We love to fall in love. That’s because falling in love produces a high. A study by Syracuse University Professor Stephanie Ortigue revealed that when we fall in love, our brains release 12 euphoria-inducing chemicals that affect intellectual areas of the brain (SU 2010).
As we settle into relationships, the high subsides and a new kind of love evolves, but even the best relationships need tending. As we face the day-to-day struggles and successes of life, we can easily overlook signs of trouble in the relationship.
“It takes awareness, flexibility, great communication skills, and the ability to understand your partner’s perspective to make a relationship work – and that’s just for the routine life experiences,” says relationship expert Rosalind Sedacca. “Throw in accidents, sickness, job loss, and other major stressors, not to mention the complexities that come with having children, and it’s easy to understand why so many relationships fail and so many marriages fail.”
5 SIGNS YOUR RELATIONSHIP MAY BE IN TROUBLE
Loss of respectLack of trustInsecurityDefensivenessPoor Communication
“If you want to avoid relationship disasters,” says Ms. Sedacca, “here are some tips worth serious consideration:”
3 THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE MAKING A LIFETIME COMMITMENT
Know your partner well, during the good times and the bad. It’s after you face disagreements, nurse your partner through an illness, and other life challenges that you find out who you are really contemplating spending the rest of your life with.Don’t expect to be completed, saved, or fixed. No one can fill the void in your inner self. You’re setting your partner up for failure if you expect him or her to fix your problems and love you through your unresolved issues. Do the inner work on yourself first, perhaps with the support of a therapist or coach. Heal your wounds and neediness. Then seek out another soul who has done the same to partner with you.Be hooked on more than just romance. Happily married couples will tell you that you have to be more than great bedmates to make a real relationship work. Look for common values, goals, beliefs, and interests. Opposites may attract in the short term, but you want a relationship based on respect and sharing a future together. If your core values and interests are not in alignment, you are facing a tougher road ahead.
Sedacca, author of “99 Things Women Wish They Knew Before Dating After 40, 50 & Yes, 60!” and “How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce?” offers one more tip about communication. “Talk about your feelings and frustrations. Ask your partner about his or her own. Then make some mutual agreements about healthy and respectful new ways to approach your relationship balance. A loving partner will share more than passion with you. They’ll be respectful and receptive to making changes that accommodate your needs. Be willing, of course, to do the same.”
For some couples, it’s easier to see that the relationship has serious problems than it is to fix them, especially when communication is strained.
WHEN TO SEEK HELP WITH YOUR RELATIONSHIP
You’ll know it’s time to get professional help, says Sedacca, “when communication comes to a halt or gets you nowhere. Then it’s time to bring in a professional who has the skills to get to the essence of what’s going on and can call out each partner for their lack of cooperation.
“Counselors and relationship coaches can provide strategies for communicating more effectively, fighting more effectively, and unraveling the layers of dysfunction that have crept into the relationship over time.”
Dr. Terri Orbuch, relationship expert and author of, "5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great" and "Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship," adds, “We do know that couples get into patterns of communication that are dysfunctional, or experience certain issues that are hard to unpack or tease apart (e.g., affair, differences in money, differences in how to discipline children, expression of love or support) and sometimes are best solved or resolved with a third party (or a set of co-counselors). It is hard when you are in a pattern with someone to see how to get out of that pattern.”
HOW TO CHOOSE A MARRIAGE COUNSELOR
“I'm asked a lot about referrals,” says Dr. Orbuch. “I typically tell people to ‘shop’ around for a marital counselor just like you do a doctor, hairdresser, or babysitter. You want to feel comfortable with this person (both of you).” She offers these tips:
Call at least two counselors and ask questions (What is your approach to “my problem?” What is your degree? Do you take insurance? How many clients do you see a week? Where did you get your training?, etc.). A good counselor or therapist doesn't mind spending a few minutes (emphasis on a few minutes) with you over the phone to answer your questions. After you ask your questions, say thank you and tell them you will call back soon.After you call two or three counselors/therapists, ask yourself (or discuss with your partner) who you feel comfortable with. Sometimes individuals feel more or less comfortable talking to a same-sex or opposite-sex counselor. Ask your partner what he/she prefers as well. It’s not unusual that people have preferences regarding gender.Don’t restrict yourself to your local area (city/town). If this is important to you, you'll travel 15-20 minutes to see a good therapist.
There’s no denying the power of the natural chemical high of new love, but there’s a different kind of high that comes with enduring love – and it’s worth the effort.