What Goes Wrong In Relationships?
Relationships start out with a bang. They're fun, novel and
hopefully exciting. They are engaging. They occupy our thoughts
more than other experiences. They can even consume us.
But we all know that the luster of the new relationship fades with
time. What was once exciting becomes routine. The glow of newness
yields to the dullness of sameness. Yes? Maybe.
Relationships that "go wrong" probably have the seeds of
destruction built in, and we don't even know it. One of the seeds
is the failure to recognize that routine is normal. Most people
think the fun of the initial stages of relationships should last
forever. This is unrealistic. This is the mark of inexperience
or worse, immaturity. So, when routine sets in, disappointment comes
with it. There is a tendency at this point to raise the stimulation
Some people raise their level of stimulation by artificially
stirring up trouble. We can do this by manipulating; for example,
by not returning our partner's telephone calls as quickly as we
used to, thus creating a sense of wonder or other feelings. We can
do this by creating conflict, like starting to see someone else.
Some people give up, thinking this relationship is doomed because
it no longer is much fun. These may be depressed or passive people,
but they are not people who are so assertive or dynamic. These people
are content to accept things as they are, even if the changes in their
relationships are perceived as negative. Perhaps these people have
low self-esteems and are grateful to have "any" relationship.
When relationships mature, there are "other" dynamics that surface.
(Routines are not necessarily a death sentence to fun. Predictability
is often preferred to too much novelty or uncertainty. This is the
healthy side of a maturing relationship.) Boredom comes to mind
because there the same things occur over and over. This can even
apply to sex. Couples have to be aware that relationships almost never
stay the same. They either grow or stagnate. To compensate,
couples have to be aware of the process and do something else.
We have all heard of "date nights" or "girls night out" or
"boys night out." These are common ways to deal with too much routine.
What really goes wrong in relationships is the failure to deal
with emerging "deep stuff." Deep stuff is partly the dynamics just
described. But on a deeper level, it also is about dealing with the
real person that is right in front of you, over and over, possibly
forever and ever. This encompasses wrestling with sameness because
the real person in front of you is largely the same from day to day.
This is good if the person is well put together. This is bad if
there are "structural" faults, like personality problems, addictions
or just maladaptive personal dynamics. In the confines of intimate,
longer-term relationships, these personal tendencies emerge. They
"play out" on the activities of daily life, enhancing the relating or
deadening it, or throwing it off course completely.
The death knell of relationships is sounded when couples both
have maladaptive deep stuff. This is when couples behave in ways
that drive their partners "nuts." Then the partner retaliates by
behaving in exactly the way that drove the first person nuts in the
first place. The first person now is angry (as well as more nuts)
and s/he behaves with more vigor in just the way that caused the
second person to behave in the way that drove the first person nuts,
in this case also with increased vigor (because of mutual frustration).
I call these Negative Loops. Just about every unhappy relationships
has them. A full description of this dynamic along with fixes for
relationships can be found in my ebooks on my website.