A while ago, I wrote a post about how to know when it’s time for a change, how to know when you need to move on from a relationship that isn’t working anymore. Since that time, I’ve noticed that I’m seeing more and more clients who report that they feel stuck and immobilized in relationships that are starting to feel toxic and are just not working out the way they’d hoped.

Well, at least these relationships aren’t working at least 50% or more of the time. During the good times, the connection feels fantastic – loving, connected, affectionate. And provides a high that can be remembered and sought-after during those not-so wonderful times.

However, what I hear from my clients is that they are worn out, sad, angry, and discouraged, as they try to figure out how to cope with the relationship lows and still maintain the elation that comes with those good times. When a relationship only provides highs and lows, when it seems as though there’s never a middle ground of peaceful co-existence, memories of those good feelings aren’t enough to sustain that relationship.

Is your relationship so toxic these days that you no longer recognize the person you’ve become? Have you been ignoring your own needs and boundaries out of fear that your partner might leave? If those low times are so destructive that, during the good times, you find yourself waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the anger and stress to start, then you may need to decide if change seems possible. And if this is a relationship you actually need or want to maintain.

If you and your partner are able to collaborate to find a more stable middle ground, you might be able to make this work. But getting to that happy place usually requires taking some risks. While working on a relationship together is important, finding yourself again is even more essential. If you operate out of fear that your partner will leave, while neglecting your own needs, those extreme highs and lows are likely to continue. And the more you struggle to became unstuck, the more stuck you might be feeling.

Your partner can’t “fix” you, if you’re not happy with yourself. While you might miss your partner during a short time apart (vacation, work travel, family visit), ideally, you should have enough personal resources to be ok with being alone with yourself. And enough ways to fill your time (with projects, friends, self-care) that you aren’t panicked at the idea of being on your own. In a healthy relationship, your own well-being cannot be totally dependent on the other person.

If things are getting worse, not better, if your partner doesn’t seem willing or able to talk about those communication glitches, if you’re feeling trapped and unhappy in your relationship, this might be a time to ramp up the self-care you need to get through these challenges.

So – what to do now? Self help books are all over – and worth a try. Online resources are easily available and often useful. Friends might have helpful insights. You may have considered (or tried) couples therapy. Which also might help, especially if your partner is willing and able to fully participate in the process.

What if my partner can’t or won’t work this out with me? Sometimes your best efforts to communicate and collaborate just don’t work out. In that case, perhaps the best you can do is focus on yourself. How can you feel healthier and happier and not so dependent on another person? What might you be doing to negatively impact your relationship? Do you need some help figuring out your options and next steps – and the changes you might need to make?

If on your own isn’t working, if you’re feeling stuck and without options, you might want to consider individual therapy. Counseling can help you get unstuck, as you figure out why this has become such a struggle, discover your options, and rediscover the “you” who may have been lost in this relationship.

If you are in the Los Angeles area and are considering individual therapy, let’s talk to see how I can help. I can be reached at 310.475.1759 or email me at [email protected]

You might want to check out this post:

LOOKING FOR A THERAPIST IN THE BIG CITY? Challenges of searching for help in Los Angeles (or any urban area).

And this article:

The 15 Minute Decision: Is This the Right Therapist for Me?