“From the moment that [two partners] are united by their karma, they should spend every moment in search of harmony.” -Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
Earlier in our marriage, my husband and I would often find ourselves in a “roommate rut.” During these times, we’d live, not like a couple in love, but as frustrated roommates. Before kids, when we’d fall into these ruts, we’d pour all our attention into our careers. After kids, our attention was distributed between careers, the kids, aaaaand Netflix. At night, we’d kiss, share a few sleepy comments about our day, and crash.
On the surface, nothing was “wrong” per se, but something was definitely getting in the way of our deeper connection. The truth is that during these years, if you’d put a magic microphone into our minds you would’ve heard stories like:
“Our marriage is broken.”
“We’ve lost something; what if we can’t find it again?!”
“If he would just…then everything would be better.”
“If she would just…then everything would be better.”
These thoughts led us to snap at, shut down, or pass by one another like ships in the night. They tap danced all over the “stuff” we’d brought into the marriage — my “abandonment issues” and the sense of inadequacy he felt when he couldn’t “fix” what seemed broken. All these stories ultimately sent us spiraling into unhelpful patterns that we could see but struggled to stop.
These painful patterns and trigger points led us into what I like to call, Stable Misery:
- Your relationship feels bearable but unfulfilling.
- You want your relationship to thrive but you’re too emotionally, mentally, or spiritually drained to put in the effort.
- Your relationship has gone from a perpetual slumber party between best friends to frustrated roommates.
- You feel more competent and fulfilled in your career and with your kids than you do in your relationship.
Sound familiar? I’ve been there and so have many of my clients. Let’s hop on a free call and talk about solutions that work for you and your relationship.
Sooo, How’d We Get Here?!
Imagine a small wooden box with stagnant water resting in the bottom. At first, everything is fine but if ignored long enough, the box would begin to rot and mold. The stagnant water would grow bacteria and when opened, the stench would knock you off your feet. Overwhelmed, you may choose to close the box. Maybe you conclude it’s better to just ignore it or deal with it later. However, the problem only gets worse, making you less likely to deal with it at all. Such is the path into stable misery. When we ignore issues in a relationship those issues can begin to erode the very foundation of that relationship through things like resentment (mold) and the unhelpful stories we tell ourselves (bacteria).
It’s easy to get stuck in stable misery because it’s often difficult to point to one main problem causing the issue. When we can identify a key problem, we tell ourselves it’s contained or we’ll deal with it later because life outside the box seems to flow just fine. However, like the stagnant water in the hard wood box, stable misery begins to slowly leak into other areas of our life, such as our careers and important relationships. Our energy drains as the problems within the box build.
Descent into stable misery is often sloooooow. Unlike a death, job loss, or the firm ending of an important relationship, we seldom recognize it’s even happening. The markers are so subtle. The deeper we go, the more excuses we make and the more we settle for how things are. We trick ourselves into believing the puddle is just as good as the sea and we no longer strive for the sea. Sometimes we forget the sea or a more fulfilling connection with our partner, even exists.
How Do We Air Out the Stable Misery Box?
Just as the hard wood box symbolizes stability and the stagnant water symbolizes misery, air represents play and fire represents passion. The best way to deal with stable misery is to “air” out the box and heat up the stagnant bacteria-ridden water with fire! Playful passion is a powerful pathway out of stable misery.
Earlier this month, my husband and I realized that we were entering into Stable Misery Space. However, over the past 20 years, we’ve learned to look at the Stable Misery Space, not as an indicator that we or our relationship are broken, but as a signal that we need to put more conscious attention into playfully and passionately connecting with each other.
4 Pathways Outta Stable Misery
Imagine a field filled with joyful people dancing around a bonfire. The wind playfully tickles and feeds the flames; sending them popping and swaying as they illuminate the happy faces of those dancing and singing around it. Unlike hard earth and stagnant water, fire and air move and flow. If you find your relationship in the “hard box, stagnant water” scenario, get it moving in the direction you want by adding play (air) and passion (fire).
This weekend my in-laws kept the kids (YAY!) while my husband and I got some much needed “us time.” On Saturday, we decided to add “playful passion” into our relationship by visiting a local Erotic Adult Store. Like middle school kids, we walked around giggling, slack jawed, (and sometimes clueless about) some of the items we saw. We walked away with some erotic dice and a couples chakra game (the woo side of me was thoroughly pleased). That night we took time to play! We laughed, told corny jokes, and reflected on our adult store field trip. Honestly, we didn’t even finish playing the darn games. Exploring and reflecting, generated the playful passion we needed to boil the bacteria outta the stagnant parts of our relationship.
When’s the Last Time You Really Played with Your Partner?
We’re not meant to live emotionally, mentally, or spiritually meager lives. We’re designed to live fulfilling lives. When we set the intention to play, we find ourselves doing things that excite us, get our minds creating, our hearts pumping. When we play, things begin to click inside and outside of our being. We feel a sense of passion!
Play is defined as a goalless activity. The