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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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

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Anna Chui

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

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Last Updated on October 20, 2020

Can People Change When Changing Is So Difficult?

Can People Change When Changing Is So Difficult?

Hope is not a strategy when it comes to change. Commitment is what is needed to make real change happen. Can people change? Absolutely, but exchanging your excuses for commitment is necessary to get started.

Human nature leans toward habits, which can become ingrained over the years, but that doesn’t mean habits can be undone.

The good news is that your personality and behaviors can be changed, but it is up to you. Below are some tips to help you get started with change.

1. Figure out What You Need to Change

If you’re reading this, you’re probably already aware of something you would like to change. That’s great! The first step toward change is acknowledging that you have something you need to change.

Look at the repeated problems in your life, the issues that seem to come up time and time again. Do you keep gravitating toward the wrong relationships, but you blame the people you are choosing, rather than looking at your problem in the selection process?

Do you jump from one job to another, yet blame co-workers and bosses, rather than look at what you may be doing to cause problems and dissatisfaction on the job?

We are creatures of habit, so look at the negative patterns in your life. Then, look inside to see what’s causing these repeated life problems to occur. If you can’t figure it out on your own, consider going to a counselor for better understanding. Once you recognize the area that requires change, you can move to the next step.

2. Believe That Change Is Indeed Possible

There are people out there who believe that personality is unchangeable. When confronted with their problem, such as constant negativity, they lash back with “that’s just who I am.” It may be who you are, but does it need to be?

Change in personality and behaviors is possible. Nobody stays the same from one year to the next, let alone across a decade, so why not move change in the direction that is best for you? Be proactive about the change you want in your life, including the belief that change can occur.

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Look for success stories and people who have changed and done what you so deeply desire to do. Seeing that others have been where you have are and have accomplished the change you desire will help you in your process to accomplish that change.

3. List the Benefits of This Change

In order for people to change, they need to buy into the premise that the change is necessary for their betterment. For example, maybe your goal is to be more productive at work. There are many benefits that could come from this, including:

  • Getting more done in a shorter amount of time.
  • Having more time for your family.
  • Getting a promotion
  • Being liked and appreciated by your boss.
  • Being part of the success of the company.

One of the best ways to help yourself stick to the commitment of change is to make a list of the benefits that the change will bring in your life. Make one list of the benefits for your life and another for your loved ones. Recognizing the full spectrum of benefits, including how your change will affect those closest to you, will help you stick with the process of change.

When you have moments of weakness, or fail on a particular day or time, then getting back on track becomes easier when you review your list on a regular basis. Posting your “benefits of change” list somewhere where you see it often, such as a bathroom mirror, will help you be reminded of why you are doing what you are doing.

4. Make a Real Commitment to Change

Make a commitment to the time frame needed for the change to happen. If you want to lose 50 lbs., then set out a realistic plan of a few pounds per week and a timeline that reflects those goals.

It will take you a lot longer than a month, but setting realistic goals will help you stick to your commitment. Change happens one day at a time. It is not immediate, but over the course of time because of your dedication and commitment to the process.

It also helps if you make your goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.[1]

People can change using SMART goals

    An example of this would be a person who wants to become an active runner so they can tackle a half marathon. The first step would be to research what other people have done for training plans to achieve this goal.

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    Runners World lays out specifics for a beginner to train for a half marathon: “Target the Long Run: Every other week, increase your long run by 1.5 miles until you’re run/walking 13 to 14 miles. On alternate weeks, keep your long run to no longer than three miles. Your longest long run should fall two weeks before your half-marathon. Plan to take about 15 weeks to prepare for the big day.”[2]

    These kinds of specificities will help you create a personalized plan that is achievable and time-bound.

    You can learn more about writing SMART goals here.

    5. Create a Plan of Attack

    You need a set of steps outlined to succeed. This is why 12-step programs are so successful. You can’t simply walk into a meeting and be cured and changed. You need to mentally process the change in order for the change to be lasting and effective.

    Create a plan for your change. Be realistic and investigate what other people have done to change.

