Advertising
Advertising

Published on September 20, 2017

Why Even the Sweetest Couples End Up Breaking Up

Why Even the Sweetest Couples End Up Breaking Up

The first six months of a relationship are wonderful. There are flowers, candy and hundreds of emoji filled texts that are promptly read and responded to. You leave each other in the evening and video chat a few hours later.

You share your food, wipe each others mouths and walk down the street with your hands in each other’s back pocket.

You are happy and so in love with your companion. You can’t get enough of each other.

A year later you’ve broken up…

How You Start Never Matters

But you started off so well. The relationship was perfect. You were so sweet and in love with each other and somehow the passion still faded.

Statistics show that most relationships go from hot, heavy and passionate to “meh” in about 18 months.[1] The feelings people associate with being in love—the butterflies and the longing—dissipate during this time and the couple begins to wonder if they should carry on with the relationship.

New research shows that relationships are actually more vulnerable to demise far sooner than the dreaded seven year itch. The most common time for a couple to split is right around the two year mark.[2]

By then, you’ve most likely seen everything about your partner—their best and their worst physically and emotionally. You have started to get used to each other’s presence and the spark to stay passionate and playful has gradually faded in the relationship because you just no longer feel the same. Lots of couples end their relationship here.

Advertising

What most couples who end their relationship there don’t realize is that this is just a phase. It’s a part of the process and happens to all couples.

The Five Stages Every Relationship Goes Through

The first mistake couples make is believing that when the “infatuated” feeling fades, it’s a sign that the love is fading as well. They think that when the butterflies are gone, it’s time to end the relationship.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

When it comes to relationships, experts agree there are five distinct stages.[3] Every relationship goes through these stages. The ones that last successfully make it through all five, but most relationships get stuck and fall apart during stage three.

Stage 1: Passion and Romance

This is the honeymoon or infatuation stage. It is filled with lots of kisses and touching each other for no particular reason. It is when you are completely taken by your mate and are blind to his or her flaws.

It is the easiest phase to endure and very intense.

Stage 2: Getting Serious

This is still within the infatuation or honeymoon stage. You are still blinded by love but have the clarity to see that this relationship has long-term potential. This is when the relationship becomes exclusive and you begin making long-term plans with your partner.

There is still lots of hand-holding, cuddling, and you give each other meaningful nicknames. You begin to share yourself more intimately with your mate.

Advertising

Stage 3: Relationship Plateau

Stage three is when the relationship becomes real. The blinders are off and you see your partner for who they really are. Physical touch like hand-holding, kissing and other forms of physical intimacy may be starting to slow down a bit. The butterflies are gone and your partner doesn’t seem as cute as they once were.

The hardest part about stage three is that you both begin to question the relationship: where is the passion we used to have for each other? is our love fading away? is he/she the one I can be with for a longer time?

Stage 4: Moving Beyond Infatuation

Once you’ve chosen to move past stage three and to stick with the relationship, you develop a deep and intimate bond. This is the time when couples really begin to merge their lives. Serious discussions concerning marriage, kids and finances ensue and plans are made to move the couple forward as a unit.

This is when the relationship is solidified and the couple builds a life together. Many couples make it to this phase and experience a long, healthy and meaningful relationship.

But there is one more phase…

Stage 5: Becoming a Team

Stage five of the relationship is when the couple becomes a solid team. The relationship moves past “me and you” decision-making and the team becomes more important than the individuals.

This is the part of a relationship everyone longs for but few reach. It’s the true love phase.

It’s when the couple has the best chance of making it to “happily-ever-after.” That’s not to say that there will not be challenges, hardships and bumps in the road. But it does mean that both parties are committed to staying and making the relationship work no matter what.

Advertising

It’s the phase of full acceptance and unconditional love.

Breaking Through the Honeymoon Stage

Most relationships that end do so somewhere within stage three. Other relationships can last for years and never make it out of stage three, but the relationship is not healthy and neither partner is fulfilled.

The first thing you must understand when you began to feel disillusioned is that feelings don’t sustain a relationship. Feelings are unreliable because they vary and are subject to moods and external factors.

