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New Relationship, But Old Patterns?

written by Gail Fisher, MSW, LCSW-C, ACSW
on Saturday, 6th June ,2015

 

It's deja vu all over again! 

4 a.m. and your mind is still regurgitating last evening’s squabble with your “ loved one” - yet again. You know the routine. It begins like an ordinary, sane conversation, you push a couple of strategic buttons, and it blows up. The decibel level rises, piercing barbs are fierce, your self-esteems tanks - yet again.

“ I thought I got it right this time” you sullenly repeated to yourself as you are catapulted into the familiar mess.

A little acknowledged fact is that second marriages fail (67%) even more than first marriages (47%)! Surprising? People are so confident that they have mastered the reality of how easily certainty can disintegrate into disillusion. But in fact, second marriages tend to repeat patterns never dealt with or resolved in first marriages.

Though one’s mate may change and the sources of irritation are different,  patterns of conflict resolution may remain fixed. In addition, divorces, particularly ugly ones, burden your next intimate relationship. The mind finds ways to invite the enmity that remains unresolved from our previous efforts. 

Of the marriages that do work? What are their secrets? 

Self-Reflection - How aware are you of your own part in the dissolution of your previous marriage. Each partner brings their own set of foibles. How aware are you of your own, and which ones are you willing to both own and deal with? 

Partner Choice - What qualities and traits are important to you at this life stage. Do they differ from  your “must have” list earlier in your life?

Conflict resolution - How aware are you of recognizing your triggers? How willing are you able to surface issues rather than bury them or even hoping they will disappear on their own? Working diligently at mutually respectful resolution of issues where the only “winner” is the relationship is key to successful relationship maturation.

Depression in one or both partners - A combo of depression in one or both partners, combined with volatility in either one, is lethal to a relationship. 50% of couples that present for therapy have one partner who is depressed. Depression has a way of becoming the centerpiece of a relationship. How readily are you to be honest with yourself regarding this potential difficulty. Are you ready to take the steps necessary to deal with it?

Cultivating a Sense of Humor and being sure to Build in Fun Times. Are you able to use humor to diffuse difficult situation, or find humor in conflict so that it never balloons beyond simple repair? Or perhaps before it even develops into a conflict? Once the initial “glow” of coupledom recedes, remembering to have fun, as a couple, and as an individual promotes personal growth, and gives the relationship the substrate it needs to develop. Besides, fun is a terrific mood enhancer.

And, not the least of it, how about spending time to determine what is the “small stuff” simply not worth “sweating” about? Perhaps even realizing, “hey, it’s all small stuff”-over which it is not worth endangering a relationship.

 

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