You didn’t make a mistake, it’s just hard…
As a couple moves into later stages of their relationship, they often find they enjoy each other less and less. This is generally the result of bickering; repetitive draining arguments about, well, just about anything. It’s at this point that both individuals might say to themselves (or possibly to trusted others): “I think I might have made a mistake.” They feel that this should not be happening and if it is, there is something fundamentally wrong with their relationship. This is normal and yet unfortunate because nothing could be farther from the truth.
A couple needs to know that as the stakes of the relationship increase – as each individual decides to risk and trust – “that you truly care for me” – the threat of significant pain also increases. For many, this happens when they decide to get married or to have a child. Regardless, when it happens, the risk and therefore, the threat increases exponentially. And this is normal – we are programmed to protect ourselves and calculate the likelihood of our being harmed by another. At the same time, we deeply desire to connect with and find solace in the very same person. What a confusing and crazy-making project!
As the stakes go up, so does our need for safety. Our sensitized nervous system begins to notice things that it didn’t before and warning signs flash. A strained glance, an irritated tone or an overlooked chore is now charged with new meaning – “he’s not really there for you” or “she’s not happy with who you are” are repetitive messages to self. In no time, this becomes the predominate backdrop to your daily interactions and everything takes on a danger laden reddish hue.
With this in mind, I have 2 things to suggest:
- YOU ARE NORMAL! This is exactly what should happen as you risk and increasingly trust another human being, because there are two things happening within you at once:
a. You are hoping and longing to connect more deeply with your partner.
b. You are aware that you can and therefore scared that you will get hurt.
There is no way around this dilemma. Awareness of it is the first step in becoming more compassionate with your spouse and yourself. This awareness can then lead to more honest, open and vulnerable conversation about how scary it is to trust and rely on each other so completely.
- BUILD YOUR FRIENDSHIP. Fortify your relationship with good times. When people enjoy one another other and have fun together – laugh, play, dance, explore – they feel safer. This should happen before things get “heavy” and especially, as they start to.
So, you didn’t make a mistake, deep relationships are just hard. If you are risk or pain averse (and in relationships – we all are), you are doing something quite astounding: Trusting another person with the most vulnerable aspects of your being. Yet, some place deeper tells you the reward is worth it. And you know what, that place is right.
*Please note that the above does not apply in all circumstances. If you are not sure whether your relationship is something that you can work on improving, please feel free to call me at 754-600-9040 or firstname.lastname@example.org