Love means that you can be angry, say how you feel, voice your opinion, go around with no make-up and hairy legs, without worrying about being criticised or abandoned.
Denise Knowles, Relate counsellor
When clients talk to me about their love problems they sometimes say that they aren’t sure whether to stay or to leave their relationship. Perhaps they have just met someone and don’t know whether to invest the time and effort into making it work; or maybe they have been in a partnership for a while and feel that they are stuck in a relationship rut, and then there are those who have been unhappy with a man for years and are still trying to change him.
When our love lives get difficult it is far too easy to get lost in nit picking and criticisms even though we know that blame is never a problem-solving tool. In fact as soon as we start to moan and complain about all his faults we have lost the ability to take charge of our own feelings and to understand what is really going on between us. And understanding is always the key to clarifying and resolving difficult relationship issues. So, whatever the dilemma, I always take the client back to the basics of coaching because this method opens up a positive and dynamic way forward.
The love coaching approach offers a step-by-step plan to get the love you want. First of course you need to know what you want. It is quite amazing how many of us seem to just drop into a relationship without ever having considered what we want from it. Would we buy a house in this ultra casual way, or a car? Or even a new outfit or a washing machine? Would we go for a new job without researching whether it was exactly right for us? Of course we wouldn’t, but lust madness and the euphoria of PEA cloud our usual good judgement when it comes to love.
But we want romance and the knight in shining armour stuff even though we know that we also need a lot more than this. So what can we do?
It is entirely possible to enjoy the romance of love whilst at the same time being aware of our longer-term needs. Up-to-date research reveals two vitally important points:
All love relationships go through the same phases.
This information makes it possible for us to place our own relationship within the context of the five phases of love. Once we do this we can begin to put our own love problems in some sort of perspective and this makes it easier to focus on exactly what is happening and why.
There are specific criteria that are required for a lasting and nurturing relationship.
We can check if our relationship fulfils these criteria and so become more realistic about our long-term prospects.
The 5 phases of love
Can you see which phase your relationship is in at the moment? Recognise the possible new challenges that can arrive with each new stage.
1 The honeymoon phase
This is the so-called ‘bonking and behaving’ phase, a phrase that says it all. We are blissfully and blindly euphoric, he can do no wrong in our eyes; we are in love with love. But as we know this feeling fades as the hormones subside and we start to face the realities of the relationship and so we move into the conflict phase.
2 The conflict phase
Everyday life begins to intrude and we no longer always see his behaviour tinted with a rosy glow. Our differences emerge and a power struggle begins. One moment he was the man of our dreams and then suddenly we find ourselves arguing. This is a natural part of growing closer together. You can never be intimate until you get to know each other and conflicts are bound to emerge with both of you wanting to be ‘right’.
3 The understanding/misunderstanding phase
There are two possibilities now: to keep fighting each other or to start talking about what it is you both want. If you can resolve your arguments without criticism and sarcasm you are on your way to greater intimacy and understanding. If you stay together and just keep fighting without working things out your relationship will not be able to grow in a healthy way.
4 The stuck in a rut phase
You are still together and are less in conflict; things are easier but they might just start to get boring. This is a dangerous phase when you can start to take each other for granted. Routine is the key word here and maybe the passion has been lost in the daily domestic round. You need to keep the fireworks popping; get romantic and sexy and revive those feelings that you had on your first dates. Don’t let familiarity breed contempt, let it breed greater intimacy.
5 The good team phase
You have come through the ‘stuck’ phase and breathed new life into your relationship. It takes two to achieve this and so now you know that both you and your partner are committed to the partnership. You have been through it and come out the other side and this gives you both confidence and a strong feeling of security. You are in it for the long haul and you know that this is love!
So, before you decide to ditch your relationship just check which phase you find yourselves in. Note the particular challenges that come with each stage and ask yourself how the two of you are handling them. Are you both prepared to work through the issues? True love is about being there for each other through thick and thin; it’s about being self-aware and also being sensitive to your partner, and it’s a two-way process. If one person is doing all the work then it is not a loving relationship and if you are in emotional pain it definitely isn’t love!
Copyright © Lynda Field 2015
Coaching and Confidence Boosting at http://www.lyndafield.com
Adapted from the book, Weekend Love Coach by Lynda Field