Sometimes, in a moment of feeling abandoned, unseen, or treated unfairly by our partners, we protect ourselves with a silent vow: “Never again.”
“Never again will I let myself be hurt like this.”
“Never again will I allow myself to be so vulnerable.”
“Never again will I depend on you.”
Such vows may be fully conscious or barely at the edge of awareness.
We may not use the exact words “Never again” but whatever form the vow takes, we draw a line in the sand. We make a pact with ourselves but we don’t tell our partners. We may not realize the power of our decision until months or years later.
To be clear, I am not talking about relationships in which you are the recipient of destructive behavior such as emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. In relationships like that, vowing “Never again” is a sign of health.
You need to make sure the abuse stop either by the other person addressing their unhealthy patterns or by you leaving the relationship.
Rather, I am talking about relationships in which one or both partners cope with a disappointment or feeling of abandonment by mentally going away.
In my 25 years doing couples counseling, I have seen this many times. A couple enters therapy with one or both partners checked out. Fights go unresolved. Passion has left the relationship. They turn away from each other. They are no longer a team.
Of course, many things can cause partners to turn away from each other. But sometimes as we explore the relationship in counseling, one partner, at first hesitantly then perhaps tearfully, will bring up an event from years ago.