Remember as kids we would see some children burst into a puddle of tears over a paper cut while others remained stoic even when a broken bone might be sticking completely out of place? That’s because even at an early age we are all exhibit varying degrees of pain tolerance– and that remains true in adulthood.

What each of us is willing to accept in a relationship is unique to our own level of tolerance, which is partially attributable to nature or nurture, but also depends a lot on the current situation we are in. So for example, someone that grew up with a lot of drama may have a high tolerance for it, and yet in a point in time when there’s already a lot of drama in his/her life may find that s/he cannot tolerate much more.

Ultimately, each of us chooses to invest time and energy in relationships that hopefully will bring us joy, and we all cherish that honeymoon period in any romantic relationship, where everyone is on their best behavior.  Where we all struggle then, is when that period  ends, especially if things really fall apart and take a turn for the worst.  Putting aside for today the issue of why this may happen, let’s talk about how this happens because it is important to see and understand what this looks like.

When friction first arises, there are some pretty classic things people start to do, including making snide comments (those are overt forms of aggression) or they withdraw either physically or emotionally by staying late at the office, spending more time away, and not sharing as much about their feelings (that’s more of a passive-aggressive way of “coping.”)  By not addressing these actions and the underlying feelings, tension will continue to mount, which then results in more heated arguments and/or increasing avoidance of one another.  Now depending on each person’s level of tolerance, as explained earlier, who knows how long this can go on for?

Eventually, something has to give.  Why?  Because it’s just not humanly possible to continue to endure daily or weekly comments from someone that either directly or indirectly suggest you are a piece of crap.  If you are always “wrong” or never do anything “right,” or  they insinuate that all the motives behind your every move are deeply flawed, then why are you even with this person who basically thinks you are just sucking the oxygen out of the home they occupy?

It is a pretty harsh fall to go from being on top of this grand pedestal that your partner once created for you to being considered less tolerable than a cat’s smelly litter box or a baby’s overflowing diaper genie.  For some, it makes you feel like crying while curling up into a fetal position under a blanket, and for others this can make you feel so mad you start to sympathize with ax murders.  Neither extreme is a good place to be because you cannot think clearly and logically while overwhelmed with emotions.

So what happens next?  Well, maybe someone decides to drown their sorrow with alcohol one night and gets busted for a DUI.  Or at home, tensions flare up and someone does something that is so egregious that the other person decides to call for help or try to video tape the events with their phone, and then a physical struggle ensues.  Then the cops show up in response to a domestic violence call.   I’ve lost count of how many of my divorce clients have called 911, and in several cases the State’s Attorney actually pursued criminal charges, so in addition to a civil domestic case, these people also had to deal with the possibility of jail, which let me be clear is not a pleasant prospect for anyone– especially if kids are involved.

My job is to see people through their worst break-ups, and sadly I have also lived through my fair share of them.  Believe me, I feel your pain when that love story doesn’t pan out the way you had hoped it would– but rein in those emotions, get help as soon as possible, and figure out as best you can how to gracefully end that story.  Don’t let it turn into your worst nightmare.

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.