through predictable cycles of intimacy, conflict, and withdrawal. When
weíre in withdrawal, we often ask if our relationship is worth
continuing. The key to keeping a relationship healthy is to be aware of
the cycles and successfully resolve issues in the conflict stage so
that you spend little to no time in withdrawal. Allow me to explain the
cycles further so you can see what I mean.
Intimacy is that warm
and fuzzy stage where everything is beautiful. Each partner goes out of
his way to make the other feel comfortable and important. Itís a joy to
please the other. Each partner is willing to sacrifice for the otherís
happiness and well-being. Both partners give and take. The synergy
feeds the sense of being in love.
After a while, the
relationship inevitably moves to conflict. Conflict is often avoided
(through deception) because some people feel that conflict is a bad
thing. Conflict is actually healthy because it represents a chance to
grow closer. When conflict is successfully resolved, it leads to
bonding and a greater sense of security and happiness and the couple
goes quickly back to the intimacy phase. When it is unresolved or
ignored, the couple moves to withdrawal.
Withdrawal is an
emotional state where one or both partners turn away from the other to
avoid being hurt. In withdrawal, there is reduced interaction, little
emotional sharing, and decreased emotional attachment. The longer the
relationship stays in withdrawal and the more frequently it goes here,
the less chance there is for a long-lasting, satisfying relationship.
Relationships are living things. If they are not attended to, they
So how do you know if
itís time to give up on your relationship? Thatís not a question anyone
but you can answer, but there is something you can do to help yourself
figure it out. For two weeks, pretend that you are madly in love with
your partner. No matter what he (or she) does to make you angry or
hurt, ignore it and respond as though he is the most important thing in
the universe. Do little things to show how important he is like calling
to say hello, sending text messages with goofy, cute messages, cooking
his favorite meal, and complimenting him. Avoid doing things that you
know he doesnít like. In other words, make him the center of your
universe the way you probably did when you first met.
Donít worry. I am not
asking you to be a door mat. You have the right to do what you want,
feel what you feel, and be heard too. If your efforts pay off, your
partner will be in a better frame of mind to take care of you and
listen to you. So, be patient. You will get your turn.
At the end of the two
weeks, do a mental inventory of how much response you got for your
efforts. Did this exercise bring you back to intimacy? Did your partner
seem to enjoy the attention or did he pull away even more? If you
experienced periods of closeness, was it satisfying to you? Or did it
feel forced or like something you didnít really want? Pay attention to
your feelings. They are just as much an indicator of future success as
your partnerís reaction to your efforts.
This exercise will
not tell you whether or not itís the best thing to stay together, but
it can tell you how much work it will require to get things back on
track and give you an idea of whether it is worth it. If your partner
quickly turned around, your problems are not that serious. If it took a
lot of effort to stay positive and keep trying, your relationship is in
serious trouble. This doesnít mean itís not worth saving, but it will
take a lot of effort.
Conflict is actually healthy because it represents a chance to grow closer.
About the author
Laura Giles, MSW specializes in women's issues, relationships, and families with children from affairs. She is the author of "The Other Child: Children of Affairs" and "Growing Up Crazy." Laura is a frequent radio talk show guest. She does online counseling for clients across the country and can be found at http://healthy-living-solutions.com or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org