Evaluation of Inventory
The evaluation of this self-assessment is done a bit differently from what you may have expected. If you thought that I was going to ask you to count the number of statements that were true (or false); and then based on that, I would give you range of where you are “safe to stay together”, where your relationship is “potentially in trouble”, or where it is “doomed”, read on; as its not at all that simple! Any one of the items in this inventory to which you answered true could mean that your relationship is already in serious trouble to some degree or heading there.
What really needs to be looked at is the reason(s) you answered, true to any item where true applies especially to those items that consistently characterize your relationship or which often evoke negative emotions for you and/or your partner. Also, you may notice that some item or items apply to your relationship, but only to a mild degree (on a scale from 0 to 10, say a 1, 2 or 3). In this case, it may be accurate to consider the item in question to be a warning sign or signal that a serious problem could be developing; but you may have caught it in time.
Below is another visit to each item in our Can Your Relationship Be Saved? Inventory. Only this time I have included the degree of risk an answer of “true” usually represents, some perspective on the item, and in many cases a reference to the chapter(s) of Can Your Relationship Be Saved? that contains strategies to explore that issue. (Each chapter in Parts II and III of the book is designed to be similar in nature to seminars in their various topics, with many possible approaches to each issue covered, and strategies for solutions.)
You will notice that I dont point you to specific techniques or strategies that are in the book or complimentary audio program for each item in the inventory. This is because I want you to try them all. That is the only way you will quickly and precisely discover what works best for you in your own unique situation. Additionally, its important to honor the complexity of your relationship by acknowledging that no one approach fits all. That’s why I include so many strategies for you to choose from. Any item for which you answered “true” also represents an excellent starting point for therapy.
1. My partner and I no longer feel like friends.
Moderate risk: Explore how this has changed over time, along with the following questions: Can you pinpoint the issue or issues that may be responsible? Do you want to be friends? What are you willing to do to turn this situation around? What could your partner do?
2. My partner and I have developed a very strong wall that separates us.
Moderate to High-risk: What function is this wall serving? Would you really feel better off without it, or does the purpose it serves make you vested in keeping that wall standing? How troubling is your wall? Do you and your partner agree that it is a problem that deserves attention and a commitment to work through? If so, Chapters 5 and 6 will be helpful.
3. I am constantly thinking about how nice it would be to have an affair.
Moderate risk: As long as it is kept on a fantasy level (unless your relationship is not a monogamous one). Is there someone in particular? Is your fantasy saying that your sex life is unfulfilling? Chapters 5 and 6 will contain some perspectives for addressing this issue.
4. When my partner and I fight, it gets nasty and I am often left with feelings of wanting to get out.
Moderate risk: This may indicate that the two of you need to learn to stay on the issue you are arguing about without allowing each disagreement to get global or too personal. That will enable you to fight more fairly. To address a climate characterized by anger, look at the demands and unrealistic expectations that either or both of you may be putting on your relationship or each other. These demands are the backbone of that painful emotion of anger and the frustration that underlies it. The emotion of anger itself can take on a life of its own, and overwhelm— or become bigger than the issue or problem you are arguing about. Often when this happens and no relief is in sight, getting out can feel like the only doable option In Chapters 5 and 6, I offer some strategies for handling anger.
5. My partner has told me at a time other than when we were in the middle of a fight that he or she would be happier if we split up.
Moderate to High risk: When statements such as that are made in the heat of an argument, the problem is often one with anger itself. But when said at a relatively calm time, that could indicate a rather serious high-risk problem(s) that need to be addressed. On the other hand, sometimes statements like that are the turning point where a couple that has been avoiding dealing with any unpleasantness finally starts talking about what may be an accumulation of a lot of small issues that could be resolved one-by-one in order to clear the air (and then learn never to fall into that trap again). In that case, consider this a more moderate-risk item.
6. I am unwilling to accept my partner as he/she is. If this relationship is to continue, she/he will have to make some very major changes that he/she is unwilling to make.
