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Susie Ambrose in Vanity Fair

Susie Ambrose in Vanity Fair

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Is Love an Addiction?

You are in love. You don’t eat, you don’t sleep, you can’t do anything but think of the person. Are you addicted to love?

Ever since the beginning of time love has been described as an excruciating passion. We see it everywhere; in movies, in books, in songs. Almost two thousand years ago, Ovidsaid: “I can’t live with or without you” (Amores III, xi, 39) – a sentence that was made famous by Irish band U2 song. Other musicians sang about this too; legendary Led Zeppelinin their “I can’t Quit You Baby” as well as Ke$ha in her catchy song"Your Love Is My Drug." Similar feeling is expressed in the famous movie Brokeback Mountain by the character Jack Twist who said“I wish I knew how to quit you.”

It is far from true that only artists and poets feel this way as our everyday speech is full of such expressions. We often hear those in love saying: “I need you” and “I am addicted to you”. It seems like when we are in love, we experience a tremendous attraction towards another person and that attraction is persistent and often times impossible to ignore. 

Love is often thrilling but it can sometimes be dangerous. If our feelings are returned, we are in a state of euphoria. However, other times we might follow love’s pull to the point of suffering. It is hard to disagree with the fact that lovers sometimes become confused, unreasonable, unpredictable or even self-destructive. When relationships end in an undesirable way, lovers feel pain, grief and loss. 

These patterns of alternating euphoria and despair, frantic longing and harmful thoughts and behaviours that might occur after a relationship ends are strikingly similar to phenomena we see within ‘typical’ addictions to drugs, alcohol, nicotine or gambling. For example, a gambler might feel euphoric during the initial rush and excitement that comes along placing a bet and winning. When an unwanted loss occurs, the gambler feels desperate and often behaves in a destructive way – for example they may increase the bet with money that he or she is not in the position to spend. Nevertheless, while we often borrow phrases from the language of addiction when referring to love, there is at least one distinction between love and conventional addiction; while nobody desires to become addicted to alcohol, nearly everyone yearns to be in love. Is it therefore absurd to claim that there is a true resemblance between love and addiction?

Perhaps not. First, there is a resemblance between love and drugs even before an addiction develops. For instance, scientists suggestthat on a physiological level, falling in love and smoking crack cocaine are incredibly similar processes! This not to be confused with that slightly buzzed sensation you might feel after a glass or two of wine; it is rather the overwhelmingly euphoric and exciting feeling that follows the intake of crack cocaine that is similar to falling in love. So, if you are looking for a legal way to get high, perhaps consider falling in love.

What is really happening when we fall in love?  We start by experiencing a rush of emotions.  Some like to call it magic, others prefer the term ‘fate’, I like to say that I’m being love-struck. Whatever term we use, from a biological perspective, being in love causes a range of chemical reactions in your brain; neurotransmitters called oxytocin and dopamine get released. These chemical reactions affect your brain and produce the euphoric feeling that we experience during the initial stages of a relationship. 

The chemistry behind falling in love has been extensively studied and written about. However, many of us are not too concerned about that – we simply like the way it feels. Also, even without reading articles, many of us know that this overwhelming rush of feelings will fade away at some point. There is nothing wrong with that. The initial first weeks or months should help us build a solid foundation with the person we are in love with and hopefully form a relationship that goes beyond just a chemical reaction. Nevertheless, for some people this chemical reaction, this euphoric state is what they become addictedto and keep looking for even when it is over. This is then another similarity between love and addiction; just like drug addicts desire to feel the high cocaine gives them and are unable to resist it, love addicts have a hard time letting go of that initial rush. 

If at this point you feel like you are definitely a love addict, please bear in mind that almost everyone can relate to that initial rush experienced during the early stage of a relationship. We’ve all been there; the other person’s existence provides us with constant emotional excitement and distraction. However, most people acknowledge that healthy relationships will inevitably develop into something less exciting but more profound in the long run.

While the similarity between falling in love and taking a drug is there, being in love evolves into a healthy, happy relationship whereas compulsively taking a drug can develop into an addiction therefore it appears that there is a distinction between the two. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In the same way that drug addicts cannot resist the urge to get the high, love addicts choose to rely on the neurochemical rush. When the rush fades away (whether induced by love or drug), the addict feels pain and disappointment and compulsively seeks the rush again.

