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Why Relationships Are Hard and How to Prevent a Disaster


Nov. 04, 2019

There are five things that are so important to know when you’re in a relationship or before you get back into another relationship. After years of working with singles and couples, these five secrets are the ones that I constantly go over in most of my sessions. Having this insight can save you pain and a big mistake when you run into struggles with your partner. They say, “ Relationships aren’t easy .” We hear this all the time, but no one goes into detail as to why they get hard. Read below, and you’ll prevent a lot of confusion down the road.
Secrets for Preventing Disaster
1. There is a dopamine phase or otherwise known as the “honeymoon phase.”
There are many chemicals released at the beginning of a relationship. This happens when you first meet someone and there are fireworks inside you. Your feelings inflate, and you have a rush inside of you that feels so good. You’re possibly feeling complete for the first time ever with your partner. Research says this phase lasts anywhere from two days to two years.
There is evidence that we do actually release dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin when we start dating someone. All three of these chemicals have a feel-good feeling when released. Often we refer to the early parts of a relationship as the “dopamine phase.”
2. The dopamine wears off.
What people don’t know is often they find they are upset with their partner right when the dopamine wears off. The dopamine phase is supposed to wear off so we can enter the next phases of the relationship which is more of a power struggle. Some think the relationship is no longer good when this happens. Mainly because on a biochemical level their brain stops the feel-good feelings it was once releasing.
Often we mistake or blame our partner for this by placing blame on our partner, failing to see this is neurochemistry messing with our heads. We are supposed to leave the feel-good phase and learn how to work through conflict combined with fewer chemicals in the brain. This can feel like a fall from the dopamine-induced pink cloud we have been chilling out on. Boom! We hit reality and we have to start working on the less than glamorous parts of the partnership.
3. Take ownership.
If you don’t know how to take ownership for your mistakes, you’ll never be really successful. Same goes with your partner. If you pick someone who can never say they’re sorry, own their own behaviors. and blames you, you’re in trouble. Jumping to the blame game is problematic, but a sign that you’re in a healthy relationship is when you can step out and own your own flaws and vise versa.
Taking ownership requires you to step into feelings like shame or guilt and other feelings so that you can work through that and change your behavior. Often I see couples get defensive because they struggle with the feelings that come up. When we are brave and willing to take a deeper look within and be honest, we can step into responsibility, and that is the catalyst for change and connection.
4. Conflict is good.
In order for a relationship to work, both parties have to openly speak their truth which can lead to conflict. Avoiding conflict is not healthy, but learning effective conflict resolution skills is. In fact, the best relationships are when you can be yourself without overcompensating your voice. Having a strong voice and speaking your truth will make you appealing to your partner. If you lose your voice and overcompensate all the time, you lose your healthy autotomy and could possibly build resentment down the road.
5. Your core fears will come up in your most romantic relationship.
It’s part of you, and the person who gets close to you will activate old wounds. For example, if you have a fear of abandonment, that will come up. Or if you felt as if you were not good enough as a child, your partner will indirectly hit that nerve with you. This is because the wound is inside you, and the people we let in will somehow recreate similar feelings. You’ll associate those with your deep core issues and what is left unresolved will show up.
This is an important concept because we often blame our partner for all our pain when in reality that pain is backlogged. In psychology, we use this concept that what is happening in the moment is ten percent, and if it feels overwhelming, it often is an issue that links back to your ninety percent. That’s right, it’s deeper and older than you think. So try and be aware of what your partner is activating inside of you and if those feelings are in fact older feeling. Chances are both are true. Your partner is causing you pain, but the pain is extra intense because you have felt that way before. Stay aware and stay open about exploring where the “feeling” started so you can take some blame off your partner.
The Normal Course of a Relationship
The good news is all of these are normal. When you fall off your dopamine high, if you can be aware and not do a one-eighty with your feelings, you can work through the next phase of the relationship. If you effectively learn to communicate and own your parts, you have an even better chance at a successful partnership.
Lastly, if you find yourself feeling old feelings of “I’m not good enough” or “She/he is going to leave me,” then that’s a sign that you just have a little more internal work to do. Instead of projecting our fears onto our partner, it’s actually the perfect time to heal them within and thank our partner for bringing them to our awareness. In understanding these five secrets, you should not be blindsided when they arrive in your relationship. Remember, relationships have cycles and stages. They are forever evolving into something else if you can move through the harder things with grace, curiosity, and empathy, you cultivate a deeper, more substantial love in the last stage.
Jessica Baum is a licensed and experienced relationship therapist in Palm Beach County, specializing in codependency and love addiction. To learn more about love addiction or to book an appointment, please feel free to call her at 1-800-274-8106.
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