High risk: The key word here is “unwilling.” You are unwilling to accept your partner; your partner is unwilling to change. Something has to give either your level of acceptance, your partner’s attitude about changing, or your expectation of having a fulfilling relationship. In Chapter 3, I will discuss the matter of breaking impasses.
7. My partner and I have little in common anymore.
Moderate risk: The most successful relationships are those that have commonality. But even the best couples do grow apart in certain aspects of their lives. So a discussion of what may be missing needs to occur. Then common interests, friends, or whatever it was you used to enjoy or share together needs to be revived in a way that makes sense given where you now are in your lives as a couple and in your individual growth processes. Chapter 6 will contain some strategies for developing more commonality together.
8. I would leave this relationship in a heartbeat if I felt confident that I could make it on my own or if I knew I could get through the painful transition of a breakup.
High risk: The culprit here could be your own self-esteem, and ability to see yourself as someone who can make it without a relationship, so that you are not wasting your life by staying together only out of fear and excessive dependency. Some strategies for arriving at this can be found in Chapters 4 and 7.
9. Although I no longer love my partner, I feel responsible for him/her. I think the only thing that is really keeping me here is guilt.
High risk: Guilt can be a nasty set of golden handcuffs, if that is truly all thats keeping you there. However, some people tell themselves this merely as a way of denying their own dependency. Chapters 4 and 7 contain some strategies for helping you to visualize a life outside of your relationship. See if this visualization makes a difference. Chapter 3 looks at the role of guilt in keeping relationships together.
10. My partner and I fight a lot, and I fear that underneath the fighting there is not much left.
Moderate to high risk: Anger often masks a lot of positive feelings that could be lying just beneath the surface. But to get to the good stuff, that anger has got to be resolved first. To the extent that the issues triggering your anger cannot be resolved (or you confirm that underneath the is not much left), this can become a high-risk item. Take some time when you are not feeling angry to identify and attempt to work as a team to resolve at least some of those anger-provoking issues you can both agree are there. Chapter5 and 6 will give you some strategies to help you do this.
11. When I am about to be around my partner and I think of having to spend time with him/her, I get an empty feeling.
High risk: Often feelings of emptiness that are triggered in this manner indicate a longing for something that may not be able to be enjoyed while you remain in this relationship. Chapter 4 will help you look at this.
12. My partner and I are just no longer playing for the same team.
Moderate risk: Is this a mutual thing or just your feeling? Check this out. To the extent that it is a mutual thing, you can work together to resolve it. If your partner shares this concern, you may want to explore some of the strategies in Chapters 5 and 6. If it is not mutual, explore what needs to happen for you in order to get back on board.
13. The more time goes by; the more I begin to dislike my partner.
High risk: This can result from the reality that you are not growing together, or that a resentment or disrespect that is festering. The more this trend continues (without identifying and resolving the underlying issues), the more painful your life will become until the only option left is to separate.
14. My respect for my partner is practically or totally gone.
High risk: Restoring respect once it is gone is somewhere between extremely difficult and impossible. The only exception to the rule is if you can pinpoint a specific issue(s) that caused this trend to begin, and then work it through. Chapters 3,5 and 6 contain strategies that are well worth your effort to explore if you are to save your relationship.
15. There is very little trust left in our relationship.
High risk: This is quite similar to item 14 in that lost trust that cannot be tied to a specific resolvable issue is usually irreversible. (An exception may be where the lack of trust is a personality staple that extends to many other aspects of life such as in the case of people who characteristically tend to evaluate others in a paranoid manner.)
16. I constantly fear my partner’s abusive behavior. If it happens again, I am leaving.
High risk: No one should ever have to tolerate abuse! Waiting for it to happen again is not an acceptable strategy either unless some concrete steps have been taken to change this pattern. What is it that allows you subject yourself to this? Do you think this type of behavior can ever be justified? Are you afraid of the repercussions of leaving? The practical issues such as money, the children, housing or further retribution? Or do you truly believe that something definitive can change? Just remember that experience has shown that abuse does not usually extinguish itself. Chapter 3 will help you to evaluate this while Chapters 4 and 7 will afford you a look at what life for you could be if you choose to leave.
