Don’t you love being in love?
Those first heady months when you feel amazingly in sync are so compelling that we fall into the trap of wanting our relationship to feel that way forever.
And when it inevitably doesn’t, we easily fall out of love.
Research has shown us that the intense “in-love” feeling inevitably diminishes between 18 months and three years, which is, unfortunately, why so many relationships end between three and seven years — because people don’t feel “in love” anymore. And no matter how hard we try, we’ve realized that you can’t go back and re-create the intoxication you felt for each other. After all, you have built a life together with all its obligations and challenges.
While it feels like magic happens when you fall in love, a whole different kind of magic happens when you allow your relationship to mature. It doesn’t mean that passion goes away or that date nights aren’t important, but something even more powerful is now possible. You can consciously grow in your relationship, develop yourself, and support your partner’s growth.
I’ve come to think of working through the challenges of a long-term committed relationship (whether married or not) as the equivalent of enrolling in a graduate school program or an intensive personal growth boot camp. Our most significant relationships are the place where we play out our habitual emotional and psychological patterns. We can find ourselves in the same energy, behaviors, and practices we grew up in. And we revert to our childhood patterns of survival, protection, defense, trying to get the love we need, competition, constant criticizing, needing to be right, yelling, or any number of things that we say we didn’t like about our childhood.
The good news is that by becoming consciously aware of this happening, you can begin taking responsibility for how you engage, react, respond, think about, or what you expect. By noticing when these things play out, you can find new ways of listening, speaking, thinking about, and responding to what is happening.
When you do this, you are breaking the habits and patterns of your own thinking and possibly even breaking the chains of generations of dysfunctional relationships. This process is how you grow an empowering relationship — by deciding to use it for your personal growth.
Isn’t it also funny how the things that attracted you in the first place become so incredibly irritating over time? Yet there is something about these very characteristics that you may need in your life.
There are two different ways of thinking about why we attract people who are so different.
First, we might admit to ourselves that we need a little more of whatever that irritating thing is that our partner does, like being spontaneous or super orderly. We are being invited to learn behaviors that benefit us personally while moving us closer to our partner rather than resisting the gift they are in our life.
We might also realize that we are supposed to be different people and stop trying to make them just like us. This realization invites us to be grateful for those irritating little things because they may actually provide something to the relationships we aren’t as good at, like being a planner or more socially inclined. Ultimately, instead of trying to change our partners, we allow ourselves to grow and see them through the lens of gratitude, appreciating what they bring to our partnership.
Empowering yourself may be scary, and you will be messy as you try different ways of responding. But new patterns and habits will emerge as you continue your journey to become more aware of yourself and who you want to be. Speaking up, apologizing, asking for what you want, or telling the truth becomes easier over time. This behavior naturally leads to empowering our partner. We realize that our partner has their own needs, goals, desires, and foibles. The more conscious and grown up we are, the less this frightens us and the more supportive and unconditional we can be.
With a partner who wants to grow, that’s the magic. Your relationship grows into richer intimacy, fuller self-awareness, more profound knowing of each other, and mutual support.