Think of when a family celebrates the arrival of a newborn. At first, all of the attention is on the new addition and everything is sweet and cute. After a few months of dirty diapers, spit up and random crying, the initial excitement passes but that doesn’t mean the parents don’t love the baby anymore.

A romantic relationship works similarly. It’s the struggling process that helps both partners grow and this process also helps the relationship grow into something better, something that will last. Giving up at Stage 3 is like declaring the death of a patient with a beating heart.

The duration of each stage is different for every couple. For some couples, the honeymoon stage may last for years and for others a few months. The important thing to note is the length of the stage has no correlation to the viability of the relationship.

When you reach stage three, you have the power to determine how long it lasts. Getting out of stage three requires you to make a decision. You must decide that your relationship is worth it and you must chose to go all in.

Here are a few things you can do to help move your relationship out of stage 3:

Advertising

Recognize that questioning your relationship is normal and necessary.

Allow yourself time to assess whether or not your concerns are simply connected to a loss of passion or if you have legitimate concerns about your partner and the relationship.

Talk about your concerns with the right person.

Make sure that you share your concerns with your partner. Saying something as simple as “I feel that our relationship is getting a bit boring these days, I think we should do something about it,” could be the juice the relationship needs. It will start a dialogue and assist you both in actively addressing your concerns.

Sharing your concerns and seeking advice from others during this time is normal and acceptable, just be careful who you listen to.

Make a decision and then put in the work.

Once you decide that the relationship is viable, do something about it. Don’t make your decision and then hope things will get better.

Actively work to move your relationship further. Try new things. Do things your partner likes to do. Be romantic on purpose.

Relationships take heaps of effort. It’s time to put in the work.

It’s Not How You Start, It’s How You Journey Through

All relationships take time, energy and targeted, intentional effort.

It doesn’t matter how “lovey-dovey” cute and cuddly you are in the beginning. The honeymoon will end. And when it does you must work in order to make it last. Stage three doesn’t have to be the death of your relationship. You control whether to relationship lives or dies.

Will your relationship become a stage fiver?

Featured photo credit: Jordan Bauer on Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Anna Chui

Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

7 Signs of an Unhappy Relationship That Makes You Feel Stuck 53 Relationship Questions That Will Make Your Love Life Better 27 Ways to Instantly Feel Better When You’re Down 35 Anniversary Ideas to Bring You Closer Together Narcissistic Personality: What Is It and How to Deal with a Narcissist?

Trending in Psychology

1 How to Be Happy Again: 13 Simple Ways to Shake off Sadness Right Now 2 How to Find the Purpose of Life (A Case Study of a High-Powered Woman) 3 The Real Causes of Self Doubt Revealed (And How to Deal with Them) 4 Why Mental Fatigue Is Getting More Common and How It Eats You Slowly 5 How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on September 12, 2018

How to Be Happy Again: 13 Simple Ways to Shake off Sadness Right Now

How to Be Happy Again: 13 Simple Ways to Shake off Sadness Right Now

When you look at your own life, maybe you’re thinking about how time has gone by so quickly and you have no idea how you got to where you are at. You might begin to feel sad because you’ve drifted so far from where you wanted to be at your age. Life was much more difficult than you expected it to be, so you just settled and decided to accept that this is just how life is. You’ve given up and your goal now is just to get by.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Cultivating much more happiness in your life is a very real and close possibility. You just have to put in a little work.

Here are 13 proven ways to shake off your sadness and feel happy again:

1. Do what brings you meaning

We’ve all been there. A feeling of boredom and being stuck in our lives without knowing what to do. Rather than trying to figure out such heavy questions such as “What is my purpose in life?” it’s much easier to turn on the television and let the day go by.

“When a person can’t find a deep sense of meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure.” -Viktor Frankl

Many affluent people are experiencing unhappiness no matter how much money, respect, or fame they have because of one big reason: Our unhappiness stems ultimately from a feeling of meaninglessness.

Frankl has developed a process called Logotherapy to help people build more meaning in their lives. He was put in charge of the mental health department of the Viennese hospital system because they were losing too many patients to suicide. His practices were what prevented tens of thousands of these patients from killing themselves. He did this by helping instill a sense of meaning to their lives.

