Relationships Are Not Easy
This is part one of a look at relationships, the struggles, and the solutions to being happy in your relationship. First, we discuss our concepts of relationships and the built in problems. With understanding begins lasting change.
When we meet someone and fall in love, we are certain this person is meant for us. We are so overwhelmed by the positive feelings, we are sure our life will end if we are not near or around this person. There is a reason you feel this way. Your brain is being buried in a cascade of chemicals. Dr. Helen Fisher, a researcher who has spent most of her life studying brains; “Drenched in chemicals that bestow focus, stamina and vigor, and driven by the motivating engine of the brain, lovers succumb to a Herculean courting urge." This phase brings us together. Most of us know, this phase does not last.
This phase is known as limerence. It translates into ‘bad judgment’.
Marriage lasts longer than the limerence. Marriage is supposed to last forever. So what happens when love fades or worse, dies? What makes a happy marriage? How do I know if I should stay or go? How can I fall back in love? Many, many partners in individual or couples counseling have asked me these very questions. Long term couples focus on the positive. They idealize their partners, even beyond what the partner actually deserves. Seeing your partner as more responsive. Creating an environment in your mind and heart allowing a positive perspective to exist and even grow. Investing in letting your partner in, whether they deserve it or not. Please understand! It is not my advice to remain in a relationship that is abusive or harmful. Ever! However, if you find yourself in a long term relationship and wondering where the romance, passion, fun, adventure, and even emotion went; I am saying it is possible to rekindle that flame.
World renowned researcher and now therapist, John Gottman and his wife, a therapist, Julie own and operate the Gottman institute. The Gottman Institute treats couples and relationships based on over 40 years of data and research. Their training provides couples practical skills to improve the friendship in the relationship and help manage conflict. The concept is fairly simple. The practice and application is not. It is work to get out of old habits and into new ones. It may be easier to leave. You will likely find a new limerence with a new someone else. The odds are good you will find yourself back in an impasse with them once the limerence has faded.
Most of the work in couples counseling occurs within the individuals in that couple. The relationship is the operational ‘space’ between the couple. Partner behaviors dictate the health of the relationship. This may seem counter to our understanding of relationships. We tend to think that relationships are based on those limerence notions. If the level of limerence is strong enough, our love will last and we will be happy. If that were true the divorce rate would not be half of all marriages and three quarters of second marriages. The hard truth is that relationships require effort. They need attention, trust, commitment, maturity, and most importantly, communication.