But what is the rush in love addition? Unlike the typical addiction, we can’t point into something physical such as pills, cigarettes or slot machines. There are, however, clear symptomsthat manifest in a person’s behaviour and might signal love addiction.

One of the most common signs of love addiction is assigning too much importance to the new love. Of course, we all feel a little obsessed about the person we fell in love with but only love addicts would do whatever it takes in order to keep the high; they jeopardise work, friendships and even family and prioritise the new person in their life. Furthermore, they neglect responsibilities in their life in order to chase relationship dreams. Once the new person becomes the centre of their world, love addicts tend to believe that he or she can fix everything. As a result, instead of the relationship enhancing their life goals, their lives become all about the relationship. Ultimately, love addicts find themselves in relationships driven by feelings of incompleteness and insufficiency and find it difficult to feel ‘whole’ without their partner. 

These feelings, however, vary from person to person. That said, even if you exhibit all of these behaviours you might not be an addict, as everyone is different what makes someone addicted might be perfectly fine for someone else, in the same way that drugs don’t make everyone addicted to the same degree. In any case, there is advice for everyone who experiences the love addiction signs. In his book ‘How to Break Your Addiction to a Person’, Howard Halpern describes techniquesthat might help in breaking or preventing the addiction to a person

1.    Keep a Relationship Diary

Log the events and happening of your relationship in as much detail as possible. Most importantly, be honest, express your thoughts and feelings openly. Doing this may help you understand your feelings better and the way they relate to your actions. For instance, you might spot that every time you feel bad, you reach out for your phone and text your partner. When you are more aware of the situation, coming up with solutions becomes easier.

2.    Connect with others

Try and reconnect with your friends and family. The value of this network can be precious and those addicted to love often neglect it. Although it might seem that only your partner can provide support and understanding, you will be surprised to see that sharing your thoughts and feelings with your friends or family can be equally comforting.

3.    Become Aware of Your Body

Our minds are deeply connected to our bodies. The way we feel is related to our body functioning and it is therefore important to be aware of that relationship. Become aware of your body; it can be something as simple as focusing on your breathing. This will enhance the feeling that there is a central core within you and that you are actually the one who has control over it.

4.    Allow Multiple Attachments

Just like we can connect with people, we can also connect to something more timeless. Go out in nature, read books, listen to music – the world is full of things to explore. In a way, whereas people come and go, these things will always be around. This is not to say that we should not connect with people because one day they might not be there, but rather that we should get the best out of everything that is out there be it people, places or things. 

So, is it love or is it addiction? Probably it is a little bit of both. While some dose of addiction can be nice and poetic, in its essence, addiction is not about enjoying something but rather having a hard time staying away from something that gives you pleasure. Therefore, just like with everything in life, the best would be to find the balance between the two and enjoy a happy relationship. 

References:

Dr Kurt Smith. Yes, it is Possible to Be Addicted to Love. Retrieved from: https://www.beliefnet.com/wellness/yes-it-is-possible-to-be-addicted-to-love.aspx

Earp, B. D., Wudarczyk, O. A., Foddy, B., & Savulescu, J. (2017). Addicted to love: What is love addiction and when should it be treated?. Philosophy, psychiatry, & psychology: PPP, 24(1), 77.

Fisher, H., & Holt, H. (2004). The brain in love. SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN.

Halpern, H. M. (2003). How to break your addiction to a person. Bantam.

Don’t Give Up on Love

Finding love can be both exciting and also at times discouraging, you may meet someone accidentally, you may be introduced to them, you may think someone is the one and they don’t feel the same, essentially the path to finding love is different for us all. It is vital to remember that this is the case and therefore to not compare our relationship paths with others. All of us can find love, if that is what we are looking for, if we have an understanding of whether we are in the right place psychologically for it and put the right amount of effort in. Remaining open to finding a partner can be one of the key factors in success, as discussed in our podcast ‘First Dates in Relationships’. It is therefore important to not give up hope nor make finding a partner the sole purpose of your existence but to strike a balance.  

 With an increase in access to potential partners, whether it be online or matchmaking services, it can increase the chances of success but also the potential for doubt in a new relationship. With so many options we have somewhat become a throwaway society, when we hit a bump in the road, people are often quick to jump ship and simply move on to the next potential. However, love takes work and not putting the effort in to overcome initial hurdles will prevent you from finding meaningful long-term relationships. 

