Here is something that was published in my Metro column on September 18, 2007. It explores why some people seem to go back and forth in their relationships, breaking up for good one week, getting back together the next, and then breaking up again, this time for sure, the next, and so on. I’m sure you know some of them.
Most relationships end for good after the first breakup, or at least by the second. Breakups are difficult enough, but some people torture themselves by going through the process dozens of times in each relationship. In the column, I explore the role that emotions play in this process. Since our emotions fluctuate with circumstances, people who base their relationship decisions on their temporary emotional states will tend to drawn into this phenomenon.
I also point out that if a relationship has failed in the past, it will not work out in the future unless something changes. The idea that a change has to happen in order for a future result to be different also applies to many other problems in life such as burnout (stay tuned for much more on this next week).
One more try
How many times do we hear people tell us things like, “My girlfriend and I are back together,” only to hear about another breakup a short time later?
The reason this happens is quite simple. No relationship or person is all good or all bad, and our moods will shift depending on which aspect we focus on. When we base our decisions on those ever-changing moods, we tend to go back and forth.
I love you, I hate you
When couples fight, the irritations in the relationship become the focus of attention and stir negative emotions. Some couples break up in these circumstances. The problem is that those negative emotions don’t last forever. If we break up in anger, for example, we eventually cool off. When calm, we start to miss our partners. We think about how they make us laugh, or how we feel in their arms. The pleasant emotions that these thoughts provoke may encourage us to give it “one more try.”
Something must be different this time
One thing is certain, unless something changes, the problems in the relationship will not go away on their own. If things didn’t work out before, they will not suddenly go well after having taken some time away from each other. If the only thing that changes is the emotion that led to the breakup, then it will never last.
The change may be in the communication style, in a new arrangement with respect to activities or work, or in new habits. The change can even be as simple as deciding to accept your partner as they are, but this time without the constant struggle to change them. Whatever it is, this change has to be real.
Living with the whole package
Relationships can bring us great joy at times and frustration at others. Every person we fall in love with is a unique package. We cannot separate the parts of them that we love, from the parts of them that we hate. The only choice we have is to look at the package as a whole and to do so when we are not being influenced by the emotions that can be stirred in response to temporary circumstances.
If the good outweighs the bad, we must learn to let go and accept the parts of our lovers that we wish were different. If the bad outweighs the good, then we must be prepared to live with the loss of those things that we did love about them. If we see only one part of the package at a time, and respond to the emotions aroused by each, then every “one more try,” will just lead to one more painful separation.
Posted in Relationships.Posted on 23 Sep 2007