This letter came out from our Imago website. It is such a wonderful view and with a talented writer I thought it useful to share it with my audiance. Please enjoy!
Dr. Sondra Harry
Exits: No Way to Go
by David Roche
We all have our exits. We exit the front door in the morning and we exit the office door at night. We exit the supermarket door constantly. We exit the gym door six days a week (I wish). We exit the movie theater on Saturday night and we exit the church door on Sunday. It’s all part of our normal routine. We also have other exits,relationship exits......
....that happen every day but go unnoticed most of the time. Here’s a small sample from a list of over three hundred that Harville Hendrix has collected:
Weekend fishing trips
Disappearing into the garage
Falling asleep on the couch
Living on the tennis court
Too many evenings at the lodge
Worshipping the car
Camping out on the phone
Four scotches a night
Refusing to talk
Refusing to make love
Avoiding eye contact
Memorizing every word of the New York Times
Any of these look familiar? Relationship exits kill relationships, slowly but surely.
Harville Hendrix defines the relationship exit as "any activity, thought or feeling that decreases or avoids emotional or physical involvement with your partner (i.e. intimacy)."
There are four types of relationship exits: terminal, catastrophic, functional and motivated. The terminal exits (divorce or death) and the catastrophic exits (affairs or addictions) are well known to all of us and completely end or significantly damage relationships. The other two, functional and motivated exits, are far more subtle and on the surface would not be considered exits at all. Functional exits are those everyday, necessary activities like working or taking care of the children that still rob energy from the relationship. The most subtle of all, the motivated exits, are those activities that we choose for pleasure. In and of themselves they are not harmful at all but when they are used to avoid intimacy with our partner, they are harmful indeed.
Those of us who are or were stuck in the power struggle (we all go through it, duration and pain are the only variables), when the love of our life is not meeting our needs, we consciously and unconsciously choose these exits due to anger and fear. We're angry because our needs are not being met, an expectation that blossomed during the romantic stage of the relationship. During the power struggle, we conclude that our partner is "holding-out", not meeting our needs even though they should know what they are. Therefore, we look elsewhere for need gratification (Harville Hendrix also calls this the "parallel marriage" or, even worse, the "invisible divorce"). In many ways this is a conscious choice but not a logical one. The second reason, fear, is at the unconscious level. Any partner that is at one time perceived by the unconscious mind as a source of need gratification and then appears to be withholding that gratification is considered a source of pain, raising the spectre of death. Your unconscious mind looks at your partner as one who is allowing you to die. On the one hand our conscious anger causes us to look for need fulfillment elsewhere while, on the other hand, our unconscious fear causes us to flee from our partner due to the risk of death. The fear of death actually plays out as a slight feeling of anxiety around each other and a desire to be with other people/activities rather than to have an intimate relationship with the one we love.
So you're still in the power struggle, using exits where necessary to somehow fulfill your needs and to keep yourself safe. How do you get from this "invisible divorce" to true love? CLOSE THE EXITS!!! I know this is easier said than done. I recommend talking with your partner about the exits you and your partner both have. Start slowly closing the exits and giving yourself more intimate time with your partner. I am recommending that you move slowly because these exits are meeting important needs. To stop "cold turkey" could make matters worse in the short term. These exits showed up slowly over time and should be closed in the same manner.
Stay in the relationship. Stay away from the exit(s).