“Do what you did in the beginning of a relationship and there won’t be an end.”
Have you ever been in a relationship that starts like a fairy tale only to find out that the “person of your dreams” was nothing like who you thought they were in the beginning? We all put our best foot forward in the budding stages of a new relationship. We want to let our potential mates see our finest attributes. This is 100% natural behavior. It is easy to love and be loved in the beginning phase because we are most likely wearing rose-colored glasses and our new love interest seems to be our perfect match.
✓ Be careful not to form attachments too early because it will make it difficult to see the potential partner as they truly are instead of over-romanticizing the relationship.
✓ Try to build a solid foundation of friendship first. As the relationship progresses and we allow ourselves to become more vulnerable, we show more of ourselves to the other person. The good, bad, and the ugly are exposed and we get a better idea if this person is someone we want to move forward with in our lives or not. When we choose to move forward and explore the possibilities, we continue to learn a lot about our newfound romantic interest. After the relationship has been progressing for around a year… or long enough to get out of “the honeymoon phase,” this is when we hit a few bumps in the road. We discover different communication approaches, attachment styles, and philosophies of emotions. There are usually some gaps that create discord and can cause conflict.
✓ How we learn to bridge those gaps to continue to connect during this time is critical for having a healthy relationship.
✓ If you don’t know-how, then get the help of a life coach or a therapist who can teach you these skills. While there is much comfort in finding that person that you can be 100% yourself around, it is still very important to be cognizant of what unmet needs your partner may be having as a result of your differences.
✓ Good listening skills, paired with empathy and not personalizing their feelings can go a long way in diffusing conflict.
✓ Creating a safe space for each other to express your feelings without being critical is also very important.
✓ Defensive behavior will only accomplish shutting the other person down, or worse, an explosive argument.
✓ Remember to use humor and try to keep playfulness a part of your exchanges. A little levity can go a long way to ease tension. A couples therapist told me “what you do dating, you must continue when you’re mating.” This means that all of the bids for romance, all of the compliments and nights out, or whatever it was that you did when first courting, need to continue in the marriage. It will keep the spark alive. No one wants to be treated like “the old ball and chain.” Becoming disillusioned is a natural and important part of a healthy relational process. Disillusionment is one’s opportunity for transformation. It allows you to move forward in truth and connecting to the real person versus a facade and that’s where the good stuff happens.
✓ Your task is to see your partner for who they really are.
✓ Love the individual as a whole person and not just what they do that makes you feel good. Love is the greatest commandment. We were created to be in relationship. Courting does not have to die when you say I do. As we grow as individuals we do not have to grow apart. It is completely tenable to honor each other by showing up in the relationship in the ways that are meaningful to our partner without dishonoring ourselves.
✓ Be intentional with your words and your actions.
✓ Be the person you were when you met, and then help each other become even better! It takes temperance and lots of practice, but it is so worth the effort. These shifts in behavior can make the difference between a great marriage, a stale marriage and even a divorce.