How to Stop Being Emotionally Paralyzed in a Stressful Relationship

A big indication that you are in a stressful relationship, either at work or at home, is that when you think about the particular person or situation, you feel paralyzed.

You can't move forward. You can't move back. You are stuck and the stress is killing you!

The reason you feel paralyzed is that you have made a commitment to this relationship and don't feel you can abandon it. Either it's your job and you don't want to lose it, or it's a serious relationship in your family or with your "significant other." So you have already invested a lot of time, energy and hope in this relationship. And yet it's not working. Something has gone very wrong.

Let's say the problem is in your marriage. It could as easily be a paralyzed situation with an in-law, or with your boss, a co-worker or assistant.

It could be that warning signs were there from the start but, as so often happens when signals don't jive with what you decided you want, you ignored them and barreled ahead with the relationship. At times, you might have felt a nagging uncertainty about it, but you dismissed your inner misgivings as being cold feet or perhaps the normal anxiety about getting married.

But now you realize that you're stressed out all the time and if you're honest about it, you can see the pattern has been there all along. There was a blueprint from the start, as if for a garden layout, and now all the plants are full grown because years have passed and you kept reacting to each other in unhealthy ways. You're choking in the weeds, miserable and confused, when you thought you were going to have wedded bliss with roses, fragrant lilies and singing birds.

If you weren't fully invested in this relationship, it would be a lot easier to split up, go away and move forward. But usually, we enmesh ourselves thoroughly so that making a decision to stay or go leads to feeling unable to do either one whole-heartedly.

Do you feel paralyzed? Are you wondering what to do next? Does relationship ambivalence keep your mind churning with indecision, and your stomach churning with anxiety? Then set aside quiet time to think about these three points:

1. If you imagine yourself leaving, do you notice a sudden release of tension in your shoulders? That's a clue that your heart really does want you to find freedom from this untenable relationship, and simply go, to find a fresh start.
2. If leaving makes you feel instantly panicked and afraid, that can indicate that you have a lot of work to do on your own self-esteem before making a decision either way. So give yourself the gift of time to keep thinking about what is in your best interest. No need to rush, unless physical abuse is involved – in that case, don't delay a minute more. Get yourself and your kids to safety.
3. If things are basically "good enough" and you have already made the decision to stay, then stop behaving the way you always have. If you've gotten into a habit of arguing all the time, cut it out.

Understand that to end the paralysis will require action on your part. You need to shake up the way you run your life and stop dancing to the old tunes that are not working for you.

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