Mandy Kloppers

Stages in relationships

When you first meet, you are thriving on lust and infatuation. It isn’t love. The other person seems perfect and you are both on best behaviour initially. Most research suggests that the infatuation, “honeymoon” phase lasts up to 18 months. In these first few heady months, everthing seems great and your partner’s annoying habits seem cute and even quirky.

After 12-18 months, the cracks begin to appear. We begin to let our guard down a little, grumpiness sets in and particular habits come to the fore. To the keen observer, bad habits are noticeable quite early on in the early stages in relationships, often within the first three months (characteristics like jealousy, controlling behaviour and insecurity) but we are often so caught up in the positive emotions that we are blind to these early signs.

As time goes by, couples get to know each other well enough to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. What annoys one person possibly makes the other happy. Knowing each others “buttons” can be a good thing but if cracks begin to appear, knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses can lead to this becoming ‘ammunition’ in psychological warfare – such as passive aggressive behaviour. This is when we do things to annoy our partners indirectly, (by constantly being late or being noisy during their favourite tv programme)…to irritate our partners in other indirect ways.

If the relationship isn’t great and there is suppression going on where one person finds it difficult to  talk about their feelings for some reason, passive aggressive behaviour begins. Some people find it hard to talk about what upsets them in the relationship because their partner cannot handle any kind of negative assessment of their behaviour. This can cause one person to shut down in the relationship and suppress their inner emotions – this is a huge problem for the long term happiness of the relationship. Couple counselling would be advisable at this stage when communication is shutting down.

Problems occur when one person uses deflection to deal with issues. For example: one person says they find it annoying when their partner sits on their mobile phone during dinner. Instead of dealing with that issue and finding a compromise, the person who is attached to their mobile phone at meals might respond by accusing their ‘accuser’ of something else. So instead of dealing with one issue at a time. There are now two unresolved issues and resentment grows. Couples must learn to each take responsibility for their own behaviour and of their partner’s upset.  Deal with that issue first before deflecting and picking on partner’s faults – deflection is very damaging to relationships.

Resentment kills relationships. If commuication breaks down and neither partner is willing to take ownership of their part to play in the breakdown of the relationship, the relationship will enter it’s final stages and eventually break down.

Keep communication going

Compromise regularly

Really listen to your partner when they are unhappy with you

Find solutions, don’t deflect

Avoid passive-aggressive behaviour

Never allow resentment to build

Mandy X

Photo by josh.greentree