17. My partner abuses alcohol and/or drugs. It is even more intolerable to me that he/she denies that the usage is a problem.
High risk: Those who abuse alcohol or drugs or, better put, abuse themselves with alcohol or drugs can make any relationship unworkable. Until the problem is acknowledged, you need to decide just how much of an issue this is for you and what your bottom line is with respect to your tolerance of it within your relationship.
18. I can only tolerate my partner if one of us is high on alcohol or drugs.
High risk: Many of the same reasons apply here that apply to item 17. The difference is that you need to be anesthetized in order to be able to stand your partner. Why? Is this something that you are unfairly laying on your partner? Or is the climate that intolerable? If the latter is true, at a time when you are sober look at every possible reason why this may be so. Strategies contained in all of the remaining chapters of this book can provide you help depending on what issues you identify as needing to be resolved within yourself, with respect to your partner, and between the two of you— as a couple— for this to change. I realize that turning something like this around could be a tall order. But if you cant, the handwriting is on the wall.
19. If I could afford it financially I would leave.
Moderate risk: This is a very commonly heard mantra that many who have a feeling of generalized unhappiness believe until the opportunity to leave presents itself. Pretend for a minute you have no choice but to leave; and you have to make financial arrangements to do so. Chances are, if you had no choice you could pull it off. Strategies in chapters 3, 4 and 7 can help you with this vision. Remember the only commodity that you cannot replace is time. And time spent in an unpeaceful, unhappy situation that you tell yourself you cannot change is perhaps the worst possible use of that irreplaceable time.
20. My partner has an emotional hold on me. I would love to leave but feel too hooked and addicted to the relationship.
High risk: What you are saying here is if you could become emotionally free, you would leave. Chapters 3, 4 and 7 will provide strategies to get beyond a situation such as this or at the very least to see beyond it in order to make a choice.
21. My partner has children whom I am expected to relate to. The relationship would be fine if they were not there, but they are here to stay and it is creating a very unhappy situation for me.
Moderate to high risk: Chances are the children are here to stay. But blending families and step‑parenting is an extremely complicated issue. Pulling it off requires maximum cooperation from both partners. You and your partner need to take this quite seriously and realize that you will probably not be together long, unless you can maneuver this very difficult balancing act. On the other hand, if you are unwilling to attempt this, it is probably just a matter of time, thus you are at high risk.
22. I should want my relationship to continue, or I want to want my relationship to continue, but I cannot say that I do want it to continue.
High risk: Chapters 3, 4 and 5 have much to say about this situation. Often that attitude occurs when passion has drained out of the relationship, but it still feels comfortable to stay. Experience shows that unless this is worked through, what comfort exists will drain away over time and lead to resentment.
23. We are unable to resolve our differences together, but my partner refuses to enter counseling or therapy.
Moderate risk: As widely accepted as counseling or therapy is to some people, to others there is still a stigma to it with lots of negative associations. I suggest that you find a therapist who works with both individuals and couples, and then initially attend yourself. If it is determined that couples therapy is indicted, work with that therapist on some strategies for bringing your partner in. Practically every therapist who works with both individuals and couples faces this situation routinely.
24. My partner has told me that he/she does not love me anymore.
Moderate to high risk: It is important to look at the context in which this statement was made. In the middle of an argument it is less serious, but nonetheless something that needs to be explored when the anger dies down. Without anger attached to it, it is more likely to be high risk. Chapters 3 and 5 contain some strategies to check out just what this means, as well as what the implications are.
