Marriage in Limbo? – One wants it to work, the other doesn’t know what they want so they become paralysed.

What do you do when a person is so stuck in their marriage, they cannot decide what to do, so they do nothing week after week, month after month? They don’t contribute, there’s no intimacy, no connection and yet they don’t want to leave either.

When a person becomes unhappy in a marriage for some the direction they must take is clear to them. For many people, that decision is fraught with consequences that are good and bad whichever way they turn so they become paralysed.

This post is about understanding if presented with this problem what’s needed to help that couple out of it.

In simple terms, the solution to this problem is helping them see their problem in solvable terms.

Their problem is simple, they have been looking at their problem in a way that keeps them stuck, but they are unaware this is what they are doing.

A significant number of my clients come to see me with this very problem they are stuck, paralysed not able to commit to being in the relationship or being out of it.

This situation is frustrating for both people and must change in a way that helps both people uncover the truth so they can both avoid mistakes and regret spirals.

Many individuals that are this stuck, do eventually seek help some kind of help.

They seek help because they are permanently sitting in no man’s land constantly feeling that something is very wrong, but with no way out.

These people are lost because they are never connecting with an outcome that makes sense because every outcome creates a reason to stay paralysed.

Some people in this situation can make themselves, physically and mentally unwell as they battle with such a life-changing decision. I’ve seen depression, anxiety and stress some are even suicidal as life feels unwinnable.

These people will have a powerful internal battle, it will say don’t commit to the relationship, it’s not safe to, and don’t leave it, it’s not safe to either.

To expand this paralysis thought process.

They may feel on one hand that leaving would stop their suffering and bring instant relief and provide the hope of a new life either alone or with someone new, so one part of them is excited. Maybe I should leave?

The other part could look at that uncertainty of a new life and become fearful, what if the grass really isn’t greener? What if they will swop one set of problems for another? What if they are really the problem after all and they will be responsible for destroying their family? I may hurt myself or those I love if I leave?

This is then contrasted in their mind with looking at the relationships past and knowing exactly what they didn’t like about it knowing the future cannot/must not be that way, they really have had enough, but if they stay the chances are really high it will be the same. I know I can’t stay?

Some people are stuck because of the years of investment, some are worried if their partner will cope if they leave, some are concerned about the kids and if the split will damage them.

Should I stay? Should I go? What should I do, nothing feels right? The reason nothing feels right is because they are asking the wrong question and they are not yet aware.

For people who are stuck fighting with their thoughts, for them there is no clear answer so they sit directionless committed only to what they feel safe to commit to which is for many “the need for more time and freedom”.

These people are unaware that time may not be on their side.

One of the dangers for the person that is stuck is, whilst they’re stuck struggling to commit to anything related to their relationship, their constantly rejected partner is also going to be in trouble emotionally and the stuck person will not be aware or focused on their plight.

A person in survival based energy is going to be very self-focused. From their partners perspective, they will feel self-ish.

You see the partner of a stuck person will eventually run out of steam and have no choice but to take control of their outcome and it may not be the right one.

What’s interesting about some people who become stuck is they will find an emotional distance they are comfortable with and monitor the connection so that distance is maintained.

Remember they can’t stay, but they also can’t leave, so they need to manage it.

If their partner tries to engage them, love them or be physical with them, this person will see this as pressure and they will back off as intimacy will lead them to danger, as they can’t be in the relationship.

If the partner who is being constantly rejected starts to run out of steam and backs-off from the relationship, the stuck person can feel danger and then move towards their partner to reclaim their comfortable distance. This can give the illusion of progress, but it will quickly be followed by the same stuck energy.

It creates a strange dynamic for their partner, if I love you, you’ll run, if I reject you, you’ll want me back.

This situation is frustrating for both people, no one is happy, the relationship is directionless everyone is exhausted and if a change isn’t created a change will naturally evolve out of seer frustration.

The key to this dilemma is to get the stuck person off this cycle of needing to decide on a direction to stay or go and help them reconnect to their true-self so they can effectively assess their relationship intelligently.

You see the “stuck cycle” is the person focused on their fears not on what they actually want this means they are not themselves they are in survival version of themselves.

The critical question is not should I leave or not, the freeing question is; is my relationship right or wrong for me?

This question leads the person into a learning state of mind. This quest is a safer way to get their answer without the pressure of a set outcome.

The stuck person will not want to fix the marriage because they don’t know if they want it fixed, but they would be far happier to explore the relationship to discover what will keep them safe today and in the future.

So if the person can come out of their fearful state (which is critical with help) and learn the answer to that question the person would no longer be stuck, the person would become more curious again with help.

A person focused on their fears is always looking for what’s wrong and this search will find many things to be fearful of as illustrated above hence the stuck dynamic.

This focus isn’t a truth, it’s a perspective rooted in fear.

The goal is to help the person expand their knowledge so they can see the real truth and use that as their focus to support their future.

The real breakthrough is when the stuck person is guided to be able to trust their own thoughts again.

The three goals are simple:

  1. Support the person who is stuck to reconnect to themselves so they can search for what they want. This way they can start to see the world objectively and connect to what they want rather than running from what they don’t – this shift of focus significantly reduces their fear and enables curiosity to learn so they can build confidence in trusting their own mind.
  2. Help them understand their relationship and their part in their journey to become disconnected. Many people blame their partner for all the wrongs, unaware they too are part of the journey. This helps to shift their thinking and helps them see their partner’s struggle too. To be honest most people are lost when it comes to understanding the opposite sex.
  3. Help them test the relationship so they know if the relationship will support them. This enables them to reinvest and fully contribute which is what’s needed to unleash the feelings someone needs to be happy in their relationship.

(A side note if the stuck person is having an affair physical or emotional the process will be very different because the emotional drivers are different).

If a couple is working with me on this process, they will work with me both individually and together. If you would like to apply to become a client to see your specific challenge in solvable terms please click here to apply.



About Stephen Hedger

International relationship expert Stephen Hedger's philosophy on relationship problems is this: Couples fail to understand their relationships because they are too focused on their problems and so they totally miss what created them. Stephen's approach is a refreshing and enlightening journey that helps couples uncover their truth. His strategies uncover the knowledge that all couples need to create a successful and lasting passionate connection. If you are in crisis and you need help, book an initial consultation today to get your life back on track.