As the saying goes, ‘the grass isn’t always greener’, and you could find yourself wishing you’d tried that little bit harder with someone and wondering whether it could have gone anywhere. Although love does take effort it shouldn’t always feel like hard work, there needs to be a balance of putting energy into your relationship, without it sucking all of your own energy, leaving you exacerbated. It is important to remember that love won’t always be easy, that’s not to say it will be difficult to find but holding on to it long enough to establish true connections is key. This is highlighted by Michelle Birge  in her article ‘Love Takes Work, But Not Too Much Work’when she says that “all relationships take some work. But the right one doesn’t take that much work”.   

In order to give someone a chance, you need to be engaged, ask questions and to be curious about them. Putting in the time will allow you to see if connections will be formed and time will establish whether these connections are likely to last. If you jump at the first instance you disagree or fall out with someone, issues cannot be resolved or discussed and what could have been cleared up with a bit of communication, has resulted in the break up of a relationship. It can be frightening being vulnerable. Even having an honest conversation about what you want or need from someone to form a relationship can leave you feeling that way. However, you open yourself up to so much potential by being vulnerable, but if you’d given up on it, love would be that little bit further away. Emma Seppälädiscusses this issue in her blog ‘Why Being Vulnerable is the Key to Intimacy’whereby she states that “the quality that makes a relationship last is its degree of affection and true affection implies vulnerability”.

Another key factor to getting the love you want is to know what you want, understand what you expect and only accept the relationships that fulfil this.  When it comes to relationship advice, we are littered with articles telling us what we should accept, what we should expect and telling us how we should feel. Whether it be contradictory advice of taking control as a woman or to follow traditional dating practices, right down to whether we should abide by strict first date rules. The truth of the matter is that in order to feel comfortable and happy in a relationship you need to understand what behaviours you are willing to accept and what kind of relationship you want to have, whilst remaining open to being vulnerable and meeting someone. Only then will others around you understand your expectations and adhere to them. 

Setting boundaries and having self-worth does not mean you relinquish all abilities to be open and forthcoming to new relationships nor does it allow you to exhibit controlling behaviour over others. It simply means that you are allowing yourself to have the right kind of relationships. Here are a few tips that may help you remain open to finding love but also keep hold of the standards you are looking for.

-       Communication is key, a concept that is outlined in the blog ‘Don’t lose a fantastic relationship to poor communication – understanding the differences between how men and women communicate’written by Dr Georgina Barnett. You need to express clearly and concisely as and when you feel a potential partner has treated you in a manner you find unacceptable. Here you can keep things light hearted, so as to get your point across but ensure any negative feelings are not amplified.

-       Internally process your own behaviour and ensure you are justified in your feelings. Sometimes we may over dramatize situations to validate how we are feeling, yet if we are mindful about what it is that has affected us then we are able to communicate this clearly to others. Conversely, we also need to ensure that our internal monologue does not turn into negative self-talk. “Negative self-talk is any inner dialogue you have with yourself that may be limiting your ability to believe in yourself and your own abilities, and reach your potential.” This was outlined by Elizabeth Scott, MSin her article ‘The Toxic Effects of Negative Self-Talk’.Whether we move to blaming or negative self-talk behaviours, both need to be addressed and we need to ensure we are taking an objective view or at least a realistic subjective one. 

-       Explain your thought process or your reasons as to why you feel the way you do e.g. I do not like the tone you used as it makes me feel belittled. This allows your potential partner an insight into your thought processes and will help them understand what you need from them. After all we are not mind readers and our true meanings can be altered through incorrect perceptions. 

Further to these tips, we have all heard the common phrase that in order to find love you must first love yourself and that having this self-worth is a pre-cursor to a wonderful relationship with a potential partner. However recent research has shown that yes, it is important to love yourself but that it is more important to have self-security. Self-security is defined as the open and non-judgmental acceptance of one's own weaknesses as discussed in the article ‘Accepting our weaknesses and enjoying better relationships: An initial examination of self-security’(Huang & Berenbaum, 2017). It is this honesty and acceptance with yourself that allows you to be open in relationships and also to be open to finding a relationship. Fully understanding yourself, having self-security, setting boundaries and taking an active role in finding a relationship is what will propel you towards a successful relationship.  

 This was supported by the research which found that self-security predicted relationship quality and that participants’ greater self-security significantly predicted experiencing less conflict and emotional distress in their relationships. We live the life that we accept, and this is the same for relationships. We have the type of relationship we accept and in order to ensure we are having successful, fulfilling ones you need to be with those who treat you the way you want to be treated. Mutual respect, understanding and clear communication will allow both you and a potential partner to learn and teach each other exactly what it is you want from your relationship and in turn prevent you from turning away from love.   

