Falling in love can be a heady sort of experience – you may be totally preoccupied with each other and find your lives begin to revolve around each other, as you find you become the most important person in each others’ lives. Love can be all consuming. It can be terribly exciting and that attraction that you feel, can be a powerful urge that draws you both together.
The New Relationship
In this heady stage, couples find they may stay in this phase of the relationship for anything from six months to a couple of years. As we get to know our partner better, our ideal of them may change and they become more real … that pedestal we had them on starts to lower. That’s not to say that headiness or the ‘in love’ feeling will disappear, but it’s not so all-consuming. If a couple stay together for the long-term, this phase will be very important for bonding and creating a shared vision for their future together.
Couples will test the consistencies and inconsistencies of their held views such as lifestyle, careers, education, marriage, becoming parents (or not), etc. This will be tested particularly at the moving in together period, where their compatibility on a day to day basis is called into question. It is the wish of most people that there is at least one other person on whom they can depend and may be one reason why love relationships are so important.
The Curved Ball
What seemed like the perfect relationship will get tested when other factors come in to play. Life has a habit of throwing curved balls at us and some of the stress points for relationships can change the dynamics between the couple.
So what would be typical curve balls?
- Moving in together
- Getting married
- Becoming parents
- Sick children, children with special needs
- Shift in power when work changes e.g. when one becomes the sole bread winner
- Serious illness
Relationships can be going alone fine but when these curved balls strike, we can revert to type in the way we cope and this goes back to our blueprint formed in childhood. Do we reach out or do we withdraw? If you have a couple where two people withdraw, it can cause huge distance where they begin to lose sight of their intimacy and they find it difficult to reach each other.
Or the couple where one needs more closeness and other needs space. There is no right or wrong about this. However, if the couple are struggling with their loneliness and isolation, it might take a third party to help draw them together to help them communication their distress. When we are not getting on with our partners, it is hard to hear the meaning of what they are really trying to say especially if we feel we are being criticised or dismissed or undermined.
When Conflict Arrives
When conflict is high or intense between the couple, the relationship can become more and more distressed as neither is prepared to yield. The extreme of this can result in out of control behaviour – domestic abuse.
These curved balls mean change and change brings loss that the couple will need to negotiate. Again, do they pull together or do they pull apart? How do they communicate their needs? Are their needs compatible or do they clash? Does one person always get their way whilst the other has to yield? Where does the balance of power lie?
Working through the Issues
It’s at times like this that, what once attracted us to our partners now becomes part of the problem. For example, you might have really admired your partner for the way they never panicked about anything and always seemed to take care of the problem. Now you might see them as overbearing and controlling and that your opinion doesn’t seem to matter.
If couples were to seek a little help at an early stage, they give themselves a better chance of working through their issues and finding a resolution. It will also help them when other problems arise if they can learn to communication effectively around contentious issues.