Most love stories start the same way– you meet someone you find interesting, you have fun with one another, and you fall in love as each person does kind things for the other one. You both show one another respect and build trust together. You share similar interests and engage in fun activities together. Everyone is on their best behavior as you meet each other’s families and friends. You find it easy to talk, and you have no doubt that this person cares about you. You work as a team and make each other feel like a priority. This creates a high that doctors say is similar to a cocaine high, seriously. And during this drug-induced high is when most of us naively commit to marry “for better or worse, in sickness and in health, until death.”
But sooner or later, the honeymoon phase comes to an end, and real life hits. Maybe it is the birth of a child, or a family death, a health scare, financial crisis, abrupt career change, or a perfect storm of multiple factors that are all triggered at the same time, and all of the sudden you see a side to your partner that you never saw before. Now 50% of married couples may well be able to work through this, but meanwhile the other 50% soon discover that the very proper Dr. Jekyll they committed to love actually has a very dark Mr. Hyde character living inside.
Rarely does someone fall out of love all at once, but rather it is an accumulation of scuffles that build a pyramid of resentment so that rather than constructing a bridge that connects our world with our lover’s, we unconsciously begin to lay the foundation for a concrete wall that will protect us from the infliction of further harm.
It is easy to drift apart. We go our separate ways during the work week, and then maybe one or the other starts staying late at work or making plans to catch up with other friends. On weekends, maybe one goes to the gym or spa while the other goes to play golf or visit family. When you have kids, it is very easy to pour your heart and soul into them, and using them as a excuse to stay occupied you expend all your energy on them leaving nothing for your partner when the day is over.
Days turn into weeks, which turn into months in the blink of an eye, and meanwhile the divide between you grows wider and wider until one day, perhaps on a special day that once had some meaning, you wake up and find you have nothing left to celebrate. And when this happens, that is when you know beyond doubt that you have let that chasm between you and your partner become too vast.
How do you fix this? That I cannot answer for you, but at least if you want to fix it, I believe that where there is a will there is a way– provided both parties are committed to working things out. If not, things will only continue to deteriorate, and when too much damage is done to a relationship there will come a point where you just cannot turn back and undo all those little acts that on their own might have seemed minor, yet when put together grossly tip the scales in favor of getting out and ending the pain.
In a healthy relationship, the ratio of good to bad interactions is 5:1. If you feel like you are on the fence, meaning you can take it or leave it, then you are probably at 3:3. At this point, you start to wonder what value added does that person bring to my life? Here, I would suggest taking a break away, even just for a long weekend or maybe a week, and then ask yourself, “do I miss this person?” If the answer is “no” then you definitely know that too much hurt has occurred, and as a wise person once told me: hurt people, hurt people.
When you are caught in a negative loop, you have to find a way to break the cycle. While you cannot control what someone else says or does, you can control how you act and react. So if you don’t like the current state of affairs, remember that change starts from within. Be the change you want to see, but at the same time, try not to go in with an expected outcome. Things may get better, or they may get worse– it takes two to tango. And if your partner no longer wants to tango, that’s okay there are plenty of other dances out there, and plenty of other willing dance partners– and it is also perfectly okay now to find your own song for a dance solo.
Not all loves are meant to last– some just to teach you how to live and let die.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.