We see so many relationships around us fail. Sometimes our own one fails. We attribute it to having chosen the wrong person, having met the right person at the wrong time, wanting different things from life, being incompatible and so on and on.
After a failed relationship we feel hurt, disappointed, angry, unloved, unwanted and scared. Scared that we will never get the love we crave. That we’ll never find a good enough match to create a healthy relationship with.
Relationships are hard work and yet most of us don’t realise this until we are in a relationship and start to struggle. We grew up on Disney believing in Happy Ever After and what a bitter reality gap that has led to!
If we’re lucky, the first phase of a new relationship can feel like bliss: lots of intimacy, physical closeness, excitement, novelty, hope, lust and optimism. We want it to last forever and we get carried away believing we have found ‘The One’.
Then one day we start to notice little things about our partner that annoy us, that worry us, that lead us to wonder whether we chose the wrong person to spend our time with, to share this important part of our life with. The rose-tinted glasses slip and the pedestal we put our partner on starts to wobble. Our relationship enters the scary stage of The Power Struggle.
At this point many of us panic and start to fear that our partner cannot meet our needs so we try to change them or punish them for not knowing how to meet them already. They do the same to us and soon we feel like we can no longer be ourselves around our partner. We both start to feel like we have to walk on eggshells around each other. There is fear, anger, frustration, confusion and a sense of not knowing what to do next and how to fix it.
The smallest disagreements get blown out of proportion and we either end up feeling abandoned, disconnected and alone or trapped, suffocated and controlled. We then either get very needy, demanding and insecure or distant, withdrawn and cold. However we react or feel, the relationship no longer feels safe.
In a society that allows and often encourages us to avoid pain, feelings of discomfort and conflict, it’s tempting to pull the plug and move on to the next person – because clearly we chose the wrong person.
Only that, we didn’t. It is perfectly normally to feel this way and go through this stage of your relationship. It helps most couples to get support in therapy that teaches them to relate to each other in more compassionate and understanding ways. We can learn gentler ways to communicate our needs and resolve conflict. We can learn how to see through the conditioned thinking that stems from childhood wounds together and support each other during this process.
If we do not work through this stage with our partner, we will repeat the same cycle in a new relationship. So the best thing we can do for ourselves, our partner and our relationship is to face our struggle and work through it with each other’s support and love.
When we go through difficult times in our relationships, when we feel unsure about how to break the cycle of conflict, pain and distress, we can come back to remembering what we love about our partner. It is the hardest thing to do when we are angry, disappointed, scared or hurt. But this is the moment when we must teach and discipline ourselves to act with love.
To recreate a sense of safety and trust within our relationship we can take this first step: choose our partner consciously. This means focusing on all their good traits and noticing all the ways in which they enrich our life. We then tell them and show our appreciation. We show them that we choose them every day in lots of different ways.
Because we feel chosen, we feel loved.