“Your relationships are your story. Write well. Edit often.”
— Esther Perel
It feels uncomfortable. Awkward. You walk through the door, home from your day and just feel…tension. Your home doesn’t rise up to meet you. It drags you down and you just want to escape.
The weight of a failing relationship is a heavy burden. But is it that bad? Should we be trying harder? Can this be fixed?
Esther Perel knows the answer. It is one single word that will kill any relationship.
Perel’s 4 Key Signs of Relationship Failure Indifference
In your heart, you feel your partner simply doesn’t care about who you are or what you desire. Your feelings are disregarded. It is even larger than becoming bored with your partner, it is completely failing to see them as a person with wants and needs. Those things aren’t even on the radar of mattering. You don’t feel like you matter.
You are nothing but a second paycheck, a plus-one for the wedding, someone to split the chores with. Partnership in the truest sense of the word is no where in sight. The relationship gradually becomes cold and disconnected.
It is an assumption your partner will always be there just taking whatever you dish out. You assume their presence like a family member who can’t leave. It is the indifference that causes people to take each other for granted.
Anything and everything takes precedence over your partner. When you practice neglect, you can use anything as an excuse. All of your passion and excitement goes into the children, beloved pets, a new television show, social media feeds. Absolutely everything deserves your full effort…except your partner.
And not the physical kind. That kind is an obvious physical threat. But it is abuse nonetheless. According to Esther Perel, when a relationship begins to degrade, the level of conversation goes in the toilet. People speak to their partner in a way they would speak to almost no one else. If you care about the relationship, you don’t convey disrespect in any way.
To love is to be loving. To care about someone. Being dismissive, short, rude, crass, unkind. When you assume a person will always be there, you feel you don’t even have to try. You can use them as a dumping ground for all your crap.
And the downward spiral continues into the single biggest predictor of the end of a relationship.
And that one word?
Quite simply, this is the killer of relationships.
It is that look. One of disdain, disrespect, disgust. On The Tim Ferriss Podcast, Perel explains, “the belittling, the infantilising, the demeaning, the degrading, all of these categories of a relationship which ultimately amount to abusiveness. To me, that is the moment where a relationship really is done. Because what it means, is that in order to protect one self, one needs to leave.”
You can fight, you can complain, you can hurt each other, and none of those are dealbreakers. The most successful couples repair with ease and come out stronger on the other side, everytime.
But contempt, no. Not ever. It is a sign of something that has been lost. There is no respect left in the relationship. And that matters. Without a sense of adoration, admiration and feeling a strong sense of fondness for your partner, you cannot survive as a couple.
But why? Because you cannot recover from that place. And the relationship no longer holds any value.
Because what is a relationship at the end of all our reading, writing and discussions? Your primary relationship is the core foundation of your life. They are how we interact with one another. It is where we draw strength. It will determine your level of personal happiness, professional success, and your ability to have healthy relationships with all of the other people in your life.
The person we choose to spend our lives with is our greatest supporter, our cheerleader, the one person you want to share both the good and the bad with. The one person you want to tell everything to, because you know sharing it gives life meaning.
The most important value in a great partnership is to know that you matter to the other person, and that they know how much they matter to you. Our primary relationship is where we find connection and meaning in our lives every day.
Without that connection we are simply going through the motions, pretending to be something we are not.
Why you are going to be ok
Nothing, not one single thing in this world lasts forever.
Change of any magnitude is always scary. We fear what we are letting go, what will happen next, how we will manage. Transitioning out of a relationship that doesn’t work doesn’t have to be ugly.
According to Perel, “Some people want to end with the ‘conscious uncoupling’, as we call it. Some relationships have run their course and that doesn’t mean they have failed, it means they ended. Not everybody is meant to live 60 to 70 years with the same person or in the same relationship."
And that’s ok.