives running the show. When one party becomes more conscious and decides to change the unconscious agreements, much turmoil follows, as both parties struggle to adjust to the shift. There is always work involved in times of deep transition. All we can do is own up to our part with as much honesty as we can muster. Do remember that what we do not heal follows us into the next relationship. This does not mean that one stays in an abusive relationship, just that leaving a relationship without fully becoming clear about our own role is counterproductive.

Case in point, I was recently working with someone who is actively engaged in the Internet dating scene after ending one long-term relationship of 10 years, followed by a shorter one of two years. Much to his amazement, all the people he has met were emotional carbon copies of his exes, down to their nuances. This has made him aware of the work that needs to be done internally. And of course, it takes a relationship for these issues to become apparent. There is something uncanny about how our unconscious will repeat patterns until the underlying issues are addressed and healed.

Learn to tolerate your feelings. Making a decision when we are in the deep throes of pain or grief (because we can’t tolerate the emotion) only leads to more pain. Quiet your mind down so you can hear your heart. From that space you can answer your own questions. It’s healthy that you are asking and questioning. Follow that up by listening for the answer. 

Ultimately, potentially life-changing questions must only be informed by our internal landscape, not by the opinion of others.