Runaway Mate?


When you hear the word escape, what comes to mind?  Perhaps an escape can be a much-needed drive with the top down on cruise control.  Through another lens, it could be speeding through a stop sign nearly causing an accident.

There is a fine line between unwinding and blindly running away.  Unfortunately, we sometimes convince ourselves that we are getting rid of a problem by driving away from it. 

As a clinician working with many couples repairing from betrayal and disconnection, the golden question is always “Why?”  Why aren’t you listening?  Why are we always fighting?  Why were you unfaithful?  Why aren't we having sex? 

I find that a common theme within these conversations is the desire to escape. 

It’s not necessarily to escape your partner….sometimes we are seeking to exit issues in other contexts, which in turn impact our relationship.  

Why and where do you exit when things get difficult or too uncomfortable to face? 

Infidelity is not the only harmful way that we can exit our relationships.  We don’t have to run into the arms of another to commit the essence of a betrayal or neglect.  We escape in a number of overlooked ways to avoid conflict or discomfort.

Maybe you fill your calendar and overcommit to invites leaving “no time” for your relationship.  Perhaps you drown in video games for hours or you exit through happy hours with coworkers that morph into late nights.  Maybe you spiral into social media by having political spars or going on selfie rampages to avoid facing issues.  Each of these can easily contribute to disconnection in a relationship.

Note that I am not talking about healthy autonomy or having  quality “me time” or hanging with friends.  Though what begins as healthy coping can bleed over into escaping our problems rather than managing them.  It’s important to recognize the difference. 

Yet it seems only when our partner exits into an affair do we definitively consider it detrimental to the relationship.  There is a fine line between “decompressing” and “exiting”.  The latter can wreak havoc on the connection and fulfillment in relationships.  What might you be allowing to intrude on connection in your relationship?  Where do you turn when issues arise in your relationship or at work?  Toward or away from your partner?   

Exiting not only allows your problems to resurface unresolved but also simultaneously leaves a residual buildup of tension and conflict in your relationship.  Even if what you are driving away from has nothing to do with your relationship!  What a waste of gas! 

 Think about where and how you exit when things get hard in a relationship.  Do you pull the car over and talk it over with your partner and express your needs?  Or do you abandon your partner, leaving them on the curb to guess where you drove off to and wonder when you’ll be back?

If you recognize patterns in yourself of exiting, I encourage you to bring it up to your partner.  Acknowledging it is the first step in exploring how you could find solace in a healthier way without driving away from the relationship.  Hopefully you will let your partner sit in the front seat with you on the journey. 

Feel free to contact me for a phone consultation to set up an appointment if you need help navigating this road trip.