25. My partner has done something for which I cannot forgive him/her. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
High risk: The metaphor of the straw that breaks a camel’s back indicates that there have been numerous unresolved issues that taken by themselves may be quite small, but when added up amount to something rather large. Learning how to deal with these (instead of sweeping them under the rug– to use another metaphor) is probably your only redeeming feature. No relationship will survive happily if you cant learn how to get past life’s upsets. Chapter 6 explores this in detail.
26. We just have so many differences that it is unrealistic to think we can even begin to address them.
Moderate risk: The question here is do you want to address them? Is this item true only when you are angry? Did these differences always exist? Are you only becoming aware of them now? Are they the flip side of some of the very reasons that you became attracted to each other as discussed in Chapter 1? Chapters 3, 5 and 6 contain strategies that can be helpful for evaluating just how much of a problem this may be.
27. I am so overwhelmed by my partner’s constant demands for love and approval, perfectionism, and/or rigid rules of how the relationship should be and how each of us should behave within it that sometimes I just want to give up.
Moderate risk: What needs to happen for this climate change? Is this a constant thing or does it just come up only with specific issues? What compromises need to be made? What compromises can be made? Does your partner know how these things affect you? And is his or her attitude one of concern or indifference to your feelings. Numerous strategies throughout the remainder of this book will address difference aspects of this issue.
28. I am almost certain my partner is having an affair and if this is true I will not tolerate it.
Moderate to high risk: Believe it or not, many relationships have become stronger after either the acknowledgment of an affair or the fear of it is brought out and dealt with. There is no easy answer here, because you are dealing with trust one of the most important fabrics of the relationship itself. Chapter 3 contains ways to help you look at the issue of trust.
29. I feel closer to my partner when we are not together.
Moderate risk: This can just be a sign of burnout, which in a relationship is an indicator that perhaps you need to take some quality time for yourself. When you are ready to come back after a timeout, the relationship often will be much stronger. When I say, time out or “come back” I am not necessarily referring to a physical separation. It s possible that you need to examine some of your own goals and lifestyle options, including things that could or should be done apart from your relationship. Strategies to help you evaluate this situation are contained in Chapter 3, 4 and 5.
30. There is definitely more pain than joy or pleasure associated with my partner and our relationship.
Moderate to high risk: If there is an identifiable issue causing this particular feeling, then this is a moderate risk item; and resolving that issue is your mission. This is often a temporary situation that can be gotten through. It becomes a high-risk item to the extent that there is no identifiable issue; but instead you are describing a more general feeling. So the first step here is certainly to identify what is making this statement true. Chapters 3, 4 and 5 could be particularly helpful to you.
31. This relationship has become a constant burden.
High risk: If this is the case, what is keeping you there? Even more importantly, can you identify what could possibly make you see the relationship more positively? Strategies in Chapter 3 may help you to shed some light on this dilemma.
32. If I knew I could find another mate, I would leave immediately.
High risk: This all too common feeling is the one behind most rebound relationships. It is grounded in the notion that you cannot make it on your own. By discovering that you could go it alone, you are in a much better position to make the choices necessary here. Chapters 4 and 7 thoroughly address that.
33. I am having an affair with someone I value much more than my partner; and I am unwilling to give this other person up under any circumstances.
High risk: Based on nothing else but that statement, it is probably inevitable that should the person you are having an affair with become available as a primary relationship, that is the direction you will go. If this is not the case, then its important to thoroughly explore just what it is that you are doing and why, so that at the very least this doesnt become a pattern you repeat in your next relationship. Strategies in Chapter 4 will help you do that.
34. I feel very indifferent toward my partner; and have little motivation to try and work things out.
High risk: You are already out of the relationship emotionally. All that remains for you is the status quo. Is this acceptable? Only you can answer that. Chapters 3, 4 and 7 can be helpful to you here.
35. My most stress-free moments are when my partner and I are not together.
Moderate risk: Unless it goes beyond those specific issues that you recognize and are dealing with, and then it becomes high risk. How did the climate get to be this way? Does your partner also have this view of your relationship? Have you shared this feeling with your partner? Strategies for this item can be found in Chapter 3.
