All relationships go through a predictable cycle of tension and relief. The stages are recognizable to most of us if we’ve stuck around long enough to go though one round of the cycle.
There’s many different versions of this, but a simple and understandable graph is pictured below.
Most of us have been in the Attraction state. This is the start of a relationship, the “getting to know you” part. This feels fresh and exciting as you grow closer and closer to each other. This is usually a lot of fun! We want to fit and we sometimes ignore signs that we don’t. If this phase goes well, we move on to the Love part of the cycle.
Love is where this emotional connection grows. Usually, this is fun and exciting as well. We continue to learn about each other and if this part goes well, we may move on to the commitment part of the cycle.
Commitment is where we make an agreement to be with and for each other. We may get married or have children together. We think we’re going to be blissfully happy forever. Sadly, there is a next phase.
Conflict is bound to occur in all relationships. Because a committed relationship is the fertile ground for our own self growth, we are going to be uncomfortable. All couples are bound to have conflict because no two people agree on everything. When we don’t agree, we have to negotiate.
Success at negotiation isn’t guaranteed, but it is necessary. This is the part that feels really bad. We can become very upset that our partner isn’t doing what we want them to do or thinking about things the same way we do. When negotiation fails, it’s often the demise of the relationship. This is often when a relationship hits crisis mode as well. This is when many people give up on the relationship.
When negotiation and communication continues, a couple comes to a place of Acceptance of each other and the differences between themselves. After moving through acceptance, you move back into the loving part of the cycle. Your love and commitment deepens and things are smooth again.
Don’t think you’re done yet though!
Of course, you move on around again. Each cycle bringing fresh new conflict and things to negotiate about. Each cycle bringing new opportunities to deepen and strengthen that relationship.
To make it through this cycle, a couple has to remain committed to coming back to their seats at the negotiation table. They must make the choice to continue to move forward in a shared mission to reach that Love part again and again.
In considering this cycle, I recognize that my husband and I have moved through this hundreds of times. At times, I’ve wanted to take the “out” instead of continuing to hang in there. (He probably feels the same way.) So far, it has always been worth it to get to the other side. As you complete this process, you start to gain confidence that you can move through conflict and reach Love again. Your urge to bail may become less when you experience this. Our cycles have gotten less and less pronounced over the past 10 years or so. I believe this is because we both have reached a level of security with each other. It’s in those times of conflict our secure bond with each other gets rattled and much of our reactions are simply fear of loss. That’s not a huge concern for us…..at the moment! Always subject to change!
So, what about you? Do you recognize how you and your partner have moved through this cycle? How did you get back around to the love part? Are you stuck in the cycle right now? Let me know what you think Allison@allisonvelez.com
Coming around to love,