“Oh, yeah. That.”

It often comes down to that.

There is a certain kind of couple that finally make it past the door of a therapist’s office. A partnership locked in stable misery. They have a well-grooved path of relating that is wretched but can go on and on and on. Such a couple is long past when they should have sought help. Long past the smiles of the cake-cutting picture. Sometimes years, certainly months, of not touching the other. Feeling lonelier in their togetherness than they would if they were alone. And yet, they are stuck. They can’t split up nor can they move toward a brighter day. They are stably miserable.

As we begin the courageous and painful process of making sense of the cemented mess now on my green couch, I ransack for motivation. What will rouse this hurting pair to get off the dime and do the hard work necessary to create a satisfying, secure marriage that they probably have never had and yet deserve? Or at least to finally raise the white flag and free themselves and the other for a better day?

Money is a big one. Divorce is expensive. And wife here is getting fed up.

Shame and pride – those are there too and often pique interest.

Kids. Yep. Let’s stay together for the kids. Or let’s create a relationship we can model and wish for them to have someday. Yeah, that’s a good one.

There is the non-discriminate asshole. Even if you leave your marriage, you take you with you. And folks at work aren’t too happy with you either.

Commitment. Some folks take their marriage vows seriously. Others, not so much.

I even get hard up enough to pull out my existential card. “Are you your best self in this despairing relationship?” Sadly, most folks in this arrangement don’t care if they are settling. Or emotionally dying.

And then I go nuclear. It’s the last chance I got. I bring up the big “C” word.

“Are you being cherished by your partner?”

That wakes them the hell up.

I get the dumbfounded expression. Like I am speaking a foreign language.

“What do you mean by that?”

I then launch into explanation. I am not talking about being happy. Marriage is not supposed to make you happy. But, does your partner treasure you? Find you the gift that you are? A full messy human being that is held, looked at and treated with awe.

Again, empty eyes stare back at me as if not knowing that such was an offering.

Yep, the floor often shifts in that moment. The depressed folks on my green couch are starting to understand that more can be had in partnership and they have been missing out.

Are you cherished?

It is available. Don’t think for one minute that the good energy of the universe isn’t waiting to pour you deserved love. You’re it. All you. And if some partner isn’t seeing the prize you are across the dinner table, it’s time to up your game. You’re leaving love on the table and that, my friend, is a one damn shame.