Relationships Spending Time Apart
After a breakup or a long-distance relationship, it is easy to fall into the habit of living our lives without any regard for the other person.
We assume that this person must feel the same way. And it's always easy to fall back into the same patterns, which are all highly destructive.
I often advise clients to not make any "deals" with their exes or to get involved in online relationships they think they'll get back together with if only they were to see them.
Although this sounds like an easy solution, in reality, it's actually far more destructive and short-sighted.
Advising someone who is in the midst of feeling sorry for themselves for moving on or needing their significant other back, is like offering them cocaine.
It might give you some temporary pleasure, but it will only end in devastating disappointment.
It's important to be clear about the type of person you are and the type of relationship you have.
Phase one: The great love affair
This phase is often the most beautiful, euphoric, and deeply emotional. The two of you don't need to get along.
The one thing you do need to have in common is an appreciation of being around each other.
The two of you are in your element when you're together and you really need each other to feel alive.
You walk on clouds when you're in each other's company. For me, I always felt that I was the luckiest man alive.
I could do nothing but be with my girlfriend and feel that high for the rest of my life.
Phase two: The low
This is when you start to experience your first hint of resentment.
You begin to notice that your partner becomes, in effect, emotionally unavailable and when you're not with them, you start to feel empty and like you're living a lie.
Your feelings are driving you to act out and to perform behaviors that are not authentic.
You're always looking at the bigger picture. You start to question your relationship. Does she love me, or is she just emotionally unavailable?
Is she just using me, or is she feeling something I'm not feeling? You become even more interested in other people.
Your friends begin to take precedence over your partner.
Phase three: The warning signs
Things seem to have deteriorated. Your partner seems completely emotionally absent and when they do, you see it as an escape from their own emotional pain.
Do you wonder if there is a love that could last this far?
You start to realize that, despite your long-term relationship, your partner is dealing with a lot of their own issues and their own insecurities.
Your partner is keeping a secret from you.
This is where you begin to sense that this relationship might be reaching a crossroads and that you should start to make changes.
Phase four: The awkward time
What happens when you're working on your personal issues and things just seem to come to a complete standstill?
In a long-term relationship, your partner usually takes the role of mediator and tries to guide you along the way.
In other words, you're both in the dark and the roles have reversed.
Now you're doing the emotional work of healing your own issues and your partner is keeping their distance, or going in a different direction.
This can be devastating.
Phase five: The decline
It's the time when you feel that, while you may have moved on, your partner still needs the security and stability of the relationship.
But this usually turns into a defense mechanism.
They shut you out, either because they want to feel safe or because they're tired of "keeping you afloat."
Again, this is not the time to be the needy partner.
Phase six: The split
This is the point where you feel completely on your own and confused about what happened, or what's going on, in your relationship.
This is when you question whether this was all worth it. This is when the emotions are intense and you don't know what you should do.
It's time to dig deep and come up with your own answers or get the professional help you need to cope.
After a period of time, this phase usually resolves and the couple returns to the situation as it was.
Do your best to communicate with each other about your individual issues.
If you start to feel as if your partner is distant or acting disconnected, you need to find out why.
A relationship shouldn't be a continual endeavor to keep the other person emotionally available.
You should both be able to share the emotions and pain that you feel at the moment. This is a sign of emotional vulnerability.
Here are a few questions you can ask:
- Do you feel emotionally disconnected from me?
- Do you feel as if I am emotionally unavailable to you?
- Are you feeling hurt or angry about something I've done?
You both have to take an active role in rebuilding trust, so start by being honest. Don't accuse each other.
Be open with each other, and ask the questions that you both need to answer.
If there is something that you feel is not ok in the relationship, don't be afraid to say it.
I've known so many couples where after years of marriage they both finally admitted their true feelings and problems.
Once your partner is fully aware of everything that's going on, you should also work on your own issues and add an element of trust back into the relationship.
It's healthy to talk through things.
I hope that some of the ideas above can help you deal with a major milestone in a relationship – the breakup.