36. My partner and I are totally inflexible with each other.
Moderate risk: Chances are you have unconsciously collaborated in your inflexibility. Again, does your partner share this view? Are you willing to discuss it, work on it and do whatever it takes to turn this pattern of inflexibility around? If you both agree that this is an important thing to do, you are most of the way there. Chapter 6 will give you helpful strategies. If there cannot be a mutual agreement to work on this, then nobody is winning. I would then direct you to Chapter 3.
37. I don’t even have a desire to tell my partner how I feel anymore positive or negative.
Moderate to high risk: Depending on just what your hidden feelings are, this could be a high-risk item. What has made the idea of sharing your feelings so distasteful? Has your partner shown an unwillingness to hear what you have to say? Do you fear consequences such as rejection? It sounds as though your long-term happiness, both individually and as a couple depends on taking the risk. Once you are able to at least try to communicate, I think things will become much clearer to you. However, if what you are saying is that the relationship is so dead that it is not even worth the effort, then you are in extremely high-risk territory. In this case, you need to ask yourself why are you procrastinating with what is probably the inevitable?
38. Our relationship has peaked and could never again be as good as it once was.
Low risk: Many couples believe that their relationship is on the way down when that effortless initial passion begins to wear off. But the real issue here is acknowledging together the desire for what you had, and working as a team to recreate it. This is a normal adjustment issue (not unlike having children or relocating) that can feel far worse than it really is in terms of the stress it might potentially put on to you as a couple. Your willingness to see it for what it is and commit to getting past it together is usually most of the battle. (However, a lack of that willingness from either partner to do what it takes to get past your adjustment issues together certainly has the potential to upgrade them to moderate or even high risk!) This is the only item in this inventory that is actually low risk because it is something that virtually every couple experiences in one form or another throughout the course of a long-term relationship. (In fact, my definition of a long-term relationship is one that survives the normal bumps in the road such as the decrease of that initial passion.) Unfortunately, many couples put far more weight on this feeling alone than it usually deserves!
39. When I think of us growing old together, life seems not worth living.
High risk: With this feeling, what could possibly be keeping you there? Please explore this thoroughly with the strategies in Chapter 3 and 4 and then 7.
40. At this point, there is just too much water under the bridge.
Moderate to high risk: This implies an accumulation of issues (often the small ones you have hoped would go away by ignoring them) that have not been dealt with as they have come up (similar to that straw that always seems to break the camel’s back). If you still harbor a desire to keep the relationship together, start by looking at those items under that bridge one‑by‑one until the answer becomes clear. If there is no desire to do that, then upgrade this item to high risk.
41. When I think of leaving my partner I feel relieved.
High risk: It sounds as though you are beginning to accept the inevitable. Chapter 7 will be helpful to you.
42. I have wanted to leave for a long time, but my partner has said he/she will commit suicide if I do.
High risk: You need to weigh the rest of your life against this threat. There are no easy answers here. But as long as a threat of this type is the only thing keeping you together, what hope is there for you to have any fulfillment? Any threat of suicide must be taken seriously. Thus, as a most important short-term issue, your partner and his or her state of mind certainly need to be attended to. But your long-term happiness does not deserve to be neglected or ignored either. There are strategies for you in each remaining chapter in the book.
43. I constantly have to choose between my partner and my family (of origin).
Moderate risk: Both your partner and your family are realities that cannot be ignored. The first question you might ask yourself is whether you are willing to do whatever it takes to reconcile the differences and/or workout a peaceful arrangement where you can all coexist. If not, then you know that a difficult choice will inevitably need to be made.
44. My partner is abusive to the children a situation I am powerless to stop as long as they are all living in the same environment.
High risk: This is one situation where you have to look at what your highest duty is. Legally, morally, ethically and with respect to every other aspect of this situation (with the possible exception of what hedonism might exist between the two of you at times), a true for this item says that you need to leave if not for your own peace of mind, for the protection of your children. This is one item where there is very little flexibility or room for margin of error.
