Employing Healthy Relational Methods to Manage Expectations
What attracted you to your partner in the first place?
The answer might be ability, accomplishment, or a personality characteristic such as sense of humor. Some people would admit they were drawn to their mate through pure physical attraction, without knowing anything about the person behind the pretty face.
Most people fall somewhere in between; the spark that kindled the flame was cultivated through chemistry.
But because, in the words of American songwriters Al Hoffman and Dick Manning (as sung by Pearl Bailey), "it takes two to tango," partners must maintain a shared willingness to keep the magic alive, as well as a realistic picture of what that will involve.
One way to rekindle romance is to focus on authentic admiration and appreciation, as opposed to false flattery. This is consistent with research revealing the importance of grounding romance in reality.
Keeping Romance Real
Will Mosier explains the road to real romance is grounded in reality.
He contrasts realism with the romanticized, unrealistic images of what society portrays about what it means to be in love. He notes that this comparison creates confusion for people who don’t personally experience what they see in the movies, which can create resentment and disappointment.
Mosier notes this is especially true when couples falsely believe they should always agree, or the relationship would improve if their partner would "change."
Obviously, couples cannot possibly always agree because they are different people with different views of the world and life experiences.
But with respect to the false hope of change, Mosier notes that people are unlikely to change their basic personalities; a fact he suggests might account for the success of psychotherapy.
He emphasizes the importance of accepting responsibility for our own happiness, instead of believing it is contingent on falling in love.
More recent research corroborates the value of couples accepting enduring personality traits.
Falling Out of Love Through Finding Fault
Relational red flags signal trouble, alerting both parties that the dynamics of their interaction need attention. But unfortunately, many couples are color blind until after a relationship is already established. Assuming red flags signal discontent (and not danger), minimizing the disruptive impact of fault-finding involves factoring in the positive aspects of the relationship as well.
Irum Saeed Abbasi and Nawal G. Alghamdi (in 2017) examined the factors that characterize the process of falling out of love. They note that it is much quicker to fall in love than fall out of love — which usually takes place over time.
They explain that as couples develop a love relationship, they are likely to ignore factors that might eventually adversely impact the union.
Falling Back in Love Through Fresh Focus
Couples who want to rekindle romance need to take a fresh look at their partner. Abbasiand and Alghamdi (ibid.) observe that a couple must accept each other as a mix of favorable and unfavorable traits, because vulnerabilities such as temperament, personality, and attachment styles may never change.
They note that marital therapy can help spouses recognize enduring traits, as well as the need for marital adjustment, which can contribute to an effort to sincerely give a marriage another chance.
When fresh eyes see both the bad and the good, partners can focus on cultivating the positive, often uniquely appealing traits that fueled the fire at the beginning of the relationship.
Stay in love by staying grounded, realistic, and resilient. Your newfound appreciation for your partner’s positive traits may turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
This article was originally published in Psychology Today.
Wendy L. Patrick, JD, MDiv, Ph.D., is an award-winning career trial attorney and media commentator. She is host of "Live with Dr. Wendy" on KCBQ, and a daily guest on other media outlets, delivering a lively mix of flash, substance, and style. Read Dr. Wendy L. Patrick's Reports — More Here.
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