A new study says that many couples stay together even when they’re in a rut—here’s how to get out of it.
By Beth Shapouri, People Magazine | December 16, 2020 01:29 PM
In a 2020 study of people in relationships in the journal Family Relations, one word kept coming up: “Stuck.” While surveying interviews about participants’ relationships, the study’s authors found more than a third of participants originally interviewed reported having felt a sense of “felt constraint” holding them to their partner—though they weren’t sure they truly wanted to be in the relationship.
This year, that “stuck” feeling may be more prevalent than ever; after all, we’re literally all confined to our spaces, and dating prospects are difficult. But even in non-pandemic times, that “stuck” feeling in a relationship is surprisingly common, for a number of reasons.
Among them: you’re ambivalent about how you and your significant other have changed since first getting together; you feel you can’t afford to move out on your own or are exhausted by the messy process of splitting up your lives; or you just simply don’t want to believe that the years put into a partnership were all for naught.
Plus, it can sometimes be hard to know the difference between when that feeling means that it’s time to move forward in your relationship—or time to move on. If you’re in a rut and wondering how to escape it read on for the expert tips to helping you get “unstuck”—whether or not you decide to stay together.
Take a gut check
A period of boredom and frustration doesn’t have to signify the end for a couple, says Dr. Forrest Talley, a clinical psychologist in Folsom, Calif. “Relationships are difficult,” he says. “They invariably involve sacrifice, adjustments, forgiveness, compassion, disappointment, and more.”
Stay together long enough, and these things can take their toll. He says, “As a result, most people will then have moments where the seeds of regret begin to form. They need not, however, take root.”
There are a few questions that may help you pinpoint whether you’re just in a phase or the relationship is in real trouble, according to Dr. Talley.
He suggests asking yourselves: “Have some fundamental agreements (i.e. to be faithful, to be an equal provider, to end up marrying and having children) been violated?” and “Has the relationship changed, or have I become bored due to some other factors?”
Dr. Supriya Blair, licensed clinical psychologist, adds a couple of her own. She suggests asking “Do I feel I am fully able to be myself in our relationship?” and “What are all the reasons I think I should be in this relationship?” Once you’ve answered those questions, then imagine how you’d feel if the bonds keeping you tied together —like an interconnected friend group, or mingled finances— went away. If that changed tomorrow, would you still want to stay?