What Goes Wrong In Relationships?
Relationships start out with a bang. They're fun, novel and hopefully exciting. They are engaging. They occupy our thoughts more than other experiences. They can even consume us.
But we all know that the luster of the new relationship fades with time. What was once exciting becomes routine. The glow of newness yields to the dullness of sameness. Yes? Maybe. Relationships that "go wrong" probably have the seeds of destruction built in, and we don't even know it. One of the seeds is the failure to recognize that routine is normal. Most people think the fun of the initial stages of relationships should last forever. This is unrealistic. This is the mark of inexperience or worse, immaturity.
So, when routine sets in, sometimes disappointment comes with it. There is a tendency at this point to raise the stimulation level. Some people raise their level of stimulation by artificially stirring up trouble. We can do this by manipulating; for example, by not returning our partner's telephone calls as quickly as we used to, thus creating a sense of wonder or other feelings. We can do this by creating conflict, like starting to see someone else. Some people give up, thinking this relationship is doomed because it no longer is much fun. These may be depressed or passive people, but they are not people who are so assertive or dynamic. A lot of people are content to accept things as they are, even if the changes in their relationships are perceived as negative. Perhaps these people have low self-esteems and are grateful to have "any" relationship.
When relationships mature, there are "other" dynamics that surface. (Routines are not necessarily a death sentence to fun. Predictability is often preferred to too much novelty or uncertainty. This is the healthy side of a maturing relationship.) Boredom comes to mind because the same things occur over and over. This can even apply to sex. Couples have to be aware that relationships almost never stay the same. They either grow or stagnate. To compensate, couples have to be aware of the process and do something else. We have all heard of "date nights" or "girls night out" or "boys night out." These are common ways to deal with too much routine.
What really goes wrong in relationships is the failure to deal with emerging "deep stuff." Deep stuff is partly the dynamics just described. But on a deeper level, it also is about dealing with the real person that is right in front of you, over and over, possibly forever and ever. This encompasses wrestling with sameness because the real person in front of you is largely the same from day to day. This is good if the person is well put together. This is bad if there are "structural" faults, like personality problems, addictions or just maladaptive personal dynamics. In the confines of intimate, longer-term relationships, these personal tendencies emerge. They "play out" on the activities of daily life, enhancing relating or deadening it, or throwing it off course completely.
The death knell of relationships is sounded when couples both have maladaptive deep stuff. This is when couples behave in ways that drive their partners "nuts." Then the partner retaliates by behaving in exactly the way that drove the first person nuts in the first place. The first person now is angry (as well as more nuts) and s/he behaves with more vigor in just the way that caused the second person to behave in the way that drove the first person nuts, in this case also with increased vigor (because of mutual frustration). I call these Negative Loops. Just about every unhappy relationships has them. A full description of this dynamic along with fixes for relationships can be found in my ebooks on my website.
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