In a lifetime, we all have several relationships and partnerships. Some we choose to leave; for some, the choice is made by the other. In either case, the end of what most often started with good intentions and excitement means a sense of loss leaving a hole, whether small or large. At times, one has a sense of relief that the misery is no longer on the radar screen. But even then, there is some leftover emotional upheaval. Then, too, we may have tried to stick it out, to put up with what didn’t make us happy in the hopes that things will change, that the other will change his or her ways, or that we will be able to look at things more positively.

However you get to the point of considering the end of a connection, how do you assess if it is salvageable? So, let me bring two examples:

Couple 1 has been together for a year when A’s family goes through tough times and A ends up having to join his parents in a bankruptcy situation and with all the turmoil, loses his job. B ends up covering all costs as A and B live together. B makes very little effort to look for another job. A few months go by while A grows increasingly resentful and eventually decides to end the relationship and asks B to leave. At this point, B asks if they could try couples therapy, which is when I met them. After some time dissecting their past histories, it seemed clear that neither guy wanted to break up and both were willing to hear each other out and change their behaviors. B made a real effort and got a decent job and they also sought out financial advice to improve their budget. Both had their own issues to deal with but were willing to consider the quick temper of one and the denial of upsets by the other as obstacles to their communication and actively worked to be more tolerant of each other. So this was definitely a salvageable partnership.

Couple 2 has been together for five years. First one, then the other had had an outside affair while they lived together. In the last several months, neither has been happy and they thought they should seek therapy. On the day of the first appointment, A – who strongly wanted to keep the relationship – learned that B decided not to attend the session. Although issues of how to resolve the shared household issue remains, and A has been the major provider of most expenses, one partner cannot carry the whole relationship. It seems clear that B has definitely disengaged from the involvement. This is a situation where no mending can take place, no matter how much A may want to stay connected.

It takes two to work on making a relationship stronger and healthier. If you see yourself as being the only one making the effort, look at what it is that you are getting out of this situation. Being a martyr? Wanting the sense of control? Is the partnership adding to your life? We invest in relationships, primarily emotionally, but also socially and financially. Are you getting the returns on that investment, the ROI that is easy to figure out in business? Or are you putting in much more than the yield? In bad times, one can pitch in if the other is not able to, but this ought to be temporary. If not, do look to take care of yourself as least as much as you do for the other. You deserve that, and seek help in whatever venue you find acceptable.

Author Profile

Janan Broadbent, PhD
Janan Broadbent, PhD
As a psychologist in private practice since 1979, Janan Broadbent, Ph. D. offers individual, couples, group and family therapy, in addition to conducting workshops on topics such as stress management, communication skills and assertiveness. She writes about current issues relevant to relationship building and conflict resolution in LGBTQ and minority populations, with emphasis on health, fitness and education.

Born in Turkey, Dr. Broadbent earned her undergraduate degree in psychology in 1965. At that time, first as a Fulbright Scholar, then as a CENTO Fellow, she received her master's and doctorate degrees in psychology and education from the University of California at Los Angeles. She has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in psychology at St.Mary's College of Maryland, Mt. Vernon College in Washington, D. C., Johns Hopkins University and the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore. From 1981 to 1988, she was also the Director of Counseling at Notre Dame College.
While in graduate school, Dr. Broadbent worked for the Voice of America radio program, writing and recording materials on the cross-cultural college experience. She has been interviewed on various news programs on TV and has received media training.
Dr. Broadbent is a member of the American Psychological Association and has served as the chair for the Public Affairs Board and as a member of the Executive Council of the Maryland Psychological Association.
Dr. Broadbent's office is located at:
Village of Cross Keys, 120 West Quadrangle, 2 Hamill Road, Baltimore, Maryland 21210-1847 phone: 410-825-5577