A Season of Discontent
Discontent is hard to live with. Discontent with life. Discontent with partner. Discontent with work. If you are one who is in such a season, it seems all the world is tugging at you to be a certain way, to keep up the facade of normalcy, to ignore the fire roaring inside you that would cause you to scream and run away to a simpler life, to tend the fire burning inside. You need down time to ponder the changes going on inside you. You simply can’t reflect as deeply as you need to while doing life as usual.
What’s Going On?
Some call it a mid-life crisis. I prefer to call it a mid-life birthing. There is a more authentic you trying to break through. A self that wants to speak truth—your truth. A self that wants to throw off the rules you’ve mindlessly lived, and been bound by, and choose differently. Even as I write this it sounds so simplistic. It isn’t. It’s a little like having your life, your guts, turned inside out. You find yourself in the inner darkness wondering where you are and how you can get out.
Is the Season of Discontent wrong or bad? Absolutely not. It’s just that we don’t understand its purpose, what it requires of us while we’re in it, and how to make such a transformation in a conscious way that allows us to hang on to the things that are important while everything else is being shaken loose.
I went through one of these awakenings. After 27 years of marriage, 4 kids, a vast number of pets and responsibilities, my soul began screaming for something different. I’d met my spouse at age 19 and went very quickly into raising babies. 4 of them in 6 years actually, which didn’t leave a lot of time for me to evolve. Correction. It didn’t leave any time for my personal and spiritual growth. The need to do that work had been building up behind the dam for a very long time. It finally came clear that I had to leave that system or die. Yes, literally.
Now I understand what was happening to me, but then I didn’t. I tried desperately to maintain the status quo, to do all the things I was “supposed” to do, to not upset the apple cart, to be happy with what I had. I discovered that my trying to deny what was going on in me and keep things the same as they’d always been was a little like standing at the base of an ocean wave and ordering it to retreat. No matter how hard I tried, or how much I wanted it to go away, it was coming anyway. I had to learn to ride it or drown.
When one of a couple goes through this season it is particularly difficult. We are not islands. We are part of a system: partner, kids, work/life expression, extended family and community. Even though this Season of Discontent feels to us to be a solitary journey, and in some ways it has to be, what we go through does ripple out and affect all of our relationships.
I’m writing this right now because I’m working with so many people who are going through their Season of Discontent, I feel a need to speak to it. Some are individual clients. More are coupled. Bless their hearts, I am watching the discontented partner try really, really hard to figure out if it is possible to stay in the relationship while all hell is breaking loose inside them. It’s not easy. “Do you love each other?” The answer is often a yes. Love isn’t always enough when going through such a season. There has to be understanding too.
The partner who is looking in from the outside doesn’t understand it at all. S/He can’t. The partner who is in it doesn’t even understand it. “What is going on? A month ago everything was fine and now s/he wants to leave and is blaming me for all the problems in our marriage.” Sadly, that’s often the way it goes. If you’re the content partner (as opposed to the discontent) try to understand that your partner’s angst isn’t about you—even though they may say it is. It’s an inner struggle and s/he is pushing against you to help define him or herself. It’s a lot like a teen who pushes against his parents, or a bird pushing against its shell, or a butterfly breaking out of a cocoon. Natural metaphors abound for this type of life transition. I’ve sometimes referred to it as breaking out of an inner jail cell. The discontented partner avoids realizing that she has put many of the bars in place herself. It’s easier to blame someone else.
The discontent is such an uncomfortable place to be that we want to move through it quickly. It’s a cross between being in a straight jacket and falling off a cliff. It will serve you to wait before making any important decisions like leaving your job or your spouse. Just remember that you are insane. Well, not really, but you know what I mean. If you want to save your marriage or your job, I encourage you to take the time to pursue the creative passions that are erupting inside you and let the rest wait. Pursuing creativity will relieve some of the pressure from the drive building up inside you.
Hopefully your partner can hang in there while you tend to your internal business. There is more likelihood of that if you don’t blame him or her for everything you’re growing through. This is about you.
This can be a very hard transition to go through alone. My former spouse and I went to three different therapists (I didn’t know about relationship coaching then) which unfortunately resulted in more harm than good. None could explain what was happening or help us navigate the transition I was going through. Eventually our marriage broke. The patient died on the table before we could find the right help.
Fortunately for you and others going through this, I do know what is going on and I can help you navigate your transition in a conscious way. Let’s talk.