“I think a relationship is like a shark. It has to constantly move forward or it dies.” – Woody Allen
How true! Have you ever wondered why is it that today, romantic relationships seem to be formed and broken at almost the same speed? While conducting a research in college a few years ago, I found it so difficult to identify individuals who had been in a consistent relationship for more than a year! How is it that the intense passion, which once burned hot, later on, seems to simmer away into cold indifference?
The terms ‘boyfriend’ and ‘girlfriend’ are looked upon as a temporary arrangement and appear almost fickle these days. People freely talk about their “third ex” and are amazed when they hear that you have married the only person you fell in love with!
However, there are others who earnestly wish to enter into a stable relationship, but find themselves drawing apart as time goes by. If you wish to identify what is going wrong in your relationship and desire to set things right, then this article is for you.
Are you speaking the same love language?
For starters, I would recommend Dr. Gary Chapman’s book “the five love languages”, in which he says that people express and receive love in different ways. He believes (and I agree) that relationships do not last because one partner may be expressing love in a love language that the other does not understand. For example, your love language could be gifts, but your partner’s could be quality time. Therefore, although you bought her an anniversary gift, she still feels unloved, because you did not spend time with her that day. In order to meet the other’s deep emotional need to be loved and to feel secure in love, he says, we must express love in ways that the partner will understand that we love them. This is not always easy as it involves identifying your partner’s love language and then learning to use it. Whoever said that relationships take a lot of effort was absolutely right!
Moving on to more concrete factors, blatant violations of trust (consistent lying, cheating & breaking of promises) most often lead to failure in relationships. Undue suspicion and jealousy too can kill a loving relationship. Once the tiny seed of mistrust is planted, its nagging roots never leave and the relationship heads towards a downward spiral.
If one partner is overly dominant, manipulative and desiring complete control over the other, the relationship will head downhill. Also if someone feels that the relationship is unfair as he/she is contributing much more in terms of time, energy and responsibilities, it can result in feelings of irritation, distress and depression – indicators of an unhealthy relationship. Life is full of balance and even perceived imbalance can topple the relationship.
You often might have heard that your partner should also be your best friend. Intimate self-disclosure is one of love’s delights. Partners must maintain an open communication and talk about their feelings in a mature manner. Though repeated a good number of times, one must remember that gaps in communication (assumptions and thinking that the partner can read one’s mind) are disastrous when it comes to relationships.
When “deeply in love”, differences are conveniently ignored or even appreciated. Often the very traits that first drew us to someone so powerfully – aspects that we felt missing in our lives – are the same ones that can drive us away. Being a very careful and planned individual, you may have been attracted by his/her spontaneity and dare devil nature. However, as time goes by, resentment may creep in as you find yourself always having to clear up be organized and responsible. Although it is a popular belief that couples, who are different from each other, complement one another, research has proved that this is not always true – people get along better with those who are similar to themselves (in terms of needs, values and personality).
Relationships that begin during adolescence rarely last long. This could be because one or both partners are just discovering their identity and are not in tune with their goals, preferences, plans, sexual attitudes, etc. Self-knowledge is important to engage in a healthy relationship, as is self-esteem and self-confidence. Otherwise, the relationship can become overly dependent and possessive.
As mentioned earlier, relationships cannot remain healthy if no effort is put into it. Most people mistakenly believe that once committed, they can focus on other aspects of life like work. Prioritizing is an important skill and one’s time must be balanced between work and one’s partner.
Relationships cannot take care of themselves – left alone, they will starve and rot away. Couples, who expect their passion to last forever, or their intimacy to remain unchanged, are in for disappointment. The relationship will certainly change over time, but if you nurture it appropriately, you will find that it changes for the better.
“Some of the biggest challenges in relationships come from the fact that most people enter a relationship in order to get something: they’re trying to find someone who’s going to make them feel good. In reality, the only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place that you go to give, and not a place that you go to take.” – Anthony Robbins