Help! The Honeymoon Is Over! Now What?
The beginning of a love relationship — ahhh! It’s like a warm bath. Everybody’s happy! Partners sing each others’ praises. The sound of the relationship is pleasant, melodic and beautiful. There is plenty of purring, deep breathing (oh yeah) and sighing. Things are looking up. Life is good. Getting to know each other is about discovery, play, curiosity, and the expression of love.
When love is fresh and new, we’re like young kids at play. We’re elated and hopeful. We expect to have fun. And we do!
This joy creates a very powerful kind of positive momentum. We’re holding someone else in the steady sunshine of our approving gaze. We find all sorts of reasons to love and appreciate because — this is important — we’re looking for the good stuff.
Being positive is a natural thing, and I believe it is our natural state – looking for what is fun, what is joyful and meaningful — because it connects us to our best self. And we like it when we are at our best and feel good.
Watch young children at play. If left to their own devices, they play for the delight of playing and discovering. They are exuberant.
A relationship can start out like that.
As we settle in and spend lots of time around each other, old defaults can creep in. What are yours? Where do you see them?
This is the stage where we may realize, “Well, shoot, that old problem (or pattern) of mine seems to have followed me.”
Yes, old baggage (beliefs, actions, and scars) can turn a new relationship into one resembling the past.
This can be a bit confusing, and even scary. Perhaps even disappointing or disheartening. It makes us wonder if we should stay in the relationship or give up and start over yet again.
Really, it’s just a matter of our defaults leading the way. What a great chance to see them and change them gradually!
This is the golden point (seriously it is) where everything good can happen, if we want it to — if we’re willing to pay attention in new ways. It’s a pivot place, and full of positive potential.
But here’s the thing. We can’t create a new and improved relationship by doing, saying or thinking the same things we’ve thought, said or done in the past.
Well, duh… Not too surprising.
But how does that work, practically speaking?
Learning to break new ground rather than repeat the past requires the assistance of a new (and tiny) muscle called awareness. We’ve got to find it and exercise it on purpose.
The idea is to use awareness to pay attention to something we do now that didn’t work in this moment and has never worked in the past.
Complaining to your partner is nails on a chalkboard. Being a complainer doesn’t inspire him/her to help you, be there for you or support you. It won’t get you what you want.
Notice tone of voice, too. Tone of voice gives a complaint extra clout. (Note: You can ask your partner for feedback to help you at first — let you know if you’re complaining or whining and you didn’t notice.)
Cut Off and Shut Off
Here’s another example. We cut off, shut off, turn away from, or ignore our partner — we don’t give them our full attention. He’s interested in telling her how his golf game was today, but she only pretends to listen while she multi-tasks. He knows she’s not listening. She knows she’s not listening. It doesn’t feel good to either one of them. Nobody wins.
Judge or Blame
Or when we judge or blame. We criticize, micromanage, question, monitor and correct our partner. Or we make them the cause of our difficulties, and point the finger at them.
And guess what? If we have our trusty awareness muscle working, it triggers a small internal alarm that chimes, “There it is. Pay attention right there.”
The inner alarm is triggered when something feels bad.
It’s an “oops!” It means, “Oops, I just did something that doesn’t feel good, has never felt good, and will probably never feel good.”
And I often say that if it feels bad, it is bad, meaning the result is probably not going in a direction that either partner wants to go.
But the really good news is that you noticed it this time, with your eyes wide open. The simple practice of awareness offers the opportunity to choose to do something different.
In future posts, I’ll write more on cleaning it up. I’ll give ideas on how to clean up complaining, turning away from your partner, and judging or blaming.
For now, the only important job is to get the awareness muscle working.
About Terri Crosby — I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains with Eric, my partner of 15 years, two cats and a dog, and as many flowers and vegetables as I can plant. I love really good food, good friends, good relationships!