In conclusion, it is important to remember to live your life as a whole but to remain open to exploring a potential relationship and giving it the chance both you and the other person deserve. If things don’t work out, after you’ve been engaged with this person, then continue to be open to finding love. Just because you look for love for today and don’t find it, doesn’t mean it won’t turn up tomorrow.  Go at love with a realistic view, no it won’t be easy, but it will sure be worth it when you find someone you want to make the effort for. As the saying goes; If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.   

References

Huang, A. B., & Berenbaum, H. (2017). Accepting our weaknesses and enjoying better relationships: An initial examination of self-security. Personality and Individual Differences, 106, 64-70.

Seventy Thirty’s up to date, dating terms explained?

Today, there is a name for everything, so it’s only natural that new terms have been invented for everything to do with dating. These new terms include cuffing seasonghosting,hauntingand zombieing.  They reveal psychological processes that help us make sense of what’s happening in the dating world, so it’s worthwhile knowing what they mean. 

Let’s begin with a timely one – cuffing season. Cuffing season refers to the winter months, when people who are usually happily single start to seek a committed relationship. With the days getting shorter and the nights longer, the temperature dropping and the trees becoming bare, it’s the perfect time for cosy nights in with your loved one, building a relationship. It is the optimal time of year for past partners to creep up on you, too. If an ex-partner is single, they might try to come back you to spend these cosy nights in with you. Clinical psychologist Seth Meyersexplains that ‘our energy levels are lower during the colder weather and we are moodier’, so we have less motivation to organise interesting dates. This, coupled with poor winter weather, means we have fewer places to go and things to do. This makes us seek out an easier option, such as a past partner.   

This may help to explain why ghosting in relationships is on the rise. Ghosting refers to when an individual ‘disappears’ without a trace. One day, two people are communicating as normal, and the next, one of them just stops. Ghosting someone can be a way of avoiding your own emotional anguish. However, it can also be passive-aggressive and intentional; it’s a cowardly way to end a relationship. Researchhas shown that emotional rejection activates the same pathways in the brain as physical pain does (MacDonald & Leary, 2005). Being ghosted is painful and means the person who has been ghosted has no closure. They may have several questions for their partner – why did you do this? Don’t you love me any more? What went wrong? 

Some people are more likely to ghost than others. Researchhas shown that people with stronger ‘destiny’ beliefs (as opposed to growth beliefs) are more likely to ghost another person or intend to ghost (Freedman et al., 2018). Those who have ‘destiny’ beliefsbelieve that relationships succeed or fail because two people are either inherently compatible, or they’re not. If a problem were to arise, destiny theorists are more likely to conclude that the relationship was not meant to be rather than work to overcome these problems and find a solution; they are more likely to ghost someone than face the problem head-on. In contrast, people with growth beliefsthink that relationships thrive when people overcome challenges and obstacles; they think this helps the relationship to grow and develop. It’s important to remember that being ghosted says nothing about you, and everything about your ex. Move on to find your next potential match. 

While ghosting refers to current relationships ending abruptly, there are also terms to describe past partners creeping back into your life. This is done indirectly by haunting or directly by zombieing. 

Haunting refers to when – after a substantial amount of time and no communication – a past love begins to subtly resurface in your life. This is done, for example, by liking your posts on social media, which makes you think of them without them actively communicating with you. Why are they following me on social media? Why are they liking my posts? These ghosts from past relationships usually only stop haunting you when they have found someone else to fixate on. Unfortunately, there is noghostbusterthat we can call for you to get rid of them. So, keep an eye out and ensure you don’t engage with a haunting ex.

Zombieing differs from haunting in that it is an active way of an ex coming back into your life; it’s as if someone has just come back from the dead. They send a ‘Hey, how are you?’ message out of the blue and begin to communicate with you as if they only spoke to you yesterday. People tend to be zombied when the person who is zombieing is regretting their decision to end the relationship, or simply because they’re feeling bored and lonely. As it can bring back feelings of nostalgia,it can make you question why now, after all this time, when you are moving forward with your life, they have decided to come back into it. 

