I don’t know about you, but when my tub doesn’t drain as quickly as normal I find myself going through a series of steps to fix the problem. I am picking on the tub today, but I could just as easily criticize the vanity sink or kitchen sink. They all fail eventually.
The other morning (ok, afternoon) I decided to take a shower to help alleviate some cold symptoms I was experiencing. As stood in the shower allowing the steam to loosen the gunk in my lungs, I noticed some water pooling around the drain. No big deal, but there usually isn’t any standing water. Oh, the first world problems we have.
Since I shower daily (my mom wonders), the next morning there was even more standing water. With the shower still on, I plunged the drain until a whirlpool formed. Problem solved for the moment. I went to a neighborhood hardware store, bought a drain strainer, and shoved it into place to alleviate the problem.
A few days later, the blockage returned with a vengeance. Plunging didn’t help, the strainer was a piece of crap, so I bought a plastic BDSM device intending to rip the guts out of this drain. Nothing. Furious, I returned the wimpy plastic gadget and bought the Snake 5000—a 200-feet titanium reinforced hairball of doom torture device. I snaked the shit out of the drain and it worked!
Three days later, I had standing water again. I began to wonder if the problem was me or was it my husband? Could our aloof feline be pulling off clods of his fur and shoving them down the drain? Snake 5000 failed. Exasperated, I wandered the plumbing aisles of another hardware store looking for any solution to this problem. I stumbled across a plumber with a sympathetic ear told me to call his office to schedule an appointment. I ignored him. I knew I could fix this problem.
An employee walked by and with my cheetah reflexes, I tackled him. Pleading for a solution, he told me to try Drain-Kleer 9000, a noxious chemical solution. After reading the instructions and warnings, I bought the heavy-duty chemical, some rubber gloves, eye protection, a hazmat suit, and caution tape since the directions alluded to a gaseous plume arising from the point of origin. After soaking for several hours as instructed, the clot won. Nothing worked. Weakened and defeated, I called the plumber and asked for a rooter to roto my problem. I had a lovely combination of hardened concrete in the pipe and tree roots soaking up my bath water.
When we experience problems in our relationships, we go through the same process. We figure we can fix it ourselves. We look up advice on the interweb; we ask paraprofessionals for help, and we staunchly believe our problems are fixable using the same methods everyone else uses. While some relationship issues can be solved with some simple fixes, the bigger problems are never easy. They often require professional help. It necessitates acknowledging you don’t know what you don’t know.
You can buy every book, listen to every guru, and still not find a solution to your relationship issues because all relationships are unique. Relationships are the coming together of two unique individuals who have different opinions, experiences, models, concerns, beliefs, expectations, and perspectives.
Relationships are complex beings. As a relationship coach, I often work with couples. During these sessions, there are four living beings involved—client A, client B, me, and the Relationship. I like to refer to the Relationship as the entity that is birthed in the space between the dyad; it is the living creature created by the convergence of two human lifetimes looking to become a unit in the present and future, while assimilating the unknowns of the past.
When there are problems, we must address the source of the problem. Like a drain, we cannot think we know the source of the problem. Yes, we can try to fix the problem by following some common protocols, but these solutions are often temporary. There is no one right way to work on a relationship except to bring in an expert. Having someone who listens, questions, and brings in a different perspective is oftentimes the best solution.
If your relationship is beginning to show some signs of damage—criticism, defensiveness, contempt, or stonewalling–I implore you to find some help. Picking up a book or two won’t hurt, but oftentimes a couple needs a champion who is looking out for the Relationship. Therapists, relationship coaches and spiritual counselors are great places to start. If they give giant bear hugs, then you are on the right track. As for help, there is no shame in getting the right help to ensure your long-term success.