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If love comes and goes, then it’s not love we are feeling.
Nature reflects to us the seasons of love. We love romance and being in love. We look at the world through a soft focus of rosy, love tinted glasses. Our heart sings, we smile and laugh and feel overjoyed and more alive than we ever thought possible. We long to be with our lover and can’t wait to see them again. Everything else pales into insignificance. Romance is about union and we are touched to the core of who we are. Our hearts open, we throw caution to the wind and our desire to love and be loved takes us over.
Our role models of how to have a relationship tends to either come from our parents or through movies, songs, television and books. We probably don’t learn much about sustainability from celebrities or song lyrics! There are different seasons of relationship.
In spring, when blossoms and buds appear and the world renews itself, we dream of falling in love. It brings new hope, innocence, exuberance and joy and we fall into the ‘high dream.’ This is the best we imagine a relationship can be. When we fall in love, we think that there shouldn’t be any problems or arguments. It’s not called falling for nothing! It is a positive projection where we actually ignore all the information that doesn’t fit into our ‘fairy tale.’ Anything that the person does or say’s that is not part of our script for them, we edit out of our conscious mind. If a friend happens to point out to us that this is the third time our new boyfriend or girlfriend has cancelled at the last minute or turned up late, we make excuses for them. We tend not to want to hear that our new found love is less than perfect or possibly unreliable!
The summer of love continues the first exploration of each other when we bask in the warmth of new found intimacy and the excited exploration of each other. We journey together in the discovery of the new and spend time outside, walking, going to the beach, visiting restaurants and friends. We hope that people like our new partner and that ‘all the world loves a lover.’ We ignore any negative feedback.
When we move from the ‘honeymoon period’ to the ‘kitchen sink phase’ the negative projection begins to appear. The sun disappears more often behind the clouds. All the characteristics and signals that we previously overlooked come rushing in to our awareness and we suddenly start viewing the person in a less positive light. The things that were previously endearing become more irritating. Turning up late stops being interpreted as ‘what a dedicated and successful worker s/he is. It transforms into, ‘S/he doesn’t care about me. I’m not important enough in his/her life. Work, sport and drinking with friends takes priority over me’
Love is often not the issue here. It’s the behaviour that starts to cause problems as we begin to see more clearly who our partner actually is without the view of misty romance that is present in the first bloom of love.
So the autumn begins to bring a cool, chilly wind and is often when we decide to settle in together and commit and find a way to weather the turbulent storms rolling in. We can light an open wood fire and read aloud to each other and cuddle under a warm blanket together.
This is synonymous to working through the issues that begin to arise and negotiating and solving them.
Or when the leaves are falling we decide whether we want to fall out of love and break up. When our needs aren’t met with love, connection and a sense of belonging together, our feelings can quickly turn into rejection, resentment, hurt and anger.
Winter is where we are in the ‘low dream’, the worst things can be. We have a choice to be cold to each other and freeze out our partner, experience stormy arguments and retreat at a distance or we can hug each other, enjoy and play together in the snow and work through a possible flood of emotions.
For our love and relationship to continue to grow, it’s useful to look at some ingrained beliefs which prevent us from maintaining our love and developing real relationship;
• Our partner should be able to read our mind and always know what we want and need without us having to tell them. We should just be happy and blissful.
• Our relationship should be easy because we are in love and we shouldn’t have to ‘work at it.’
• If my partner changed, we wouldn’t have any problems.
• We should have a similar sex drive and want to be intimate at the same time.
• We should automatically know and agree on what is best for our children.
So what can help us keep our hearts open?
1. We realise that it’s healthy for relationships to change and that if we live in the same way year after year, it may mean that we got stuck in one season, usually winter!
2. If we want a different result, we need to stop saying and doing the same thing over and over again.
3. We regularly get our car serviced and if we don’t, at some point it will break down. This also applies to our relationship. Be willing to take time and do your ‘inner work’ as well as relationship work. The current statistics show close to a 50 % divorce rate in Western countries and this doesn’t include couples living together. It’s no co-incidence that in the movies, the couple sail into the sunset and the movie ends there and doesn’t show what happens next!
5. Change yourself and how you communicate together. Don’t stay stuck in the same old communication patterns of blaming, defending, attacking, judging and criticizing and having no tolerance for difference. Be as honest, authentic and vulnerable as you can.
6. Take your partner’s side and ‘walk in their shoes’ for a few minutes. Then you can take your own side and talk back and forth until some agreement is reached. Try not to recycle the issue when there is some resolution.
7. Look at what works and what doesn’t work and listen and pay attention to your partner’s feedback. Share the dreaming you have about being together. Then problems can transform into resolutions.
8. Become observant, curious and interested in what your partner is expressing. Ask questions, open up dialogue and heighten your awareness and understanding.
9. Make time to find a way to connect with each other every day for a minimum of half an hour to an hour. Make time together a priority despite busy jobs and kids etc. Laugh, talk together and cuddle.
10. Be thoughtful and considerate, pay attention to little things between you and make up as quickly as possible after arguing. Know that conflict is healthy as long as it doesn’t keep recycling. If it does, consult a qualified, experienced relationships therapist.
11. Decide you would rather be happy than right! Or be honest that you just want to be right and find the meaning in that for yourself.
12. Take some time and space for yourself and continue with your own interests as well as doing things together.
A successful relationship is when we keep falling in love many times with the same person, deeper and deeper every time.
If you would like to read specifically about Process Oriented Psychology Relationships theory and practice, go to the Relationships article on this website.
Sherry Marshall. BSc. Soc; MAA Social Work; Masters Ecology is a published author and specializes in Process Oriented Psychology, Mindfulness and Relationships therapy. She is a contributor to the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper and interviewed on radio.