There is a dark side to relationships in the world of coupledom. One ceded with feelings that move past the meh, straight down to the hell no.
This occurred to me after witnessing several of my couple-friends rift, all stemming from reasons that to an outsider, seemed obvious from the get-go. How many of us know couples that don’t seem to fit? You wonder – great as they both are individually, how on earth did these two end up together?
How could two people with so little in common have fallen in love?
Is it Freudian? Or was something else altogether, like security or timing? The answer I arrived at, at least for myself is no. No to all of the above.
I married for love as did the couples I know who have since fallen out of it, and as far as I know I don’t have unresolved daddy issues. So then where true love once was, can’t it be again? Can’t we fall back into it?
Maybe, but it’s a lot more work. Falling in love is more than a mindset, as in, “wow we’re so great together – complementary ideals, energy levels, and interests – bang, I’m in love!” Too bad, because it’s the other part that gets us into trouble; the biologica. The hormonal highs that engulf us in a fiery blaze of amour that keeps on burning until the only possible conclusion is “it must be love”.
And it is, at the time. The problem happens when the flame eventually cools, other parts of the brain regain control (taking control of your senses) and you would like your life to continue in roughly the same patterns you’d adopted pre-bliss. You just want to go back to being you.
The challenges arise when your partner wants to do things differently, according to their priorities, which you now learn are different from yours. Of course, you’ll try to compromise where you can, but lots of times you’ve developed the behavior patterns for reasons that work for you, not because you hadn’t discovered a better way of doing things.
This is where the rubber meets the road. If I married for one of the external reasons we find cringey; companionship, money and the like, I know what I signed up for and will likely be more tolerant of the aftermath. When it turns out she’s daytime TV obsessed, he’s so happy to have a wife and family, it’s the bargain he’s willing to make. Or when she becomes a golf widow, she finds an upside in more time to lunch with friends and shop, and after all, she wasn’t looking for a soul-mate.
It’s the true-love seekers, those pure of heart and set on finding deep connection who feel the loss of the “honeymoon stage” so harshly. With the love hormone oxytocin which once bathed their partner in bright light now gone, they’re left wondering what they found so enamoring. Especially once they realize they find daytime TV and its fans annoying; or they hate being alone on weekends, which is the time they most crave connection.
If this sounds like you, you’re far from alone. 19% of Americans surveyed last year reported being unhappy in their relationships, but say they find it worthwhile to stay together regardless. Alternatively, 26% of respondents reported being happy in a long-term marriage, citing many shared interests and making time for each other as key.
When we’re our primary relationship is lacking, an accompanying sense of makes it that much lonelier.
In truth, we once made brave choices by following our hearts, against the odds, sometimes too young to even know better. The decisions we struggle with now have shaped us, often for the better. We’ve learned coping mechanisms and independence as we’ve grown wiser for having had this experience.
To all of you purists now facing the dark side of coupledom this year I invite you to try something new. As a career coach, I help people to overcome their fear by trusting that if and when they fall down on the path to reaching their goals, they’re ultimately unbreakable. It may take time and intention, but they will get back up again.
What if you let today mark the time you take a risk and let go of things that aren’t serving you? Suppose you decide it’s okay to acknowledge what isn’t working, and know that it’s part of the bigger process that is growth and life?
You can start by practicing extreme self-care.
- Write a love note to yourself; take some time to reflect on what you learned, one thing you would do differently next time, and three things you’re proud of as a result of your relationship, even if it hasn’t turned out the way you expected it to.
- Then open up to a trusted friend you suspect may share some of your same relationship frustrations (one in 5 of us do!) and propose something unexpected, like a fun workout class or an evening museum visit instead of an empty evening spent going through the motions.
- Find a life coach to help you clarify your feelings, define your intentions and create a roadmap for change
Finally take a look at that positive 26% figure and know this is possible for all of us, if not now, when we’re ready.
Change is a process, let today mark the start. For better or worse you deserve it!
Elizabeth Borelli is a purpose-driven career coach, now launching a free mini-course, “From Stuck to Unstoppable!” Join her tribe at nextcareercoaching.com to learn more today!