You look over at your partner and think: “How did it come to this?”
It used to feel so effortless: you poured love into each other’s cracks, bridged the space between your sensitive souls and meshed together perfectly as one: “This is true love. This person is my best friend and lover. This is it,” you had said at the time.
And yet somehow, somewhere along the way, the gentle and loving energy shifted. Criticism crept in, judgments were cast far and wide, and the hurt gave way to a giant well of resentment: “I knew it was too good to be true” you thought as you each walked your separate ways one last time: “Onto the next one.”
How Do I Keep Love Alive?
Every Relationship Has Three Phases
The truth is that every relationship unfolds in the same way, and if you’re aware of where your relationship is sitting, as well as the four choices that you can make at these “Should I stay or should I go?” junctures, you’ll be well on your way to ensuring that your relationship lasts.
We all know that this first euphoric stage that I’ve described above, is the Honeymoon Phase. For most of us it lasts six months. If we’re really lucky, it might last two years. Either way, some of us end the relationship when this stage loses its juice because we assume that we’ve chosen the wrong partner. After all, if they were so right for us, the relationship would have flowed effortlessly, right?
Enter: The Power Struggle Phase
What many of us don’t realise is that when we fall in love, we open our hearts and allow ourselves to be vulnerable. We also open the gateway to intimacy, and as these feelings of love swell inside us, instinctively, we also know that we’ve lowered our defences and we could easily get hurt. We feel scared and see the risk in truly allowing the other person in. So to protect ourselves, we subconsciously start noticing all of our partner’s flaws. And then, we start to criticise, judge and sabotage.
To make things even more complicated, a lot of us haven’t really been shown how to communicate in a loving way. Our parents might have modelled argumentative, dominating dynamics or taken to subjecting the other to “silent treatment” when they were angry. We all subconsciously take these behaviours on and this causes us to shut down when things aren’t going right.
In many instances, we also tend to play out onto our partners, the dynamic we had with our opposite sex parent. For example, if a woman had a very dominating and critical father who never allowed her to feel heard or worthy, she will subconsciously get triggered when she doesn’t feel heard by her husband. As a result, she will “transfer” the rage she felt towards her father onto her husband. If her husband suffered from the same suppression from his mother, then the combination of these two wounds can cause the relationship to combust and unravel very quickly.
Getting To Mature Love
We all share different realities and unless we resolve these distortions, past pain and betrayal, the same patterns will play out over and over again.
What all of us need to fully understand is that these negative emotions that come up, are completely normal. They’re a sign that we’re human; that we’re fallible, emotional, vulnerable beings. Even better, these experiences are an opportunity to grow and learn about our partner at a very profound level.
So, the next time you hit a roadblock in your relationship, it’s important to remember that the ball is in your court. You have four choices. You can:
- open your heart to passionate love
- withhold love
- acknowledge the fear and pain, and work to dissolve the blocks to love by getting help and support or
- leave the relationship
Of course, each partner has to be willing to own their part in the dysfunction that exists: to take their 50%. If you can both do this and let go of the blocks to open your hearts, you can build a beautiful, lasting relationship that steps gracefully into the Mature Love phase – where you accept your partner for who they are and the love actually does flow effortlessly. It’s your call.
Robert Kirby is a leading relationships facilitator and mind-body integration expert. To learn about this and more, register for his free 2 day workshop “Heartfelt Relationships.” It will be held on 2-3 April 2016 in Sydney. To register your spot, go to: relationships.robertkirby.com