Haunting and zombieing can be psychologically draining, since getting over an ex is emotionally challenging. They’re both a form of control, and can prevent a vulnerable person from moving on with their life because they bring a sense of false hope that there’s a chance of getting back together. On the flip side, it may be genuine and your ex may be coming back into your life because they genuinely miss you. The key is to figure out why this is happening. Is your ex only thinking about his own emotions, or is he genuine? If they really want you back in their life, then you’d find out quite soon: they would apologise or try to win you back. If the same person ghosts, haunts or zombies you more than once, then it’s more than likely down to boredom. They’re trying to manipulate you and keep some control over you. It’s definitely time to move on. 

Let’s look at some more of the newer dating terms. 

 

Back-up scenarios

Cushioningis the act of actively pursuing someone who is already taken, keeping them close to you. Imagine the person you like is in a steady relationship. You don’t flirt with them but you talk to them regularly, you have inside jokes and shared memories, and you tag them on social media. But you have an ulterior motive. You are preparing to be their ‘cushion’ if things don’t work out with the person they’re with. Or you might prepare someone to be your ‘cushion’ if your current relationship ends – this can be seen as infidelity.

It’s best to have firm boundaries in place when you’re communicating with someone who is in a relationship. If you’re in a relationship, respect the person you’re with by not overstepping your boundaries. This will avoid cushioning. Cushioning is about putting a lot of effort into someone, with the hope it might lead somewhere. The opposite is breadcrumbing(or ‘Hansel and Gretteling’, after the fairy tale with the dark twist). This means sending out flirtatious, but noncommittal, text ‘breadcrumbs’ to lure someone in without expending a lot of effort. There is no point getting your hopes up about a breadcrumber; they’re just bored. 

The final back-up scenario is  benching, which is very common – and frustrating. Benchinghappens when someone is unsure about being in a relationship and doesn’t want to commit to you, so they stop contacting you and start cancelling dates at the last minute, making excuses not to meet up. However, they don’t want to commit to replacing you and end up regretting their decision so they keep you on the bench, just like a substitute in football. If they can’t find anything better or they finally decide they want you, they’ll take you off the bench. Be wary of people who do this: as quickly as they can take you off the bench, they can also move on to someone else. 

 

Appearances

When we talk about appearances, we mean how you present yourself to other people. Are you showing them your true self, a Photoshopped version, or a different person altogether? At Seventy Thirtywe discuss with our clients the importance of good, accurate photos and information. This does them justice by representing them in the best light, but still portrays an accurate representation of themselves. This brings us on to the next term,kittenfishing. Kittenfishing means showing inaccurate photos of yourself: for example, Photoshopped photos, photos using filters, or photos taken years ago that don’t show how you look now. It can even mean changing your personality depending on how you think your partner wants you to be, and lying about things you are interested in. Kittenfishing is more prevalent now than in previous years, due to an increase in the number ofappsthat can make you look slimmer, alter your skin tone and change your appearance with the click of a button. 

Even more extreme than kittenfishing is catfishing. This term originated from a 2010 film, and it often begins due to a lack of self-confidence. Individuals use a fake identity and someone else’s pictures for their profile on dating sites and social media, and go the extra mile to make another person believe their fake identity is actually them. They may become so engrossed in their lies and false reality that they can’t admit what they’ve done. Catfishing is psychologically damaging: if you’re catfished, you’ll find it harder to trust other people. It’s important to remember to be yourself when dating. There is no point in lying, as lies will catch up with you eventually. 

 

Hot and cold

If someone isn’t fully invested in you but doesn’t want to be without you, they may blow hot and cold – they may treat you inconsistently, sometimes being lovely, and at other times being nasty. 

Love bombingis when a relationship starts out as a whirlwind romance, all hearts and grand gestures. It is highly manipulative and can be a way to gain control over another person. They will tell you they love you very early on, and that they’ve never felt this way about anyone. You may be flattered, and think you feel the same about them – but when you start to reciprocate, they will lose interest in you. They enjoy the chase but as soon as they manage to catch the person they are after, they start looking for the next chase. 

The final term is known as stashingor Jekyll and Hyde-ing. ‘Stashing refers to the act of dating someone seriously, only to have them hide you away from everyone they know’ (Salaky, 2017). They are affectionate when they see you, but they don’t tell their friends and family about you, and don’t share pictures of you on their social media; they ‘stash’ you away. Maybe they’re benching you, maybe they’re cushioning someone else, but they are definitely not committing to you, so it’s time to move on to someone who wants to tell the world about your relationship.