What you can do right now:

In moments when you are struggling with unhappiness, you can start applying Frankl’s Logotherapy in your life by doing the following:

  • Work on a project that demands your skills and abilities. If you have trouble coming up with one, then look for something important to work on that will help someone in need.
  • Immerse yourself fully in your experience and share it with people who love you in an authentic, non-judgmental manner.
  • Find a redemptive perspective towards your suffering. Meaning comes in our lives when we change our perspective about our hardships in a way that it improves our lives rather than bringing it down. For example, I met a woman in Thailand once who ran an orphanage with children who were affected by the AIDS virus. She also suffered from cancer, but rather than viewing the illness as something that is ruining her life, she shared with me “It’s kind of like a death sentence when the doctor says to you ‘you’re HIV positive’ or ‘you have cancer’ and it gives me an ability to identify with these children that are HIV positive, so I’m grateful for cancer because of it, if nothing else.”

Recommended reading:

Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl

2. Start killing your options and get crystal clear on what you want

“Too many choices exhaust us, make us unhappy and lead us to sometimes abscond from making a decision all together.”[1] Keep your options open” may be advice you’ve heard often. But if you keep your options too open, it usually makes you more unhappy, stressed out, and tired from having to choose between too many things.

When you have too many choices to make, you begin to make more poorer decisions as you make each following one throughout the day. This is what’s known as decision fatigue.

The most important thing you can do to increase your level of happiness is by effectively reducing the amount of any unnecessary decisions you have to make in a day.

What you can do right now:

Set up routines to help you accomplish the following:

  • Make the most important decisions earlier in the day when your mind is more fresh.
  • Try to plan out your day the night before whenever possible.
  • Choose your meals in advance.
  • If you have to make an important decision but you’re hungry, eat first.
  • When you have too many choices, try to narrow it down to choosing between a select few.
  • Automate your life as much as possible by doing the following:
    • Set up automatic payment functions on any bills you have
    • Use free software If This Then That , to automate your life . For example: instead of watching and refreshing to win an auction on Ebay or get that coveted item on Craigslist, have an email notification sent to you, so you can be one of the first to jump on the deal.
    • If your budget allows, hire a virtual assistant or a company like Fancy Hands to take a lot of menial tasks off your plate.

3. Create safe spaces to find yourself and beat the feeling of shame

We’re constantly bombarded with messages that tell us we need to look, act, or be a certain way in order to be happy and successful.

The average person gets exposed to over 10,000 advertisements a day and most of these messages are total nonsense.[2]

All of these false promises given to us each day are what causes us to portray ourselves in a way we think others want us to be so that we can fit in. The sad part is that many of us do find ways to fit in, but we never actually feel like we belong.

When we don’t feel loved and understood for who we truly are, there is no way we can ever be happy. The reason we are often reluctant to be our most authentic selves is because of shame.

At some point in your life, you will run into shame and it will make you feel like there is something wrong with you. Whether it was getting teased at school, not meeting up to your parents’ expectations, or being harshly judged by a peer, shame makes you hide your true self and wear a mask to show someone else.

Advertising

    Learning to have the courage to stay true to yourself is one of the keys to longer lasting happiness.

    Dr. Brene Brown, an amazing vulnerability researcher, explained in her TED talk that she once took put a poll on social media asking “How would you define vulnerability? What makes you feel vulnerable?”:

    Within an hour and a half, she had 150 responses. Here’s what some of them said:

    • Having to ask my husband for help because I’m sick, and we’re newly married
    • Initiating sex with my husband / wife
    • Being turned down
    • Asking someone out
    • Waiting for the doctor to call back
    • Getting laid off
    • Laying off people

    Vulnerable moments like these are when we are most prone to feeling shame. Learning about how to handle that shame is what will enable you to recover from it in a healthy way.

    What you can do right now:

    Practice vulnerability.