    For example, if you are dealing with anxiety and want to change that, then seek out therapy methods to address your problem. Stick with the therapy plan until your change process is complete. Simply hoping the anxiety will someday go away is not a plan.

    6. Commit to Action

    It is wonderful to set a goal for change and to write it down, but if you don’t act, then your mental commitment means nothing. There is no actual commitment unless action follows. To best kick start our change, the key is to act now[3].

    For example, if you committed to lose 50lbs, then now is the time to go join a gym, hire a trainer, and walk into a weight loss clinic to get support. We can make up our mind to be determined to change, but if action does not follow soon thereafter, then you will likely fail.

    If you wait until later that week, you will get caught up in doing your daily routine, things for works, taking care of others, or whatever it may be; there will be distractions that will derail you from taking action later. There is no better time to take action than when you make the decision to change.

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    For example, if you decide you want to finally write that book that is in your mind, but you don’t have a working laptop, then go and get a laptop today. Then, set aside an hour each day after work (and on your calendar) so that you can write. Instead of going out with friends after work, you are committing to achieve this goal, and you have time set aside to make that goal happen.

    7. Find a Support System

    When people want to change, finding a support system is key. A great way to find support is through group therapy or support groups. If you have a substance abuse issue, for example, you can find groups that specialize is supporting you through recovery and change.

    If you prefer to find support in the comfort of your own home, then you can look for online support forums and Facebook groups that deal with whatever change you are looking to pursue.

    Your ability to be successful in change is dependent on your ability to dive in; support systems help you with the initial dive and staying committed thereafter. and will help you stay committed to the process. Don’t underestimate the power you have by partnering with others who are seeking the same change.

    8. Get Uncomfortable

    Change should be uncomfortable. You are entering new territory and stepping out of your comfort zone. Your mind and past habits will be resistant to the change, as it is uncomfortable and difficult.

    If you give up because of the discomfort, then you are destined to fail in your pursuit of change. Embrace the discomfort associated with change and recognize that it puts you one step closer to accomplishing your goals.

    9. Stick to the Plan

    When people decide to change, sticking to it is difficult. If you get derailed from your plan, don’t berate yourself. Instead, allow yourself some margin of error and then get back on track.

    You can’t expect to go on a diet without splurging sometimes. The key is “sometimes.” The sooner you get back on track, the more successful you will be in accomplishing your change goals.

    Other researchers on the topic of change believe this process is about dedication and commitment to the change desired in our day to day lives, as Douglas LaBier from the Huffington Post so aptly stated:[4]

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    “Change occurs from awareness of what aspects of our personality we want to develop, and working hard to “practice” them in daily life.”

    Here are some tips on sticking to a plan:

    Engage in Self-Reflection

    Reflect on things that have derailed you in the past and problem solve them before they happen.

    Jot down those things that tend to get you off track. Now, list ways to combat the derailments before they happen. For example, if you are wanting to lose weight but you work late hours, then commit to morning workouts.

    If you know that in the past you would continually hit the snooze button and subsequently miss the workouts, then hire a trainer for early morning workouts. You are less likely to miss your workout if you have real money attached to it and someone counting on you to show up. You could also schedule morning workouts with a friend, so you know there is someone showing up and you don’t want to let them down.

    Brainstorm solutions for your past derailments so that this time around you are ready to stick to the plan and the commitment you have made to change.

    Define Your Commitment

    Commitment is a daily mental and physical plight when it comes to change. If your commitment is to lose weight, then be specific about how you are going to achieve your change. For example, you decide you are going to stick to 1,800 calories a day and a 1-hour workout every day.

    Then, write those goals down and chart your daily progress. Hold yourself accountable.

    Final Thoughts

    Can people change? Hopefully, by now, you believe that they can. If you have a sense of commitment and persistence, change is possible with any life experience.

    Start small, create specific goals, and don’t wait to get started. You’ll be amazed how far change will take you.

    More on How to Make Changes in Your Life

    Featured photo credit: Jurica Koletić via unsplash.com

    Reference

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