It’s important to remember that people who act in any of these ways are only thinking abouttheirfeelings, not about the psychological effects their behaviour might have on another person. It is okay to feel pain, sadness and confusion if you’re treated like this, but to be able to move forward and continue the journey to find everlasting love, you need to find happiness within yourself. It can’t be dictated by someone else. To hear more on this topic, listen to our podcast,‘Are you up to date with dating terms?’ 

 

References

MacDonald, G. & Leary, M.R. (2005) ‘Why does social exclusion hurt? The relationship between social and physical pain.’ Psychological Bulletin131(2), 202.

Freedman, G., Powell, D.N., Le, B. & Williams, K.D. (2018) ‘Ghosting and destiny: Implicit theories of relationships predict beliefs about ghosting.’ Journal of Social and Personal Relationships,     https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0265407517748791.

Salaky, K. (2017) ‘Everything you need to know about the newest trend wrecking your dating life – stashing.’ Retrieved from http://uk.businessinsider.com/what-is-stashing-dating-trend-2017-8

How to Deal with Disillusionment

We’ve all been there, in a relationship that is going so well, you almost believe it’s too good to be true and then it is. Your partner says something or does something that shatters the illusion of the perfect relationship you thought you had. The rose-tinted glasses are thrown to the ground and it can leave you feeling exposed and vulnerable. Having our perceptions challenged in any context can bring confusion but coupled with a new romantic love, it can be a source of discomfort. But what is disillusionment? It can be referred to as the subsequent feeling of disappointment from the discovery that something is not as good as you once believed it to be or that your beliefs aren’t what they seemed to be.

Consequently, we often try our best to prevent our beliefs from being shattered and can even go as far as seeking out information that supports our principles. As Kaila, ‘The Healthy Helper’says in her blog ‘The importance of challenging your beliefs’, people can latch on to one way of thinking, criticising anything that doesn’t support the mindset that they are in, either in relation to their lifestyle or possibly their relationship. In fact, some even actively search out information that will support their illusions, just to hold onto that sense of security and comfort that believing what they think is correct and that their partner is this perfect person they’ve always been dreaming of brings. Our attempts of holding on to our impressions can even go as far as resulting in people getting irritated when someone tries to counter their opinion on their partner and offers a differing view. Demonstrating this shows more of a case of someone forcibly trying to take your rose-tinted glasses off for you as opposed to you being self-disillusioned. 

As much as we may want a ‘perfect’ relationship, the reality is at some point your partner is likely to do something that you don’t like, even if we choose to see what we want to see in our relationships. When we choose to make our beliefs our sole focus, it closes the door on having the ability to learn and grow in your relationships. It is important to remember that just because something doesn’t specifically align with what you believe about your partner, doesn’t make it wrong or bad. It just makes it different. It may seem uncomfortable or distressing to begin with but depending on what the situation is and what it is that has ‘burst your bubble’ so to speak, there are a number of ways you can respond to it and a multitude of directions your relationship can go. So, it is important to think of disillusionment as a chance to grow both in yourself and in your relationship. 

Therefore when conflict arises in a new relationship, it is often the first hurdle that you and your partner will have to overcome together. If your gut instinct is to usually cut and run at the first sign of any trouble, then you may be missing out on some potentially great relationships and yet if you are someone who becomes too amenable to certain behaviours, then you are again putting yourself at a disadvantage of finding a healthy, happy partnership. This is highlighted by Therapist, Sally Connollyin her blog ‘Running Away from Conflict’, whereby a compromise needs to be struck between two individuals in a relationships. This is because whilst fighting is not usually great for relationships, never talking about issues that have arisen and not resolving differences, is in fact far more detrimental for your relationship. When couples don’t resolve issues, they are more likely to grow distant from each other as they can end up feeling frustrated, upset and dissatisfied. Not feeling heard only exacerbates a feeling of being misunderstood, something that again will push you further from your partner. 