45. This relationship does not allow me to grow.
Moderate to high-risk: Couples in long-term relationships particularly those that began when the partners were young often find that they have slowly begun to walk on different paths. When this happens– if enough passion and comfort are still present, and there are feelings and a desire on both of your parts to stay together, you can work on changing the climate so that your personal growth is possible. However, this item will become high risk to the extent that either of you is inflexible about making the kind of changes that will allow both of you to grow as you need to.
46. My partner does not fit into my future plans.
High risk: This sounds like a very unambiguous statement. Can you come to any basis for keeping the relationship intact? If this cannot be converted to a relationship issue where both of you are willing to make some necessary and crucial changes, there is not much that can be done.
47. I want to leave, but I cannot see myself pulling it off I am stuck.
High risk: Your desire to leave is pretty straightforward. But what is the glue that still keeps you there: The children? Change in social status? Finances? Family rejection? Feelings of failure or inadequacy? Fear of going it alone or not meeting someone else? Perhaps you are someone who puts down divorced people, never expecting yourself to be in that category. Do you fear your own future? (These are just a few of the possible issues behind this.) Its important now for you to soul search and see exactly what is behind the “I cannot” statement. That is the key. When strategies to deal with each of them are explored, see if there is still resistance. If so, then chances are you are not being honest with yourself regarding your desires. Look for hidden issues. Strategies in Chapter 3 should be helpful to you in this regard.
48. I need my partner much more than I love him/her.
Moderate risk: Many stay in relationships out of need. That is a decision regarding values that only you can make. There are ways to rekindle what sparks are left. (See Chapter 6 for strategies.) But try this exercise: Make a list of what the needs are that your relationship fulfills. For each need you list, try to identify an alternative method of fulfilling it. Do this in the privacy of your own mind. See if or how this changes your perspective. Also, consult the strategies in Chapter 5.
49. I love my partner but am not in love with him/her.
Moderate risk: This is the passion versus comfort dilemma. Truly loving a person is usually incentive to leave no stone unturned in trying to arrive at a satisfactory degree of fulfillment. You could be harboring some romanticized (as opposed to romantic) notion that solid relationships dont need to be worked on. Most classical love stories are about short-term relationships, where the book or movie ends before the lovers initial passion does. Strategies in Chapters 5 and 6 for re-igniting passion, along with a frank and intimate discussion about your feelings could make the huge difference here that you are seeking.
50. We have tried everything and nothing seems to help.
Moderate risk: Hopefully in the remaining chapters of this book you will find numerous strategies that you haven’t tried. If this item is still true by the time you complete this book, take a good look at what is really keeping you together. Your bond may be a lot stronger than you think.
How to Make the Most of this Inventory
Most of the moderate risk items refer to issues which can actually be resolved as difficult as they may be provided, of course, you and your partner are willing to work hard in the direction of resolving them with the intention of staying together. High risk items on the other hand are those most correlated with relationships that cannot be saved unless a full and mutual acknowledgment of these serious issues, along with major and generally difficult changes by both of you, are made.
To summarize, for each item you answered “true”: Can you pinpoint the problem areas that brought you this far? Theoretically, what would have to happen for your relationship to get better, or the very least, to be working again? Are you willing to make those necessary changes that are important if your relationship is to stay intact? Is your partner willing? At the very least are you willing to thoroughly discuss the items for which you answered “true” and your feelings about them with you partner? What are you willing to do to demonstrate that flexibility? If changes by either of you are not on the horizon, is it possible to learn to accept things the way they are?
If you knew that your relationship would never get better, what would be your next step? What are the minimum criteria for determining what better or salvageable is? What are your partner’s? Are you both willing to talk about this? These are some of the important things for you now to explore. The Chapters in Parts II and III of Can Your Relationship Be Saved? will help you to do that.