    Start by looking yourself in the mirror each morning and telling yourself “I’m not perfect, but that’s ok”

    Take Dr. Brown’s simple advice that she gave on the Oprah show. When you experience shame, talk to yourself like you talk to someone you love, reach out to someone you trust, and tell your story.[3]

    Recommended reading:

    I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough” by Dr. Brene Brown

    4. Engage your curiosity to supercharge your personal growth

    Some of the greatest things that exist in our world today were a result of someone’s curiosity. It’s the reason why people like Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford created some of the most innovative products of all time.

    Satisfying your curiosity releases dopamine in your brain.[4] This is also why we absolutely have to finish a great movie and watch it till the end. You want to know what happens and when you finally do, you get that rush of dopamine and get pleasure from it as a reward. The same applies with any habits we’ve formed, such as checking our social media feeds and emails.

    While these kind of things may give you a short moment of happiness, there is a type of curiosity that will give you a more longer lasting happiness. Dr. Todd Kashdan explains it in the terms of being a “curious explorer”.

    “Curious explorers are comfortable with the risks of taking on new challenges. Instead of trying desperately to explain and control our world, as a curious explorer we embrace uncertainty, and see our lives as an enjoyable quest to discover, learn and grow.”

    By using your curiosity to help you get better at something, become more knowledgeable or see something in a new perspective, you’ll find life to be much more enjoyable.

    What you can do right now:

    Kashdan’s suggestions on how to become “Curious Explorers” are summarized in Kari Henley’s Huffington Post article in the following way:

    • Try to notice little details of your daily routine that you never noticed before.
    • When talking to people, try to remain open to whatever transpires without judging or reacting.
    • Let novelty unfold and resist the temptation to control the flow.
    • Gently allow your attention to be guided by little sights, sounds or smells that come your way.

    Recommended reading:

    Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life by Todd Kashdan PhD.

    5. Help yourself by helping others

    The happiest people are ones who make a positive impact on others.

    “No man or woman is an island. To exist just for yourself is meaningless. You can achieve the most satisfaction when you feel related to some greater purpose in life, something greater than yourself.” ―Denis Waitley

    Every individual has something they can contribute to the world. The hard part is figuring out what that is. And the truth is, we’ll never figure it out until we actually do something about it.

    Science has shown data that supports the evidence that giving is a powerful way to lasting happiness. If done in the right way, giving can feel great and give you the much needed boost in your mood.[5]

    Advertising

    “Happiness is only real when shared.” -Christopher McCandless, Into The Wild

    What you can do right now:

    Intentionally begin contributing to something or someone in your life.

    Check out these 20 small acts of kindness to do something bigger than just for yourself.

    6. Get out of your comfort zone to rewire your brain

    Chances are you are unhappy because of the routine. Simply put, you’re bored but at the same time, maybe you’re a little afraid of trying something new. Or, in a more extreme example, you might hate your job but you are too afraid to quit because you’re worried you may become broke with nothing better ahead for you.

      Whatever the case may be, bringing yourself out of your comfort zone as much as possible can result in a  much more satisfying life.

      Scientists have found evidence that if a person steps out of their comfort zone just enough, then they can increase endorphin’s in their brain, which creates increased feelings of happiness.[6]

      What you can do right now:

      • Create more experiences in your life that you can’t back out of. Think of a big goal in your life you’ve always wanted to accomplish, then create a situation that brings you out of your comfort zone that you’ll follow through with.
      • Travel more. Neuroscience has shown that new experiences can build new neuropathways in the brain.[7]When this occurs, it promotes mental health as a result. There is a joy that comes from traveling and whether you’re visiting a foreign country, a nearby city, or even a staycation to a new local restaurant, discovering and experiencing new things can do the trick.[8]

      7. Kick materialism in the face and invest in experiences

      I can’t remember the number of times I was excited to buy a new toy, game, or piece of technology for myself only to get bored of it not too long after. This goes to show material things usually only bring out a temporary amount of happiness at best. Happy experiences last as a happy memory forever.

