Not uncommonly, because of prolonged pain and disharmony in a relationship, one partner appears to give up and leave. The remaining partner often feels shocked and abandoned, and is often at a loss to understand what has happened.
This was the story of Cass and Daniel. One day, seemingly out of the blue, Cass announced she was leaving and was packed up and gone within hours. They had been having a lot of difficulty in their relationship lately, true, but Daniel felt they were making headway with their problems. While she was packing, he pleaded with Cass to stay and work things out, to go together to a counselor, to go on a vacation together — anything!
After she was gone, Daniel got her phone number from a mutual friend. He was feeling desperate for some sort of resolution in their relationship, even if it meant they were not to be together. He wanted to know why she gave up. He called Cass several times. Each time, she refused to talk with him and refused to go with him to a counselor. She told him she did not want to work things out with him. She just wanted to be left alone.
So what is Daniel to do? Should he keep pushing for communication and completion? How can he resolve the relationship with Cass unwilling to communicate?
Again, this is not an uncommon situation. In the above example, it was the woman who left. Joyce and I have seen just as many men suddenly leave their partner. And it can happen in new or in long-term relationships.
Daniel, or the person left behind, is not an innocent victim. Just because he doesn’t see or understand his contribution to a situation deemed intolerable by his partner, he still has an equal part in the dance. Daniel may be living in denial, ignoring the problems in the relationship, especially his contribution to them.
Nor is he helpless and powerless in this situation, but the help and power must come from within him, rather than from opening communication with Cass. This doesn’t mean he needs to stop reaching out to her. He may need to do a lot more of this, even though he faces rejection and abandonment each time he tries to open this door. His first priority, however, must be to open the door to his own heart, to establish communication with himself. In this realm, he has full power.
Just because Cass no longer wants to dance with him, it doesn’t mean Daniel is no longer a dancer. Resolution in a relationship does not depend upon both partners. Resolution, like fulfillment, depends upon each individual involved. It is an inner, rather than an outer, process. Rather than Daniel trying to get Cass to go with him to a counselor, he needs to go by himself to carefully look at his own issues. He needs to look at his part of the dance — how he contributed to the disharmony as well as how he contributed to the harmony and love. When he can see both of these, the light as well as the dark sides of his feelings, the ways he gave his love and the ways he withheld it, then resolution is possible for him — regardless of ever seeing Cass again.
But what about Cass? What about a person who doesn’t want to dance anymore, who doesn’t want to communicate or work things out with their partner? She is merely needing a break, a complete space of distance and time from this relationship. She also has the same opportunity for resolution as Daniel, if she chooses to ask for help. Eventually, she will need to confront all her feelings, just as Daniel does. She may need to return to Daniel’s presence, perhaps in a structured setting like counseling, and look more clearly at the difficult issues between them, especially the ways she contributed. She may need to say some things she was unable to say to him when they were together. Again, for the highest resolution, she will need to feel the love that was there, the love that first drew them together — the love that will always be there, regardless of where their physical bodies end up.