Are you struggling to remember what it felt like to be in love with the person that you now find yourself in conflict with? Do you yearn to experience that dream like, fuzzy feeling you had when you first fell in love and counted down the minutes until you could talk to them or see them? If love can bring so much happiness and contentment, why are you finding it so difficult to sustain it over time?
Why does it fall apart?
The family and social environment we grew up in influences how we relate with others later in our lives. Our relationship with our parents can leave us feeling secure and complete, or insecure, with a deep-seated longing to be loved and accepted. We are born with a set of basic relational needs that stay with us until the day we die – the need for acceptance, affection, security, attention, appreciation, approval, encouragement, respect and support.
If one or more of these is missing in our early years, we experience a ‘gap’, also referred to as a ‘hole’. The gap or hole creates a longing that can leave us feeling empty. To compensate, we develop strategies in the hope of filling the hole. We use emotional games, dramas, drink, drugs, gambling or various other behaviours to feel more fulfilled.
Guaranteed happy ending?
Thanks to children’s fairy stories, films, books and media, we are conditioned from an early age to believe that somewhere in the world is the right person that will fulfil all our needs. We build an idealised image of who that person is and how they behave, giving us in fact the proverbial happy ending. The fantasy partner will have all the qualities we need to meet our relational needs, and this perfect partner, or soul mate, will love us unconditionally and make us happy.
Failing in love with a fantasy
So, bearing all this in mind. It’s easy to see what happens when we meet a new lover or potential partner. Essentially, we unconsciously project the idealised image onto them. They may have some of the traits we like, long for and fantasise about however, we see them as possessing the complete package. That’s why it’s easy to fall in love with them.
Essentially, we look for the love and recognition from partners that we didn’t have as children. We expect them to fill our ‘holes’ and fulfil all our basic needs – we expect them to be the missing link. But this does not happen. Unsurprisingly your partner fails to fulfil your early childhood relational needs, because the fantasy of your idealised partner is not real and it can’t be sustained.
Distortion between image and reality
Over time you start to see your partner’s quirkiness as irritating faults. You blame them for changing and for not being the person they once were. When in reality it’s all about how you have changed the way you see them. The contrast between the idealised image and the real person is a big wake up call. Combine this with the demands and routines of daily living such as work, social and family expectations, and soon you start to feel bored and exhausted. Suddenly cracks appear and you wonder what to do next.
The art of relating
Being able to look at your partner and see them for who they are and accept them without judgement or criticism, and notice who you can be when you are with them is key to the success of your relationship.
My advice is to spend time reflecting on what you want from your relationship and to take responsibility for your own role. Schedule a walk, have a relaxing bath and work out what you want it to be like and what changes are needed. Many couples I have worked with have found that the breakthrough comes when you’re willing to accept one another’s differences and work at developing a new way of relating to each other.
Love the person you are with
The key to a successful relationship is not finding your ideal partner; it’s learning to love the person you found. Pick something you once did that brought you joy and it was fun. Choose one thing each. Arrange to go for a walk together or organise a candlelit meal either at home or at a restaurant and reminisce about that time. Talk about what you liked and what made you laugh, and how you feel now when you’re reminded of it. Remember to keep it positive. You may be surprised at the results.
If you need additional help and support so you can like your partner again and enjoy spending time with them, call Carla Devereux on 0121 745 9044 to book an appointment.