      While owning material possessions can be nice, they can never be a part of you like great experiences can be a part of you. This is why you should invest more in experiences rather than things.[9]

      “Part of us believes the new car is better because it lasts longer. But, in fact, that’s the worst thing about the new car,” he said. “It will stay around to disappoint you, whereas a trip to Europe is over. It evaporates. It has the good sense to go away, and you are left with nothing but a wonderful memory.” — Dan Gilbert

      What you can do right now:

      Rather than spending your money on buying something a material possession that you’ve always wanted, try these options instead:

      • Invest in a class you have always wanted to take.
      • Book a trip to somewhere you have always wanted to visit.
      • Get tickets to a popular show that you might like.

      8. Meditate regularly

      Self-realization has been shown to have many benefits and this can be achieved by regularly practicing mindfulness meditation.

      Taking a moment to get yourself untangled from all the messy thoughts and emotions you experience can be just the thing you need to be happier. Meditation increases gray matter in the hippocampus, which is an area of the brain important for learning, memory and emotion. It also reduces gray matter in the amygdala, the area of the brain associated with stress and anxiety.

      These are just a few of the many benefits meditation has been shown to give you.

      What you can do right now:

      Download the no-nonsense Headspace meditation app. All you need is 10 minutes and a comfortable chair. If you find yourself thinking you don’t have 10 minutes, then let the truth of Tony Robbins’ words settle in:

      “If you don’t have 10 minutes, you don’t have a life.”

      9. Change your attitude to gratitude

      This is something that’s commonly said, but it comes from a place of truth.

      The Journal of Happiness published a study where the 219 men and women participants involved wrote three letters of gratitude over a three week period. The results showed that writing letters of gratitude increased participants’ happiness and life satisfaction while decreasing depressive symptoms.[10]

      Your brain cannot simultaneously focus on positive and negative things at once. Because of this, practicing gratitude can help you shift your focus from being sad about the things you don’t have in your life to being glad for the things you do have.

      Advertising

      When you engage in the act of being thankful for something, production of dopamine and serotonin increases.[11] This activates the happiness center of the brain, which is similar to how antidepressants work; so, you could think of gratitude as a natural antidepressant.

      What you can do right now:

      • Start a habit of writing down three things you are grateful for each day.
      • Regularly write a thank you card to someone you appreciate or to someone who has done something recently for you.
      • Inject things you are thankful for in your daily conversations instead of focusing on negative topics.

      10. Create better habits

      One of the biggest difference between happy and unhappy people are the habits they have. Over 40% of your day isn’t spent on making active decisions but is a result of habit.

      The truth about why it’s so hard to break out of old routines is simply the fact that it is a routine. Human beings are creatures of habit. Charles Duhigg explains in his book The Power of Habit how the basic structure of habits consists of a cue (trigger), the routine, and the reward.

        For example, stress can be your cue to engage in your routine of smoking a cigarette, which rewards you with the surge of nicotine to relieve your stress. Duhigg teaches the key to turning bad habits into good ones is to figure out how to change the routine. Rather than smoking, maybe you can go for a nice walk or meditate to achieve the same stress relief.

        If your habits are not making you healthier and happier, that means you may be automatically spending almost half your day doing things that make you more unhappy.

        What you can do right now:

        Changing your habits is much easier said than done, which is why you also need to modify your environment as much as possible to increase your chances of success. After doing so, try and tackle the routines which will help you to replace the bad habits with good habits.

        Recommended reading:

        The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

        11. Learn how to predict happiness more accurately

        There are plenty of things in life that aren’t as pleasant as you thought they would be.

        You may have always wanted the nice expensive car, but now that you have it, you’re constantly stressed out about any new scratches and annoyed at all the extra unexpected expenses involved with keeping it well maintained and in good condition.

        You may have always wanted to be married, but now that you are, you didn’t realize the immense amount of work it takes to build and maintain a loving relationship.

        Harvard psychology professor Dan Gilbert argues one of the reasons for our unhappiness is by wrongly predicting the types of things that will make us happy.[12]

        “If I wanted to know what a certain future would feel like to me, I would find someone who is already living that future. If I wonder what it’s like to become a lawyer or marry a busy executive or eat at a particular restaurant, my best bet is to find people who have actually done these things and see how happy they are. What we know from studies will increase the accuracy of your prediction, but nobody wants to do it.”

