Newsletter, Issue 3
Go back 50 years and couples stayed together, whatever their relationship was like, and settled for their lot. They were focused on the family and its needs, rather than on themselves as individuals.
Now, life is very different. Divorce is so common that we even have greetings cards to mark (?!) the event and many stay single for longer, hesitating to commit to a relationship. People have higher expectations, as they focus on their individual needs and happiness, and are left unsure how to combine this with relationship.
Fairy Tale Endings?
I grew up with romantic fairy tales of knights in shining armour rescuing damsels in distress, followed by happy-ever after high school films and chick flicks and elaborate dreams of my wedding day. Relationships became something magical and idyllic to yearn for, the place where everything would be perfect and I would feel truly loved.
Whilst deep down I knew the reality was different – after all I watched my parents and other couples, and my mother had warned me enough that ‘you had to work at relationships” – I still held on to some sense of this idyllic notion. No wonder the reality was a bit of a shock, and disappointment was inevitable – how could my husband, or any human being, ever live up to such a dream?
How do we handle the inevitable disappointment, when we realise our partner isn’t the person we imagined they were, that they can’t be the answer and make us happy?
In realising that we have to take responsibility for ourselves and learn about being in relationship, it can help to know our experience is normal.
1. It’s normal to go through phases of feeling angry with and in total opposition to your partner, even feeling resentment and hatred rather than or alongside love.
At the start of a relationship with someone, our focus is on being ‘together’ and ‘in relationship’. In time, once the ‘we’ is established and we have a sense of the relationship, we then have to find our individuality again, so we pull away from the other. This is a natural and essential phase.
2. It’s normal to feel disappointed that your partner is not who you thought they were.
When we ‘fall in love’, we feel everything is possible and that we are whole again. There’s a magical way in which being with our ‘loved one’ enables us to access new parts of ourselves. In the process, we create a ‘fixed image’ of what our partner is like, that is more of a reflection of ourselves and what we want to love, than who they are. OK, so it sounds a little complicated and odd, but stay with me! At some point the mismatch between our ‘fixed image’ of our partner and who they actually are starts to hit home, and we feel enormous disappointment and start to ‘fall out of love’. Remember this is happening for both individuals in the relationship, but that they are likely to reach this point at different times.
When we reach this stage in a relationship it’s normal to feel like it’s over and the end of the relationship. Yet, it is actually just the end of one phase and the possibility to discover the next. ‘Falling in love’ is a natural and powerful process that in time brings us to new self-awareness and the next phase of relationship.
3. It’s normal to need some outside help along the way.
Relationships are very powerful and it’s not unusual to feel stuck and unable to change the way you are relating. Sometimes, we need a third party to help us break the pattern and understand what is happening, so we can find new ways to manage it and move into a new phase. A relative or friend can be there for us, though this can bring its own challenges.