What can intensify the situation is when one or both of the individuals in the relationship exhibit an avoidant attachment type,  as it can worsen the issues discussed in my previous blog ‘The art of self-sabotage, too scared to find what you are looking for?’. This is because you steer yourself away from the reality of the situation in order to maintain a false reality of a perfect relationship that you deem to be ideal. Yet true love will never form if you are living in a falsehood and eventually the cracks will begin to show. Therefore, it is important to live in the relationship you have and not in a fairy-tale one you may dream off. Its not to say that your real relationship isn’t great but the way you think about your relationship and even how you form them can impact its success. For example, as discussed in our podcast ‘Are you up to date with dating terms?’we discuss that there are two contrasting sets of beliefs about the outcomes of romantic relationships. Those who endorse destiny theories believe that relationships succeed or fail because two people are either inherently compatible or not. When problems occur, destiny theorists are more likely to conclude that the relationship was “not meant to be”. They can also demonstrate increased behaviours they believe will reduce the chances of disillusionment. Whereas those who endorse growth theories, believe that relationships thrive when partners overcome challenges and obstacles. Thus, when problems arise, they put additional effort into making their relationship work.  

This is where self-management can come into play, ensuring your expectations are not excessively high can reduce the likelihood of disproportionate disappointment, ultimately reducing consequent negative feelings. If you become aware that you may follow a destiny theorists’ viewpoint, you can work to achieve this self- management. This is not to be confused with having a lack of awareness in what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour and what you are willing to accept in a relationship, but more to ensure that the standards you expect your relationship to follow are realistic. If we expect someone to behave perfectly, we will inevitably become discontented, whereas if we have an understanding that we are all human and makes mistakes, then it means that an entire relationship doesn’t have to get tarnished as the result of one situation. 

However, if you do feel like you’ve seen someone’s true colours, exhibited over a number of occasions, and they are very different to the person they made out to be in the beginning of the relationship, there are a few ways to tackle this. The first thing to do is to ensure you do not gloss over the issue. If they’ve said something, acted a certain way, exhibited a particular trait that displeases you, you have to acknowledge it. Once you are aware of it, you can challenge it, not in an aggressive fashion or in an inquisitory manner but exploratory. Express how you feel and then listen to their point of view, it could simply be a misunderstanding in perception and therefore you could give them the benefit of the doubt.  As Stephanie Sarkismentions in her blog ‘7 Keys to a Healthy and Happy Relationship’, arguing but not fighting “without name-calling or raising your voice” will help to resolve your issues and is therefore one of the key factors in maintaining a healthy and happy relationship. 

 Nevertheless, there has to be a balance in this, give someone the benefit of the doubt too many times and they soon ascertain they can get away with particular behaviours and if allowed to continue, it can progress into negative behaviour or even further into bullying behaviour.  In order to protect yourself from falling into repetitive potentially abusive behaviour, you mustn’t ignore red flags. A balance needs to be made between whether you have been disillusioned through instances where your partner has behaved in an unacceptable manner or whether they should be given a chance and you move on in the relationship. A key factor in keeping a balanced approach is to understand what you want and need from a relationship, this element is discussed in Nina Amir’sblog on ‘The Importance of Knowing What You Want’, where she states that having “clarity about what you desire keeps you moving toward” your goals. It is also important to remember that our desires are temporal and although some may last for may years, it is ok to amend what we are looking for as we grow. 

Nevertheless, only you can decide which route to go in life, what goals may change and whether you focus on having an authentic relationship, whereby you work with your partner to come through the other side of disillusionment.  What you must do however is just ensure whichever route you do follow, you go with a sense of self and an understanding that no-one is perfect and although you may feel an initial subsequent feeling of disappointment, to remember that disillusionment can be a chance for growth and enlightenment, about yourself, your partner and your relationship.     

Blame

Often, when any kind of relationship comes to an end, the easiest thing to do is to blame the other person; I lost my job because you didn’t support me, our relationship ended because you didn’t prioritise me, our friendship drifted apart because you didn’t call, and so on and so forth. There are of course times when these statements may very well be an accurate analysis of what happened, however more often than not both parties have played a role in the ultimate outcome and it is vital that you take responsibility for your actions. 

With the current political climate where everyone is looking to point the finger of blame, be it at Theresa Mayor Jeremy Corbyn, the “Brexiteers” or the “Remoaners”, we at Seventy Thirty felt now would be as good a time as any to explore the role of blame and responsibility in relationships.   

There has been much written about the impact of blame on a relationship and how not taking responsibility for your actions can lead to you continually repeating the same mistakes. If something is never your fault, why would you need to learn from the situation to make sure things would turn out differently next time; whether that be in business or everyday life.

