COUPLING: When the going gets tough ... work harder

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. At least, that’s what they say.

As I write this, I just finished running the Labor Day Road Race and it was very hard work but a rocking good time. Macon turns out for this hometown event as a few thousand runners progress through the heart of town.

I generally try to stay fit and though I usually have good motivation, there is just no easy way to do it. Exercise is work; but the work pays off.

With exercise, the most gain happens when the going is the toughest and you really want to quit. The pay off comes on the days when you can join everyone at the finish and look back on what you have accomplished.

Coupling can be hard work, too. Conflict in your relationship can seem like the easiest time to quit, to slow down or to slack off. But that is absolutely the wrong thing to do. Every couple goes through difficult times. Giving up seems justified. Friends will co-sign your contempt and rationalizations. Keeping your attitude in the right place while in a challenging time can be almost impossible.

Coupling requires a strong-minded attitude, a sense of knowing that you are doing the right thing. Doubt and mistrust can be such powerful drains on you when the difficult times come.

I have friend who does triathlons. Those nuts swim, then bike and finish with a run. They must be very fit and this takes a lot of training. His trick is to not listen to the complainers; the aching knee, the wheezing lungs, the mind that says just coast a bit.

Instead, he keeps moving. Whatever his goal is, he moves toward it. I do this in my running and my cycling. Setting manageable, short goals keeps me moving.

Crisis can be a great motivator. Unfortunately, some folks get motivated too late. The divorce brings on a heightened awareness of the need to care for self. And care of self is one of the big three Cs of coupling; Communicate, Couple and Care of Self.

But sometimes people come to this too late. After its over, people begin to socialize more, pay attention to their looks or start working on their physique. It’s kind of like quitting smoking after a cancer diagnosis.

My suggestion would be to appreciate yourself and your partner in your relationship as it is today. From that position, work harder. If times are tough and strife is the culture in your coupling, work harder. If the temperature is too hot or too cold, work harder. Long-term commitment is worth the effort; work harder.

The time will come when you metaphorically cross the finish line of the difficult phase you have been through, and at that point you will know it was worth it. Your coupling will be stronger and more meaningful.

Make a “to do” list to exercise your coupling skills. Plan a time to talk. Turn off the television and go to the movies. Work through your lack of trust or difficulty with intimacy. It will be work, but the payoff is well worth it!

Bruce Conn is a licensed marriage and family therapist, and practices as a group therapist. Contact him at or call 478-742-1464.