The Ordeal Stage of Romance

After the initial ideal stage, we learn more things about our partner that displease us. We discover habits and flaws we dislike and attitudes we believe to be ignorant or distasteful. In fact, some of the same traits that attracted us now annoy us. Additionally, as the high wears off, we start to revert to our ordinary personality. We don’t feel as expansive and unselfish. Now we complain that our needs aren’t being met. We’ve changed, and so has our partner. Yet, we want those blissful feelings back.

Two things happen next that can damage relationships. Now that we’re attached and fear the relationship ending, we hold back feelings, wants, and needs. This puts up walls to intimacy, the secret sauce that keeps love alive. We withdraw and breed resentments. As romance and idealization fade, the second fatal mistake is to complain and try to turn our partner into who we first idealized him or her to be. Our partner will resent this.

Many codependents, who get quickly involved for the reasons stated above, will sacrifice their own happiness and continue in a relationship for years trying to change, help, and fix their partner. The dysfunctional family dynamics of their childhood often get repeated in their marriages and relationships. Change requires healing our past and overcoming shame to feel entitled to love and appreciation.

Getting to the Real Deal

We might not want to continue a relationship that has serious problems. (See Codependency for Dummies for minimal and optimal relationship ingredients.) Getting past the ordeal to the real deal requires self-esteem, courage, acceptance, and assertiveness skills. It also necessitates the ability to honestly speak up about our needs and wants, to share feelings, compromise, and resolve conflict.

Steps You Can Take

We will attract someone who treats us the way we expect to be treated. As we value ourselves more, whom we are attracted to will change, and we will naturally avoid someone who doesn’t treat us well or meet our needs.

• Take time to get to really know the person and how you both resolve conflict.
• Know yourself, your needs, wants, and limits. (Do the exercises in Codependency for Dummies.)
• Remember that sex releases oxytocin and increases bonding (though it can occur without it).
• Don’t hide who you are, including your needs. Speak up when you dislike something.
• Talk honestly about your expectations in a relationship. If the other person doesn’t want the same things, end it.
• Self-worth is essential to healthy relationships and can predict a relationship outcome Read “Codependency: The Effect of Low Self-Esteem on Relationships.” Get How to Raise Your Self-Esteem.
• Learn to assertively express your feelings, needs, and wants and set boundaries. Get How To Speak Your Mind – Become Assertive and Set Limits and the webinar How to Be Assertive.
• Read “How to Change Your Attachment Style,” and take the quiz.

©Darlene Lancer 2018

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