Many of my clients bemoan that they take 2 steps forward and 3 steps back while others see things more positively and acknowledge that they take two steps forward and one step back on their journey to having a caring, understanding, supportive and passionate relationship. They express pain that their journey is not a straight line yet one that zigs and zags and has numerous curves. This also applies to when folks express pain about losing weight and gaining it back or about establishing abstinence from a compulsion, whether it is gambling, emotional eating, drugs or alcohol and then relapsing. Still others talk about having quiet meditations and then meditations filled with rampant thoughts and emotional agitation and irritability. And yes, undoubtedly, it is painful when there setbacks and ups and downs in our journey, whatever it is.
I cite all of these because these are some of the many circumstances and challenges that my clients talk about regarding their progress and moving forward. Yet this article will focus on relationship challenges.
Examples of Moving Forward and Backwards in Your Relationship
- Feeling very close and intimate and distant and disconnected other times
- Communicating in ways that you feel heard, accepted and supported and other times communicating in a blaming and harsh manner where you feel unheard, rejected and disrespected
- Resolving differences and conflicts effectively sometimes while other times your efforts seem to make matters worse resulting in ongoing disagreements and conflict
- Having satisfying, passionate and intimate sex while other times it feels rote, mundane and boring
- Sharing joy, laughter and fun while other times you are pushing each other’s buttons
- Experiencing times of calm and ease with one another which may be suddenly interrupted by an intense explosive fight leaving you confused and shocked and wondering “where’d that come from”
- Gazing at your partner and having the conviction that you are with your soul mate and other times wondering “who is this person and how did I end up with him/her”
- Agreeing on lifestyle and financial needs and wants compared to strongly disagreeing about these things.
- Wanting to spend as much time with your partner as possible and other times wanting to be alone or with friends, or maybe even wanting to be as far away from you partner as possible.
Perhaps you can think about these ups and downs and curves in the following way. Sometimes when you go on a trip you get directly to your destination with ease in a timely manner. The trip and the roads you take are as smooth as can be. Other times you go on a trip and you have to negotiate bumpy roads filled with potholes and/or inclement weather and/or you are re-routed due to construction and/or you get stuck in long tedious traffic delays. If you use air travel sometimes the checking in and boarding process is as quick and efficient as can be. The flight leaves on time, is as comfortable as can be and arrives on time. Other times flights are delayed or cancelled. Or perhaps the plane goes through a great deal of turbulence. Travel, and life, is inconsistent and uncertain. Relationships are surely like this too.
How to Manage Ups and Downs in Your Relationship
- Understand that ups and downs and fluctuations are normal and know that they are surely going to happen
- Be patient, kind and compassionate with yourself and your partner as you navigate the changes and curves
- Look back to where you were and where you are now in terms of growth
- Write down signs of progress
- Address concerns and issues as they arise to thwart building resentments
- Communicate regularly with openness and honesty
- Seek input and advice from friends or an experienced professional to help you see things objectively
- Take responsibility for your part in the strengths and weaknesses of the relationship
- Allow yourself to feel your feelings—your grief, relief, sadness, joy, sorrow, loneliness and anger
As I reflect on my work with Ann and Charlotte, Loraine and Peter and Ken and Kim they all arrived in my office having a range of concerns about their relationship. They expressed hurt, anger, fear and loneliness. They felt unheard, uncared for and unsupported and wondered where the joy, passion and intimacy that they once felt had gone. Over time each couple began to communicate more effectively, to heal their wounds and to have more harmony, support, caring and understanding in their relationship. They came to understand and accept that there are ups and downs in their relationship and developed the resources to deal with them. Please know that you can do the same!