Being in love with someone is not just about having warm, fuzzy feelings for him or her. We tend to think of love as a feeling when it really is a relationship. It is easier to describe a good love relationship than it is to define what love is. So let’s talk about what has to be present in a love relationship in order to make it a good one:
Conflicts are a normal and natural part of any relationship. The only exception seems to be the infatuation period of a new romantic relationship when you both seem to magically want the same things all of the time. Unfortunately, this period does not last forever. Eventually you will disagree. One of you will want something the other one does not, and resentment arises when you do not get what you want. Resentment causes distance in the relationship. So, what are some things you can do to keep the normal conflict from creating irreconcilable differences?
From “Passage to Intimacy” by Lori H. Gordon, Ph.D. and “Love is Never Enough” by Aaron Beck, M.D.
Effective communication is an essential component to healthy relationships. Communication with others involves expressing ourselves and responding to someone else.
Responding to Others
*** When we first begin using I-statements and reflection, it can feel artificial. It doesn’t take long for them to become automatic. Experiment with them and you may find that your discussions with other people become much more productive and satisfying.***
Retrieved and Adapted from the Virtual Pamphlet Collection: Counseling Services, University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire
We will live happily ever after: This is one of the first ways relationships go wrong, and it stems from the belief that love is easy, that we will live happily ever after, that these warm, fuzzy feelings will never fade. Love is not a feeling, it is a relationship. That relationship can include those warm, fuzzy feelings, but it can also include other feelings like frustration, anger, and sadness.
Unspoken expectations: We all enter relationships with unspoken expectations, and sometimes it is not until those expectations are not met that we realize that we even have them. Negotiating the differences in the expectations that each of you bring to the relationship makes up much of the work involved in young relationships. These differences can range from how you squeeze the toothpaste tube to how you resolve conflicts to how you celebrate holidays.
Not seeing the other person as separate from ourselves: This involves assuming that the way I think and feel is the only way to think and feel about something. We don’t allow others to think or feel differently from us. In extreme cases, we literally cannot see things from another’s point of view. And we see our loved one as extensions of ourselves.
If you disagree with me, that is a rejection of me: Maybe I am threatened if you disagree with me because my self-esteem depends on your approval of me? And if you are an extension of me, how dare you think or feel differently? Furthermore, disagreements might mean we lose those warm, fuzzy loving feelings. Where did the love go?
How conflict is handled: When conflict occurs, we usually go into a protective mode because we don’t want to experience emotional pain. We become afraid that we might lose that person’s love. We can become compliant, indifferent or seek to control them. Becoming compliant means we give up our point of view and agree with the other person. Indifferent means that we withdraw from the other person. Trying to control the other person and get them to agree with us can involve lectures, anger, belittling, etc.
Negative feedback loop: This is when the mode of fighting in a relationship becomes so predictable that there is a recognizable pattern. The movie, The Story Of Us , showed this sort of relationship in which the fighting always ends in a stalemate and is never resolved.
Erosion: This can be a beach metaphor where the sand is constantly eroding from the foundation of a building. In a relationship, erosion occurs when couples do not give enough time to the relationship. Not focusing on each other enough of the time in order to keep each other feeling special and the relationship feeling alive is erosion. No major conflicts are present, just lots of distance.
Calamities: Calamities are the major blows to a relationship that the relationship may not survive. This can include the death of a child or infidelity. It is sort of like the hurricanes we have around here. Our barrier islands take hard hits sometimes. The islands survive, but will not ever look the same again even as they rebuild.
Balancing of opposites: This refers to opposite fighting patterns. One partner will like to blow up and the other will like to retreat. Usually this ends up with each partner blowing up or retreating more than they normally would. This can also refer to differences in parenting styles, sexual frequency, etc.
Reacting to each other in the same way we reacted to our opposite sex parent: Sometimes our partners remind us of our opposite sex parent, and in those cases we tend to overlay an image of our parent onto our partner and react to them as if they were really that parent. Our unfinished business with our parents interferes with our current partner.