Relationships are the cornerstone of our lives…. and yet we often fail so miserably at establishing them, then nurturing them and sustaining them. As someone who is newly divorced and new to the dating game I have spent a fair amount of time considering what is going right and what is going wrong, specifically w.r.t. significant intimate relationships. It has been a steep learning curve as things have changed radically since I was last a part of the “free world” …. ways of meeting people, communication protocols, meeting and greeting, and then actually figuring out where you stand with someone…. nowadays it is generally accepted that people “play the field” until a serious conversation happens as to whether or not one us actually “exclusive”…. Perhaps the higher risk of pregnancy in my time meant that, pretty much, once you were sleeping together it was more-or-less a given that you were (for the time being at least) in a partnership…. or perhaps I was just really naive? In a recent chat to a youngster, I asked what the “lingo” or what the conversation is w.r.t. relationship status…. when is a relationship open and when not, when is sex casual and when is it an intimate part of an exclusive relationship? She said that if you are "seeing each other" or "dating" it is still open day, and you are having casual sex and may have several lovers… you need to actually have the conversation that the relationship is now exclusive and then you become "girlfriend and boyfriend", and only then is it monogamous!!!! Apparently announcing that you are "in a Relationship" on Facebook (or Social Media) is also a tell-tale sign.... Even though pregnancy is now preventible (or more easily reversible) there still remains a high risk of STD’s and even HIV; yet it seems that playing the field is very much in vogue…. Dating sites and apps have not helped since they have significantly widened the playing field! Right off the bat if you need to be aware that sex does not imply intimacy and connection, and that in all likelihood it’s just a casual encounter and wham-bam-thankyou-ma’am…. When I think about what ignites the spark, and then what kills it, to me it seems to come down to the same thing: ATTRACTION!!!! Attraction or chemistry is this elusive quality, a ‘je ne sais quoi’ we each possess without owning or knowing quite what it is, it’s the magical ingredient which magnetises us to be magnificent and attractive to someone else. It is also much, much more than this initial chemistry….. it is the adhesive epoxy which sticks us together. In the beginning though we are infatuated and fascinated and our hearts pitter patter, we have butterflies on our bellies, we flirt and flatter and cannot get enough….. It is not purely sexual or physical, it is emotional, spiritual, and intellectual too. It is about sharing values and , with time though, as we bond and find similarities and grow together the bond solidifies. All too soon, it so often happens that two people have become one and we are left with two half people. We forget who we are and have lost the person we were so attracted to because they too have become muted and dulled, they have merged into us and we into them with no clear boundaries. Those little weird quirks we originally found so compelling became annoying or boring, we have changed ourselves and the other person for the sake of compatibility but lost so much more through sacrificing these parts of ourselves. We are no longer content and comfortable in our own skins because we don’t even know where they begin and end…. we don’t like ourselves or the other person much and this discontent and unease grows. The glue becomes brittle and starts cracking and chipping. We pick at it and realise we no longer like what it does, how it makes us feel and what it hides. We feel claustrophobic, entrapped, disempowered and diminished. That bond has us stuck, and the magnetism is starting to repel us. The attraction has died, and often apathy and resentment takes its place (worse still sometimes anger and loathing, guilt and shame ...)
Relationships come to an end, for so many reasons and in so many ways…. the main reason is simply a loss of attraction. I am guessing that what makes a relationship slowly suffocate is that at the beginning we just take chemistry and attraction at face value and do not actually try to figure out what it means for us and our partner and what the necessary ingredients are to make it flourish and keep it going. For a spark to become a flame it needs AIR…. breathing space…. unfortunately we so often just fling ourselves headlong into lust and love that we don’t consider what the essential ingredients are to keep that flame alive!!!! I have tried to address this, in the early stages of a relationship by firstly checking out compatibility and connection by doing a personality test such as <http://16Personalities.com> and you then compare your personality type with that of your partner <https://www.16personalities.com/personality-types>, and read up on which is most likely to be compatible (please note it is not the personality most like yours)….. Some people also rely on things like star signs, Chinese horoscopes, the Human Pin Code, Graphology and the like to get such insights….. I also believe it is useful to know what someone’s love language is….. if you are going to be investing in a relationship with someone it is helpful to know which love language your partner is most receptive to, because it’s pointless buying her flowers if she truly only feels cherished with public displays of affection. Is love blind????... Well, the answer always is that there is none as blind as he who does not want to see!!! For this reason, I most recently devised the following 10 questions to open the debate in my own (and client's) relationships …. I believe that if one asks and answers these early on in a relationship as well as periodically thereafter, it may just bring us a few steps closer to understanding what attraction is (and that it is NOT the same thing for each person)…. One needs to understand that as much as it may seem effortless and natural in the beginning, one needs to get some insights into what you/ your partner are attracted to, and how you are either growing together or growing apart. Some differences and difficulties are not insurmountable, so it helps to know where people are in terms their ability to negotiate and compromise rather than make assumptions! Attraction initially may be effortless but eventually it requires some investment and it is important to know what investment is wanted, needed or desired, and even required…. and whether the other person is worth that investment of your time, energy and resources. If you are enlightened and insightful you also will be going in with your eyes wide open and will be reluctant to settle for anything less than what you both need, want and desire and what you each DESERVE! Whether we recognise it or not, we all have a set of criteria and standards and it makes sense to be aware of and clarify them…. at the onset and then to re-evaluate them or reassess things as the relationship progresses!