Why does the honeymoon period end?
In the beginning, relationships are exciting. We're displaying the best side of ourselves, showing off our peacock feathers to our potential future mate. It's fun, exciting, we are keen to learn about each other and the natural chemistry which accompanies it makes the process even more natural.
So why does this come to an end? After working with couples and extensive research, I have noticed some habits and patterns that we often fall into.
As a culture, we are taught that 'true love' knows everything about each other. That finishing each other's sentences is endearing. That we should get everything from our partner. They should be our lover, our friend and our best friend. It's a lot of pressure to put on a partnership - especially when not knowing about each other is one of the things that makes a relationship so exciting in the beginning.
Our brains want to create short cuts and predict what will happen, but this prediction is actually a relationship killer.
Ideally, we don't want our brains to have a set idea about how our husband/wife may or may not respond. Not knowing is key, not knowing contributes to keeping love alive and fresh. It's what we don't know about each other that is actually more important. This maintains a growth mindset rather than a set mindset.
So if our brains naturally want to make our partners predictable, then we have to work harder to offset that. Can you remember the curiosity which was there when you met your husband/wife? Can you see that you are often more curious with a friend than you are with your mate?
Men and women are adversaries in nature. They are completely opposite. In the beginning, this contrast is extremely attractive, it creates a polarity that creates sexual tension and excitement. But over time, women start to think of men as hairy women and men think of women as less hairy men.
There are many adversary elements but one very important distinction is being the single focus or the diffuse focus. We think differently and process differently and have a completely different experience and understanding of the world. The more we remember this and are compassionate and understanding because of it, the more chance there is to thrive instead of being suffocated.
Have you ever tried to have a conversation with your husband when he's in the middle of doing something? Or have you noticed that your wife can talk about ten different subjects all at the same time!
We are mind-reading all of the time. We assume that someone thinks like us and we forget that we all live in our own separate realities every second of the day. A result of this is that behaviour can look personal to us. It can look like someone is deliberately ignoring us or being unkind. It can look like their actions are in some deliberate way trying to upset you.
Here it's useful to remember that people are doing the best they can in any given moment given the tools that they have. Their behaviour is about them and not about you. If we can understand this in the moment it gives us the opportunity to enquire about their perception rather than react to our hurt.
Great relationships take work. We have to decide what makes the relationship work and keep doing those things. This needs looking at time and time again to make sure that it's on track. We can culturally believe that if something is hard work then it must not be right. But all things in life that are worthwhile take time and effort.
It can be helpful to see a relationship like a garden, it needs love, care and attention. You have to know how to treat it when external factors change and you have to be prepared to reap what you sow. As a couple, it can be useful to decide what shared values you have. How you currently settle disagreements and how you would like to work on settling disagreements.
When working with a couple, we will meet for an introductory session to see how they are forming their separate realities. We also look at where they want to go. We may discuss reoccurring issues, but there is no blame or shame. We are just looking to see where we see things the same and where we see things differently. We want to see where we are expecting someone to be responsible for our happiness and whether that is actually achievable for the relationship.
A third party is a great way of changing the structure of an argument, it shines a light on what is possible when used in the most effective way.
Work from this point onwards is individual. Helping you to have a greater understanding of the relationship and why it isn't working. This way of working allows you to see what your contribution is, and also to work through anything that triggers you in the relationship.
I am a great believer that our relationships are our greatest teachers. They provide a mirror for us to see where we are wounded and where we need to grow. Working together in this way allows more compassion, understanding and a commitment to a really powerful partnership. We meet every 3/4 session as a couple to reassess where we are, what's working, what isn't, and what steps to take next.