Friday, April 12, 2013

When the Honeymoon is Over: Is Change in a Relationship Always Bad?

If you've ever been in a long term, committed relationship then you know they have stages:

     Stage 1 - Infatuation:  You can't stop thinking about the person. You text and call each other several times a day just to say hi and keep connected. You can't think about or talk to him without smiling.

    Stage 2 - Love:  Now you love the guy. It's not just infatuation. You still enjoy spending time with him but you're no longer thinking of ways to kill yourself if you haven't
spoken to him in 2 hours. It’s comfortable.

     Stage 3 - Wait a minute now: Something has definitely changed. One or both of you no longer operates like impressing the other is important. Dates have slowed down considerably; sex also. You do a lot less together; compliments are few and far between and you’re starting to argue.

    Stage 4 - WTF??!!:  At this stage, it’s fix it or call it quits. You don't really argue, because you don't give a $hit but you don't talk either. Sex is only on special occasions and it’s more like obligation sex: (I'm obligated to have sex with you because it's your birthday, Valentine’s day etc.)

I've only experienced stage 1-3 because I don't allow my relationships to go any further. Either we fix it or I move on. I'm not interested in being in a dead, boring relationship that lacks passion. I'm happier alone. I know that sounds unrealistic to some but I'm all about happiness and savoring life to the fullest at every stage of my life. When I'm in a dead relationship, I'm unhappy and start searching for the reasons why the fire/interest has waned. First thought is: cheating and I absolutely can't abide that. So a lifeless relationship that has run its course drags me down and takes up too much of my valuable mental energy that could be channeled in more productive ways.

So what's the answer to my question?  I think it’s yes and no. It depends on the nature of the changes and the reasons behind them. If your significant other is spending less time with you because he/she is in law school, studying for the CPA exam, or just started his own business, don't be a dick. Experiencing change for progress is acceptable.  In fact, use his progress as an example and get something going in your life as well. That way you'll have less time to worry about him because you're making moves too. Likewise, if he/she is going through something (that has nothing to do with your relationship but you have talked about it) give him your support, understanding and a little space to reflect, plan etc. After all, in our 40's we go through a lot of mental changes. From feeling like we're not where we had hoped to be professionally and financially by this point in our lives, to feeling like we need to devote more time to our own personal development or to our wayward teenagers, at certain points we feel the need to refocus our attention and energy. If you trust him and don't feel this is just an excuse to creep, chill out. So that's the "no,” change isn't always bad.”

The "yes" is when the change is groundless, unexplained, disrespectful and really just the result of a lack of interest and commitment to the relationship and to you. My partner and I decided early on that no matter how much we loved each other or how deep our commitment, we wouldn't promise to stay together forever. We would only stay together as long as we were making each other happy. We would commit to working hard to communicate openly and honestly, to not take each other for granted and to continue to do the things that made us fall in love with each other in the first place. The result: we've had a few tough spots, but overall we are extremely happy. He still looks at me like I'm the most beautiful woman in the world and he dates me. Not only are we madly in love, we’re best friends who have a lot in common and genuinely enjoy each other’s company. We hang out, laugh and party together as if we were “boys.”  And I wouldn't have it any other way.  When we lose interest in each other and are no longer motivated to make each other happy, there's no reason to stay together.

At the end of the day, life is about happiness. You and your spouse or partner deserve happiness with each other or someone else. Don't believe the pessimists who believe the honeymoon can't last forever. It can if you're with the right person, you have that expectation, and you work at it.

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