What many do not realize is that the sparkle of passion lights up more than just sexual connection. “Attached at the hip,” new lovers are eager to capture every salient moment together, enthralled by every aspect of each other’s lives.
There is no way to separate this all-reaching passion from their experience of continuous discovery. Tastes, smells, reflections, visuals, histories, opinions, social networks, spirituality, family ties, interests, emotional and physical reactions, are all unknown and delicious to pursue.
Because of the enormous energy new relationships ask of people, this passionate stage cannot last forever. Though some of these partnerships dissipate sooner, most experience either the beginning of the end or a transformation to deeper love within about six months.
If the relationship does end within that period of time, most people do go on to the next hopeful possibility after they’ve processed the loss. In today’s dating world especially, there are more options than have ever existed before for experiencing different kind of unions. Many relationship seekers find themselves alternating between longer-but-limited-in-time exclusive relationships and the more passionate intensity of short-term flings.
Yet, most people still ardently search for “the one.” In the four decades I’ve been working with individuals and couples, I have heard so many asking me what they could have, might have, done to make a relationship work. How could we have avoided the twin disillusionments of apathy and boredom if we couldn’t see them happening? How can we see what’s ahead so that we can change our behaviors before they cause irreversible damage? Are there practices we can learn while we are still in the passionate stage of our relationship that might give us better odds later?
There are actually workable answers to those questions. New lovers can know early on if they are doing anything that could sabotage the chances for a long-term relationship to be more likely. They can recognize the warning signs of potential demise and how to behave differently before they take hold.
Following are the six most important warning signs of potentially damaging behaviors and what new lovers can do to heal them. If they are aware and willing to act upon them, they can greatly increase the possibility of successful outcomes.
The Six Warning Signs and How to Heal Them
1) Bids for Connection
When couples are first in love, they are attuned to one another’s needs and desires, often before they even emerge. It is as if they have antenna to the thoughts and feelings of the other. Whenever either partner is distressed, desiring, or in conflict, he or she is the top priority for the other and responded to as quickly as possible.
After they are apart, their immediate agenda is to re-connect, in whatever way each partner needs to feel validated and reassured. When they are out of touch, both partners know that the other is available whenever called upon.
Emotional bells should be going off if those bids for connection go unheeded and, when challenged, are met with excuses, justifications, or defenses.
The Healing Response:
As relationships head into the third or fourth month, it is natural that some of the urgency and immediate responsivity to each other’s reaching out will somewhat lessen. Because new lovers are loath to complain to one another about any distress, they might not be fully honest when they should be.
A lack of interest can be just temporary but could also be something that should be heeded. One partner, for example, might be preoccupied with an unexpected requirement. Or perhaps he or she feels the need to attend to something that’s been neglected because of the intensity of the relationship’s demands.
It is crucial that the partners talk openly to each other at the first sign the bids for connection are put off or ignored altogether. Otherwise it too often can lead to misunderstandings and insecurities. Even if the reasons for lessened availability are a concern, that authentic, early sharing is often all that is needed to put things back in place.
2) Fault Finding
When normally forgiving and accepting partners start to pick at one another, it is a cause for concern, especially if the behaviors in question were once easily endured. As people grow to know one another better, they often do feel free to challenge behaviors when they might have let them go before, and they should.
If, however, new critiques begin to consistently emerge, the partner on the other end of those critical comments or behaviors might feel threatened and dangerously over-respond. It is important to pay attention to the frequency, duration, and increasing of those challenges. Escalation in any of those three areas should sound a powerful alarm, especially when they are delivered with irritation or blame.
The Healing Response:
It is crucial that both partners have paid exquisite attention early in the relationship to what the other says about prior relationship partners. If, for instance, one partner talks about them in consistently derogatory ways, he or she is giving a clear message that the current partner had better not make the same mistakes.
Many new lovers bask in the glow of expected exemption from the problems either may have described in their past relationships. They truly believe they will not be affected by prior disappointments with other partners because the current relationship is so good. That is simply never true.
Challenges that are fair and compassionately delivered are part and parcel of every good relationship and the way partners respond to critiques or challenges can define their relationship resiliency. Barring occasional moodiness or legitimate distress external to the relationship, partners who begin to feel more critical or those on the other end must be willing to listen to what the other is feeling without defensiveness and to help him or her work through it.
