'WHEN PEOPLE WHO BEEN TOGETHER A LONG TIME SAY THAT THE ROMANCE IS GONE, WHAT THEY'RE REALLY SAYING IS THEY'VE EXHAUSTED THE POSSIBILITY.' – DARIUS LOVEHALL, Love Jones
Not very long ago, Janet Jackson fans were elated to read gushy interview articles of she and her husband confessing their overwhelming desire for one another. They even did the unexpected and conceived a baby (with much admiration and criticism)! It makes sense. A couple that is aged in their 40s and 50s feel more confident in their decision-making due to years of wisdom and self-understanding. But just three months after giving birth, they decide to end their relationship. So disappointing. So many questions. So unexpected. As human beings, we all just want to be loved. Primates innately seek connection to a loved one as a secure base for attachment. Contact with attachment figures is an innate survival mechanism. The more attached we feel, the safer and more confident we tend to feel in the world. Unfortunately, some partners tend to address these biological needs in hasty ways.
Some partners begin to treat their relationship like checklists. They become so swept away by their own anxiety and need for connection and affirmation in the world that they make escalations in their commitment based on societal expectations and eagerness to satiate the infatuation fantasy. As human beings, we are ever-changing and ever-evolving. Thinking back to being 18 years old, there are many things that were part of an individual’s thought process and experience of the world that are no longer true at 25 or 35 years old, and so on. The same is true in relationships and family planning. Social media provides fishbowl exposure to others’ lives, or the perceived representation of their lives. It often creates a heightened anxiety around marking off goals on personal checklists of life because people tend to compare their lives to that of others. Seeing happy couples tagging one another in memories or pictures encourages us to seek attachment. Becoming captivated by seeing newborns and families posing throughout your newsfeed creates fantasies about having babies of your own. Occupational factors such as someone being in school, not working full-time, or having been laid off prematurely motivates couples to move in together sooner than had the relationship followed its natural path. Not saying that these aren’t exciting things to look forward to in a relationship, but what motivates these escalations in commitment can create long-term dissatisfaction or irreversible damage.
What is the negative impact when we rush through the natural phases of a relationship because the instant gratification or the fantasy is so preoccupying? Consider a 25-year-old individual that is contemplating marrying their college sweetheart. Developmentally, where an individual is at 25 years old is not the person they’ll continue to be. Biologically, the brain has just recently completed its formation at 25. Psychosocially, that individual is just learning who they are and just beginning to learn how to navigate intimate relationships. Professionally, they may be just beginning to launch their career. Even if that individual has experienced some level of seriousness in an adolescent relationship, the circumstances of life are very different as a teenager than when managing the complexities of adulthood, let alone a committed long-term relationship. Going from being a single person to being part of a couple takes time for the system to adjust. There are certain ways that an individual must alter their thinking, behavior, and decision-making to make space in life for their significant other. An individual has hopefully learned who they are, but now they must relearn themselves within the context of this new relationship.
There are a couple of other scenarios when couples marry too soon or have babies too soon. Consider couples that think living together is the same as being married. Anyone who is married can speak to that naiveté. Couples that have cohabitated for years will tell you how things change with marriage. As human beings, there are implicit fantasies, expectations, and fears that one or both partners may have that manifest after marriage. So then after rushing into commitment, many are on a manic course to planning their babies. The reality is relationships need time to adjust before adding babies to the system. According to the Relationship Research Institute in Seattle, within three years of the birth of a child, 67% of couples find that the quality of their relationship deteriorates. Within five years of the birth of a first child, for couples who were married at the time of the child’s birth, 13% of marriages end in divorce. Many new parents can attest to the challenges of parenthood and will unapologetically guarantee that parenting is the most difficult role. I respectfully disagree. I believe that co-parenting while separated is more demanding than parenting. Not only are you doing an arduous task, but you’re involving someone that you’ve proven you can’t be in a relationship with.
When first meeting, couples are often in an infatuation phase of the relationship that is fueled by physical attraction and passion. Oxytocin and hormones feel wonderful, but cognitive judgment is not in play. Infatuated couples bypass some normal decision-making or even values when rushing through. There are basic things that individuals in this phase of the relationship don’t allow themselves to learn whether the relationship is a good fit. Dating is collecting data. Long term relationships require time and effort to build true intimacy before determining the level of commitment. Being enamored with a person’s “representative” does not create a sturdy foundation to build a family. In fact, a couple managing the stress of a new baby has an amplified amount of strain on each partner as individuals, but also on their connection as a couple. Couples that have made decisions to move in too soon, get married too soon, and/or have babies too soon usually find themselves needing professional support to help them work through the stressors in their lives. As thrilling as it may be to fantasize and make these decisions in your relationship, it doesn’t allow your relationship to follow the natural phases of a relationship and have more varied opportunities to test the bond. Not to mention, when you rush through these electrifying ventures, what else is there to look forward to? Continuing to age? Couples that seek premarital counseling stand a better chance of thwarting heartache and headaches in the future, and are less likely to suffer infidelity and divorce…. Don’t rush away the romance.
In my next blog, I’ll address some basic tips to have a healthy dating life.
Are you struggling with parenting in a whirlwind relationship? Are you interested in Emotionally focused couples therapy? Would you like to find out how you can attract an emotionally available relationship into your life? Would you like tools to learn how to communicate better and increase your emotional and sexual intimacy in your relationship? If you want to know more information about some of these questions, review this video and give us a call!