Riding Out Relationship Cycles

Fashion goes in cycles. Palazzo pants, then skinny legs. Mini skirts, then below-the-knee. The economy goes in cycles, too—boom, bust and boom again. So why not relationships?

I have a friend who’s close to her brother. But sometimes she’s closer than others. There were years when they both bought each other the same books for Christmas, that’s how in sync they were. But there were years when they just didn’t have that literary ESP going, even though they were still friends. She was caught up with her toddlers and work and didn\’t have much time to read. Now that she\’s retired, she and her brother discuss the books they both love. Times change. Relationships change. It’s inevitable, yet somehow unexpected.

The trouble is, when you\’re in a low cycle with your partner, it can not only take you by surprise, but leave you disappointed. Sometimes you\’re so disappointed you\’re tempted to chuck the whole thing and find another, shiny new relationship. It’s hard to see the long view, and realize that this rough spot, too, shall pass. So hold on. Take some time to reflect that low points are a normal part of any cycle, and there are things you can do to minimize them. And maximize the good times.

Here are some issues that can be cyclical in relationships.

Emotional Distance

The Problem: It happens over time, bit by bit. Communication has not always been top notch. Misunderstandings fester. Sexual intimacy is not what it once was. Sooner or later, couples begin to feel a distance between them, and feel like roommates in the same house. Sometimes they try to make up for that by funneling all their emotion to their children, or becoming workaholics, or dinking too much, or you name it.

How to Address It: As soon as you recognize emotional distance has crept into your marriage, stop and think. You are with your partner because you love her. It is worth it to rebuild that emotional intimacy that you once enjoyed. Bolster your courage, because that’s what it takes to address this directly, to be authentic about your own feelings, and to be open with your partner. You have to realize how the two of you became distant, and have the willingness to change. Couples therapy can be especially helpful, and even individual therapy may be called for. It takes some work, but you can restore that safe, intimate life you once loved.

Trust Erosion

The Problem: There are a million ways your partner can engender mistrust in you. Maybe your partner has taken advantage of your good nature, or has not supported you in public when you needed him, or has failed to show good judgment, or has simply been inconsistent and unreliable. Of course the biggest breach of trust is an emotional or sexual affair, which can lead to irreparable harm. But short of that, there are still many trust issues that can erode a marriage, especially if they\’re repeated over time. When you can’t trust your partner, you can feel insecure and even fearful.

How to Address It: It’s hard to regain trust once you\’ve lost it. It takes patience and understanding. First, be sure that your lack of trust is due to your partner’s behavior and not to your own issues. But if there are specific things your partner has done to make you mistrust him, you must talk about it openly and without accusation or rancor. Couples therapists can be helpful in creating an atmosphere that will foster good results. Remember your goal is not to blame your partner. You are trying to regain your trust to get you and your partner out of your low point in the cycle.

Lack of Respect

The Problem: There was a time when you respected your partner or you wouldn’t have gotten together. Perhaps you overlooked his flaws in the first place. Or maybe your standards got stricter and he remained the same. As time goes on, you expect more from your partner than he is able to deliver. Or he could have done something to earn your disrespect. Whatever the cause, disrespect is toxic to a marriage and needs to be mended.

How to Address It: When you love someone, you need to understand why he is the way he is. You need to support him and buoy his self-esteem. You need to be a partner to him in his personal growth. Talk about issues that erode your respect for him. A couples therapist can be helpful in navigating these difficult waters. And remember to focus more on your partner’s strengths than his weaknesses. That alone may be enough to bring you out of the low part of this cycle.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional.  If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch.  You can reach her here: http://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact-us.

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