We’ll build and break so many relationships throughout our lives. While some believe it’s destiny, others may think it’s simply coincidence. But whatever you think about love and relationships, it’s not easy. We look at some of the key moments we face in relationships and how to deal with them
Love is all around us. Literally. Most movies, without fail, present romance. And with that, a vast amount of music is written in connection to romantic relationships - whether in a good or bad light. Most of us crave companionship. We are connected through relationships, and most of us will at least find one person to love during our lifetimes.
I believe that love and relationships are subconsciously on everyone’s mind. As children, we are brought up with the concept of love from the moment we engage in film, television and stories. From the multitude of Disney movies (the iconic spaghetti scene in Lady and the Tramp) to the fairytales we’re told, all of it encapsulates our childhood ideas of romance. This advances as we connect our utopian ideals to a Parisian love, sat on a balcony in Paris looking out onto the Eiffel Tower, hopelessly in love and, as Dom Pérignon famously stated, drinking champagne that “tastes like the stars”.
Even the unconventional side of love, the recent series of Love Island, for example, saw millions of us tune into the relationships (and drama) in the villa each evening.
Of the thousands of people we’ll come into contact within our lives, only a handful will make a real connection
Each stage, when romantically involved with a person, is incredibly emotional. While most relationships hold a lot of happiness, they also come with many other emotions, and not all of them are good. Relationships and dating can be complex at times. From the moment you meet someone, your heart will decide if you will fall in love with them, or come to dislike them over time. Of course, your heart and your head don’t always agree, and they’re not always right.
Whatever you believe, I find our relationships and how we connect with people truly fascinating. Of the thousands of people we’ll come into contact within our lives, only a handful will make a real connection, holding our hands along the way.
Meeting new people
The dating scene will see you face a culmination of emotions when searching for a potential partner. This is where, typically, you go by first impressions. The first moments of conversation, you’re unsure of the person’s true intentions. In the days of Tinder and other dating apps, it’s hard to know if they are looking for anything serious.
Among the moments of excitement and the anticipation of meeting and connecting with someone new, there are moments where you may be disheartened. It’s hard to stay positive, when time and time again, you meet “the wrong one”. It can be very difficult to know when to let your guard down, especially if you’ve been hurt in the past.
Dating is a rollercoaster of emotions, even before entering a relationship. You feel insecure and sometimes you struggle to know where you stand. You may have, or have had, relationships where the dating stage has been easy. Where the relationship felt perfect, with no confusion with how you felt about each other.
Other times, however, you may be talking to someone you really like, but the dating process with them seems to drag. You may be getting somewhere, then it plateaus. Feelings get confused and, suddenly, you don’t know what’s going on. These are feelings that we will all experience and while not very nice, know that you can learn from them. These experiences help you to understand yourself better, learning what you want and don’t want, and what you need from a relationship.
Trouble in relationships
The harsh reality (like most things in life) is that not all great things stay at that level of perfection. The ‘honeymoon period’ eventually comes to a close and your relationship changes, you start to open up and learn more about each other’s vulnerabilities. But how do you deal with this change?
The honeymoon period can often feel like you’re living in a romantic comedy, where the ideas about love we had as children come to fruition… then they slowly vanish. How do we cope with the change from the endless nights talking hours on end and the excitement each time you see each other, to them being a part of your everyday life, knowing about - and often being involved in - your daily stressors?
Having the ability and awareness to reconcile and communicate is vital in a relationship, and helps to keep it running smoothly
This transition is often the ‘make or break’ as to whether relationships can continue, and for how long. There is always a storm with the sunshine, so the hurdles you may face with your soulmate are vital in growing the relationship. Think of these hurdles as a test - you may keep passing the test, but one day you receive a grade on the paper you never expected. But you can learn from your mistakes and try again. Having the ability and awareness to reconcile and communicate is vital in a relationship, and help to keep it running smoothly (or as smoothly as possible).
Also, it’s important you retain your identity as an individual. While you become a twosome and a partnership, you are still an individual. As well as your relationship, you need to nurture your individual views, hobbies and your friends. If you lose yourself to be better suited to your partner, you become solely reliant on the relationship.
Then, if you come to a point where you decide to separate, you feel like you have lost everything. You may lose who you were previously, and not know who you are now. If you’ve neglected your friends, it can feel like you’ve lost them too, when actually, this is when you need them the most.
A major issue in relationships can be a result of unbalanced dynamics (or emotional labour), which, over time, can impact your mental health and wellbeing. If you feel that you are the only one trying; you are planning dates, initiating the opportunities to spend time together and partake in sexual activities and messaging your partner during the day, it can become difficult. You find yourself waiting for them to change. You become frustrated but aren’t sure how to talk to them about it. The connection between you both begins to break down.