3) Unexplained Disappearing
New lovers often feel insecure about where or what the other is doing until they experience the security that ongoing trustworthy patterns engender. Eventually, as they get to know each other better and can predict thoughts, feeling, and behaviors, they become more secure. If those beliefs are not undermined, both partners no longer require constant reassurance that absence is not a sign of disinterest.
However, if, over time, one partner begins to seem more out of touch or preoccupied without keeping the other informed, that trust can waffle. That is exacerbated if the newly disappearing partner becomes defensive when questioned.
The Healing Response:
If either partner feels that something is awry and the disappearing behaviors don’t add up, it is crucial that gentle questioning be met with honest explanations. Partners who have nothing to hide are quick to realize that their actions may have unearthed the other partner’s concern and willingly re-invite them to be central to their lives.
Some increased desire for separation is absolutely natural after the intensity of us-only time. From the base of more trusted love, either partner may need time with prior friends or just for personal regeneration. But those kinds of innocent “disconnects” are not threats to the relationship when they are shared and supported, and when the temporarily more absent partner joyfully returns to the relationship.
4) Ebbing Resiliency
New lovers seem to have infinite patience with each other’s errors. They are quick to forgive and to focus on what they find positive about their relationship.
The first indication that patience is no longer guaranteed is a lack of bounce-back. Where once there was a reliance on a comfortable margin of error, one or both partners now find themselves more on the defensive.
Those quicker-to-harm and longer-to-heal interactions signal that the relationship is losing its elasticity and may appear to have lost its ability to weather emotional stretching.
The Healing Response:
These quicker-to-irritation reactions sometimes surface gradually and at other times seem to be all-of-a-sudden changes. They often are first noticed during conflict as resolution takes longer to happen.
The sooner either partner recognizes that resiliency is waning, he or she must bring it to light. The couple must together search for the underlying cause of the quickness-to-impatience is, and what is behind its emergence.
When intimate partners stay up to date with their love and their uneasiness, they can catch these new irritations early enough to sooth them.
5) Lessening Energy
One of the most observable characteristics of new lovers is their heightened energy together. They literally fill a room with their sparkling aura, often becoming more impactful and attractive as a couple than either was alone.
Because of the magnetic glow that emanates from that love-core partnership, it is very easy to see the signs of apathy and ennui when they occur. It is as if a once-firm balloon is slowly losing air. Partners who were once immediately responsive to every nuance of the other are now preoccupied and lax in their willingness to seamlessly create that aliveness in the same way they once did.
The Healing Response:
All intimate relationship partners eventually don’t require the constant need to please, not because they care less but because they feel more secure with each other. But apathy and ennui can be signs of growing boredom. If discovery is over, the relationship doesn’t require the level of energy it once did to delight.
When partners become aware that their relationship is losing energy, they must reevaluate why that is happening. Is it truly a lack of interest, or perhaps even too much security? Is there the possibility that one or the other partner is now giving the best of themselves elsewhere, content to use the relationship more to just refuel?
Great partners keep each other interested because they are still excited about where their own lives are going, separately from one another. They don’t depend on the other partner to produce that experience for them.
6) Lessened Affection
New lovers are intertwined, spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally. They are in constant touch in every way, reaching out for each other for the magic that they can create together.
Waning affection is the most observable warning sign of a relationship in trouble. Instead of reaching out, one or both partners turn the other away instead of seeking the warmth of each other’s embrace.
When affection wanes, the first sign is often a lack of interest in sexual connection and painful feelings of rejection in the exiled partner. Sadly, many respond to that lessened desirability with frustration, anger, or blame, that pushes the other partner farther away.
The Healing Response:
If either partner begins to focus on self to the exclusion of the other, a gentle re-inviting or genuine inquiry may be all that is needed to put the relationship back on track. It is crucial that those challenges be expressed without suspicion, anger, or blame. A partner who has temporarily pulled away from the other may react badly to the way they are presented and miss the underlying validity of the inquiry.
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The potential for a new relationship to become a deepening commitment is much more likely if the partners pay attention to these warning signs early in the relationship. New lovers are often resistant to act upon them because they are either so blinded by the passion enfolding them, or do not want to challenge their fantasy world. Yet, the future of their relationship may depend upon their willingness to risk some of the early magic to build the foundation that might keep it intact.