40licous Relationships: Turning Around a Bad Relationship

If you do something long enough, it becomes rote. That might be good if you’re mastering the violin, but not so good if you’re staying in a stale, joyless, loveless relationship, or feeling spiritually bereft. Today’s insight comes from therapist Emma K. Viglucci, LMFT, CIT, CFT. Her practice, Metropolitan Marriage & Family Therapy, specializes in working with couples to help them succeed in their relationship. Her operating principle: People have the ability to change and that they can achieve their fullest potential given the right conditions. They can create the right condition for themselves, and therefore, their relationships.
Emma K. Viglucci helps couples re-discover joy.
1. Are there any common themes you are seeing in your practice for women in their 40s?

Women in their 40s are dealing with many issues ranging from experiencing a decline in youthfulness to relationship crisis. I have found two prevalent themes in my practice: The first is women trying to get pregnant for the first time and having difficulties conceiving. In our modern age women are focusing more and more on career success and having financial independence leaving their personal lives on the back burner until their biological clock starts pounding. By the time they are ready to start a family, they are engrossed in career development and success. They are very busy, stressed out, and emotionally and physically depleted. Now is their body, including their reproductive system, not only getting older but it’s not in great shape to create another life. Add to this their lifestyle – hectic and out of balance, and their relationship state, usually neglected by now unless it’s a fairly new one. There is no room for a baby here – not for nothing they are not getting pregnant.

The work to be done in this situation is to bring everything into more balance: body, routine, lifestyle, and relationship dynamics. A lot of TLC is in order.

The second theme I find very common in my practice at this age is women dealing with their husband’s midlife crisis. The husbands are questioning if marriage is for them, if they married the right person, if they want to stay married to them, and they are wondering about commitment, loyalty and faithfulness. This throws a wrench into their couplehood and it is very challenging to navigate as it hits the partners’ core in terms of their emotional safety and security. Their future is uncertain and their bond is tenuous. This is very painful and creates a lot of insecurities hitting the partners’ self esteem and sense of self worth. Their personal and couple identities are shattered and their life as they know it is turned up side down.

The work to be done in this situation is for each partner to explore the meaning of their situation for themselves, their own wishes and needs, and accept each other’s world, perspective, even if they don’t like or agree with it. From a place of acceptance and understanding, the partners can renegotiate their relationship and come up with a structure that meets both their needs as best as possible. 

2. What hurdles are couples most successful at overcoming?

Regardless of the themes or issues couples present with when they come to my practice, the common denominator in terms of their complaint is usually feeling disconnected and fighting a lot. These are the hurdles they are the most successful at overcoming as well. The work has a pretty good success rate in addressing this. Couples get very good at communicating, addressing concerns from an empowered state, learning how to get their needs met and creating a more happy and successful relationship. Their continued attention to what created the dissatisfying repeating cycle and dynamic is paramount to their continued individual growth and healing and their general couple wellbeing.

3. What are dealbreakers? When should a woman leave a relationship?

Couples do all kinds of funky behavior in their relationship and create a unique way of relating. It is up to the partners what behavior is acceptable and tolerable to them. Some partners have a much higher tolerance level for inappropriate, disrespectful, boundary crossing, and harmful behavior than others. This is a unique formula for each couple. One behavior that should not be tolerated period is physical harm. When in danger, get the heck out! The rest can be addressed, worked on and hopefully changed over time.

The lack of progress and change over time can also be a deal breaker, and the length of time acceptable to each partner to continue to try is up to their endurance and resilience.

The work should focus on becoming healthily interdependent where both partners’ needs are consistently met and they have balance between their individuality and couplehood.

4. What are three things a woman can do to improve her relationship right now?

To have a wonderful life and great relationship a woman needs to own herself. If she operates from her Authentic Self and woks on responsibly taking care of herself life becomes a lot easier. Here are three things she can do to improve her relationship right now:

  • Pick an item that’s an issue and set clear boundaries around it getting your needs met – speak with I-statements, such as “I feel angry when you are late,” rather than “You are always late.”
  • Own your sexuality and femininity: Wear feminine clothes and dress up when going out; seduce your partner, flirt and tease; initiate physical intimacy 
  • Throw your partner a bone – give in to a request that may not be at the top of your list, but that won’t kill you to try either 
5. Anything else we should know?

Yes! Women can accept their maturing process gracefully without taking a beating to their self esteem. We can defy aging as we know it by enhancing our beauty from the inside out:

  • Embracing a mindfulness practice allows the mind to become more quite and alert, reduces stress and its impact, integrates the brain for increased resources, and enhances the quality of life by bringing inner peace and joy. From this state the journey of life is effortless. For more, read Mindsight by Daniel Siegel, visit the yoga lifestyle site Wailana.com, or try the guided meditation CD Guided Mindful Meditations.
  • Reading a number of other books that will help with discovery of the Authentic Self
  • Learning about relationship processes and skills and using them consistently to enhance their relationship. There are lots of resources here.

COMMENT: What are some things you’ve done to get your through the rocky times?

Vanessa McGrady40licous Relationships: Turning Around a Bad Relationship

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