In all relationships you should be able to communicate how you are feeling, and to work together to resolve the issue. If you cannot talk to your partner, then something needs to change. Communication is key. Especially regarding personal and emotional issues, such as mental or physical health concerns, you and your partner should be able to talk to each other. Having someone there that you can trust and lean on when times get tough is essential. Equally, communicating and understanding when your partner is struggling is important, so you can support them too.
When the relationship isn’t working or is no longer making you happy, you have to make a decision. Waiting for a change and holding on to something broken can be detrimental on your wellbeing. Sometimes, as hard as it can be, the best thing to do is to have a fresh start, cut the loose ends that are preventing you from being your best self and start a new chapter.
Dealing with the break-up
When you separate with a partner, it can feel like half of you has died. Your heart mourns for the loss of the person you had spent time with every day, and you feel lonely without them. Your mind goes round in circles about what went wrong and replaying all of the memories you made together.
Whether you have chosen to end the relationship or someone else made the decision, it can numb your heart. Even if it felt like something you needed to do, there are certain stages of break-ups that you’ll face. First shock, then sadness. Next you’ll feel anger and then, finally, you come out of this darkness to have the strength to move on. You feel empowered and take this time to focus on yourself.
It may take you longer than others to move on, but don’t rush it. You’ll get there in the end. Depending on the circumstances, you’ll typically come to accept what has happened and know that actually, your health and happiness is all that matters. The time has come to love yourself as much as you had loved your partner. All that energy you put into them and the relationship can now be put back into yourself.
Amongst the difficulty, sadness and upset that comes with separation, there are times where two people come back together. Once you have time to understand yourselves, your wants and needs, you may come together again when you’re in a better place. There is no right or wrong way to navigating relationships - every relationship is unique and, for some of us, it takes time apart to realise that you want to be together.
It doesn’t matter if you are in a 10-year relationship or dating someone for a month, the feelings and hurdles you face can be intense. You may fall deeply in love with someone and while it may not last a long time, that doesn’t mean it hurts any less. Sometimes, time doesn’t define your emotions. The long-term relationships may ache deeply, as you’ve lost the person you were so used to having by your side. Your life is turned upside down. Yet, the short but intense relationships will also hurt. Every single one of us will feel differently when it comes to the breakdown of a relationship, but the support network and the strength you have in yourself will eventually ease the pain.
How to look after yourself after a break up:
- Indulge in a good book or your favourite TV series.
- Rest and pamper yourself, whatever that means for you.
- Make an effort to see friends for catch-ups.
- Spend time with family.
- Remember that time will heal and you will move onto better things in the future
- Think positively about the future, use this opportunity to focus on you and boost your career. Do extra things to support your future.
- Do something you have always thought of doing but you weren’t able to. Move to a different country for a year and travel, learn a language or finally join that workout class.
- Learn to love yourself and feel comfortable doing things alone.
The relationships we build during our lives are fascinating and amazing, and while not of all them last, they help to build us as a person. You experience amazing relationships and some bad ones, and as painful as they may be, time heals and you take away lessons from it to improve next time.
Go with the flow
Life is full of lessons. As we age and go through our journeys, we find situations that offer opportunities to learn about ourselves and interacting with others. Fate is always a grand idea in the scheme of relationships; how certain actions and events lead you to be with someone and, sometimes, it’s nice to think that you are meant to meet certain people on the way to help keep you on the right path. Think of it as though each relationship has its own timestamp, an expiry date which is a mystery to all of us. You never know when it will end, or if it’s forever. Of course, this can be exciting, but a lot of us can struggle with the not knowing.
Relationships aren’t easy, and it takes time to understand what you want, and how you and your partner can make each other happy
In the end, the best advice is just to relax and ‘go with the flow’ with your love life. Enjoy every moment and be with someone that makes you happy because even if it does end, you have the memories to keep forever.
There are so many factors involved in relationships, and there are many we’re unable to prepare for. Every one of us is different, and how we cope with situations is something we learn over time. The commonality in relationships though, is that it’s never a smooth ride. Whether it’s an argument, differing opinions, a new house, a baby, divorce or separation, there are some things we cannot plan, but this is a part of the rollercoaster ride we call life.
Relationships aren’t easy, and it takes time to understand what you want, and how you and your partner can make each other happy. Sometimes, it can’t be helped, but actually, there are options and opportunities to come together again and learn from your mistakes. Relationship counselling can be for both individuals or couples, and you don’t need to be struggling to want to better your relationships.
To find a relationship counsellor near you, visit Counselling Directory or enter your location in the box below.