Love changes over time.
Though we each have a fairly stable concept of who we are and often an even more rigid conception of our partners, we continue to grow as individuals. We can grow together, or we can grow apart.
This catches us by surprise.
When we’re caught up in our daily activities – work, school, raising a family and managing a household – or distracted by crisis after crisis, we may fail to attend to our primary relationship.
We take it – and one another – for granted.
In the early romantic phase of relationships, we can succumb to infatuation. Falling in love is like a psychosis. We can do bold and silly things we would not otherwise consider. We are focused on the positive aspects of the person we love, and if we see any negatives at all, they may appear insignificant or even cute and endearing.
Eventually, reality prevails.
We get used to each other – how we look when we’re tired and sick, how we act when we’re grumpy or down. We see each other blend into the backdrop of our mundane lives – disheveled and groggy in bed, sitting on the toilet seat, lounging on the couch. We see each other at our plainest, and we see each other at our worst.
When conflicts arise, we see even more negatives.
This can happen gradually and insidiously over time, and we can develop negative conceptions of our partners and these shade our interpretation of the reality of what they say and what they do.
It can happen dramatically and abruptly when they behave badly and reveal their worst natures. How we see them is forever changed.
We can develop a negative approach to our relationship.
Rather than seeing ourselves as two individuals united, we can think of our selves as two separate people with competing needs and desires. We track what we do, what we give and what we give up. We remember how we’ve been hurt, slighted or insulted.
We might even imagine being happier apart.
At these times, we have to take a step back – remember how we once felt (and thought about our partners) and look at the reality of the present from that perspective.
We also need to accept our part of the responsibility for caring for our relationship, communicating our feelings and needs, and asking and listening for our partners’ deepest thoughts.
Next: rebalancing how we see one another and reconceptualizing your relationship.
Dr. Davidicus Wong is a physician and writer. His Positive Potential Medicine radio show is at pwrnradio.com.