        Simply investing the time and energy to learning more about what you are getting yourself into can increase your chances of accurately placing yourself in happier situations.

        What you can do right now:

        Reach out to people that are living the lifestyle you want or possess something you want to have; get on a call with them, or take them out for coffee. Ask about their experiences, both good and bad, and observe if what they have makes them happier, and then decide if it is something you want as well.

        Speaking to a friend who owns a new piece of technology that you want or is currently involved a career that you want to pursue is easy. Yet, if the person of interest is a celebrity or a highly respected individual, then getting in touch with them will be much harder. In this case, scour any public information such as blog posts, interviews and social media posts to get to know them and help you make a decision whether the life they are living is one you want to pursue.

        Recommended reading:

        Stumbling Upon Happiness by Dan Gilbert

        12. Treat yourself with compassion to boost your self-esteem

        Imagine sitting down in a cafe and overhearing a conversation between two girls at the next table.

        “…and you’ve gotten fatter as well. It’s terrible…”

        Advertising

        “Don’t you feel horrible right now?”

        “With those large thighs and your horse’s hips?”

        Fortunately, this conversation was staged by the personal care company, Dove. But the conversation was one that actually happened, except it was with one’s self. The script for the actresses were written from actual self-dialogue from women who were documenting the thoughts that they had about themselves each time the thought came to mind.

        Dove ran this campaign to illustrate this point: if we wouldn’t talk to others in this negative manner, why would we talk to ourselves in this way?

        Here’s the video:

        People who practice self-compassion also have greater social connectedness, emotional intelligence, happiness, and overall life satisfaction. So the next time you are feeling low and start nitpicking at yourself, come to your own defense and give yourself a break.

        What you can do right now:

        Here are some ways you can practice self-compassion:

        • Treat yourself as you would your own child.
        • Practice non-judgmental mindfulness (i.e. meditation, yoga) to quiet your inner-critic.
        • Remind yourself of the fact that you are not alone.
        • Give yourself permission to be imperfect.
        • If you struggle with having self compassion and find yourself in need of help, consider hiring a supportive coach or therapist.

        13. Give yourself time to be sad

        Most of the time, people try to avoid negative emotions because they are afraid of the pain and grief they will experience or of the vulnerability it will require. But unless you let those tears come, you will never be able to let go of the emotions. They will stay stuck inside of you.

        It gets even worse when you try and numb your sadness with negative behaviors such as overmedicating, excessively drinking or distracting yourself by overworking. What happens when you numb your negative behaviors is that you are also numbing your positive behaviors.[13]

        Fully experiencing your emotions, whether they’re positive or negative, is important for your own well being.

        “But by throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to dive in, all the way, over your head even, you experience them fully and completely. You know what pain is. You know what love is. You know what grief is. And only then can you say, “All right. I have experienced that emotion. I recognize that emotion. Now I need to detach from that emotion for a moment.” Morrie Schwartz, Tuesdays With Morrie

        What you can do right now:

        Get into a habit of identifying your emotions. For example, when you start to feel sad, simply tell yourself “This is sadness.” Once you begin calling your emotions by name, it helps you realize it is an emotion and doesn’t have to define who you are. This is the simple process that lets you ride the wave of emotion and let it pass without letting it take hold of you and controlling your behavior.

        The next time you start feeling sadness, let yourself feel it. Don’t let your fear find an excuse to avoid it. Just like a roller coaster becomes fun after the initial drop, let the discomfort of sadness come through you so you can go back to enjoying your life again.

        The important part of feeling your sadness is to make sure you don’t cross the fine line of dwelling on it and victimizing yourself. Let the feeling come, and when it wants to go, let it go.

        Recommended reading:

        Happiness marks the spot

          Unlike in fairytales, there is no such thing as happily ever after. Instead, it’s similar to there being a variety of scattered treasures buried in a huge field called life. You will need to dig a little to find each treasure as you walk through different points in your life.

          As you continue to go through the daily grind, make the choice to invest time and energy into using the methods outlined here to uplift your spirits. You’ll be happy you did.

          Featured photo credit: unsplash via unsplash.com

          Reference

          Read Next