In our culture we are incredibly attached to the idea of falling in love and meeting Mr (or Miss) Right. There is something mysterious and hugely powerful about the process of falling in love with someone.
But we don’t realise that a more authentic, deeper love only comes once we’ve had to let go of that initial romantic experience.
It would be so nice, we may think, if that feeling of excitement, passion and bliss could last. But inevitably the honeymoon period comes to an end.
That’s when we can start to question whether we’re with the right person. After all, they’re not quite as affectionate as they used to be and maybe we don’t find them quite as irresistibly attractive as the early days. We also start to notice little things about them that we once found endearing but which now get on our nerves.
At this stage many people decide to throw in the towel, persuading themselves that their soul mate must be somewhere else ‘out there’. Others, especially couples with children, decide to stay together but may feel inwardly disappointed and resentful that their partner no longer makes them happy.
But how would it be if we viewed these relationship problems, this disillusionment, as potentially teaching us something about ourselves and our expectations of relationship?
As a therapist I’ve seen, again and again, how painful it is for couples to acknowledge the disappointment they have come to feel in each other and in the relationship. It is important that each partner voice these feelings in a compassionate rather than blaming way, and takes responsibility for their feelings.
The paradox is that once those disappointments are named, something can shift in the relationship. Both partners may recognize, for example, that they share similar disappointments and that these feelings may in some way relate to earlier, childhood disappointments.
We may learn that, in some ways, we have been treating our partner as a parent who can make everything right for us.
Gradually letting go of these unconscious expectations, and taking the risk of allowing the other to see our pain, can mean we are able to emotionally connect at a deeper level. That can lead to greater intimacy.