Peter Bregman wrote a very informative article for the Harvard Business Revie won Why You Should Take the Blame and found that “To take the blame, you need to have confidence in yourself and your capability. You need the personal strength to accept failure. You need enough self-esteem to believe you can learn from your mistakes and succeed another day. You need to accept failure as part of life and not a final sentence on who you are as a person”.So, in any given situation, instead of instantly looking to see whose fault it is, take a moment to think, regardless of who is to ‘blame’, what role you played and how could you have done something differently. Stop trying to find all the different reasons as to why you are not responsible and instead try thinking that, actually, you may very well be the one at fault here so what can you do to rectify that.

When it comes to blame, individuals tend to go into defence mode and instantly hit out with ‘well if you didn’t do that, I wouldn’t have done this’ or ‘it’s your fault because…’ and then proceed to list a whole host of reasons, sometimes seen as justifications, as to why they themselves are blameless and responsibility for the breakdown of the relationship lies solely at the other person’s door. 

The danger with this attitude and approach is that you end up failing to grow. Instead of standing back and reflecting on what went wrong, what you could have done differently, and what you have learnt from that particular situation, you instead adopt a ‘woe is me’ attitude which can lead to loneliness and the end of a potentially fantastic relationship. After all, there is nothing attractive or inviting about spending time with someone who in their opinion is never at fault and who isn’t mature enough to take responsibility for the part they played. 

The term narcissist can sometimes be banded about all to easily without any real insight into the actual meaning of it; psychologist Rachel Sharpless wrote about Narcissism and found that a trait connected with NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) is an unwillingness to compromise and not seeing something from someone else’s perspective. This trait can also be linked to how some people approach blame for any given situation in a relationship; the ‘it’s not me it’s you’ approach. Narcissism can also involve delusions of grandeur where someone struggles to comprehend the very idea that they are the one in the wrong.  Blaming others for your actions is also an aspect closely linked to NPD. So again, we must consider our role as individuals when it comes to apportioning blame and to not always assume that you are the ‘victim’. 

Neil Farber writes about 5 Ways Blaming Hurts Relationships and makes reference to “the use of “I” statements that reflect your feelings – “I feel hurt or sad when you do this,” rather than “you” blaming statements – “you always do that,” are more likely to evoke emotions that bring us together rather than tear us apart”.Accepting and understanding the part you played can help resolve the conflict sooner. Whilst it’s important to consider how any particular situation affects you and how that subsequently makes you feel, it can be advisable not to be defensive, automatically assuming the role of ‘victim’ and to instead consider how your actions affected the other person. 

Christian Maciel wrote about the 14 Signs Someone Is Always Playing The Victim and found amongst other things, that “people that believe they are victims tend to push friends, family and co-workers away”.This can often be the biggest side effect of not having the ability to take responsibility for your actions and instead constantly playing the blame game. Afterall there are only so many times your support network; be it friends, family, colleagues or a partner, will continually see the situation from your point of view and agree that you are consistently ‘blameless’. Eventually they will start to wonder if perhaps the error lies with your approach to the situation and if its time you realised that. After all, none of us are perfect and therefore its simply not possible for us to always be right and to always be the ‘victim’. So, if you find you are forever having to justify to others why you are so hard done by and why ‘everyone is always against you’, it may be time to take yourself out of the victim role and into the mindset of a mature, responsible adult who wants to learn from every situation they find themselves in, be it good or bad. 

In life, we make decisions and we live with the consequences. Sometimes these will lead to fantastic opportunities that will shape the person we are today, but sometimes they will lead to the loss of a relationship due to something we could have done differently. It is in these times, that a period of reflection is required so that we can learn, grow and not repeat the same mistakes. 

Try to stop yourself from using someone’s goodwill gestures of the past where they have tried to help you, as justifications as to why they are now at fault. For example, ‘in the past you’ve always supported me on this so now you’re not, it’s your fault’. Or, ‘you always helped me before so why won’t you now?’. 

So in conclusion, when it comes to relationships past, consider asking yourself the following questions: What role did I play in this situation? Is there a chance that I too am at fault rather than solely just the other person? Would things have been different if I acted in a more respectful and thoughtful manner towards the other person? All of these questions can help you: identify the patterns with past relationships that you want, or in some cases do not want to repeat, what this experience has taught you about your needs in a relationship, and if you have any faults or weaknesses in a relationship which should be addressed. 

The important thing to remember is to take responsibility and to own the decisions you make. Don’t hide behind always blaming others, hidden meanings in conversations or online quotes you post about continuously being the one who’s hard done by. Instead, take the lead, accept what’s happened and allow it to help you to become the bigger person and therefore a better partner in the future.