Sometimes its easier to lock up than let love in

You’re in the first stages of a new love. Your heart is racing, palms are sweating, and you’re finding it hard to think about anything other than them. As much as you try to stop them, they run through your mind and tug at your thoughts. Your concentration goes out the window. The deeply buried optimist in you starts to wonder - could this finally be it? Hope - wonderful, terrifying hope starts to build inside of you. Should you let it? 

And that’s when the doubt sets in. 

Love, to those who have been hurt in the past, is like a war. Imagine a castle, with two fearsome armies laying siege on either side, each trying to break through to the heart locked in the dungeons below. Half of you wants to believe that this could be it – you know theoretically that you are deserving of love, and you know for certain that you have love to give. You know that love is what you want, what you have always wanted, and yet- 

Are they right for you? Are you right for them? You pick them apart trying to find reasons not to let them in, and when you are looking, you will always find something. They have an annoying habit that you couldn’t possibly put up with for the rest of your life in wedded matrimony. It’s almost a relief to find something – for it’s far easier to shut someone out than to let someone in.  It is easier to wallow in the familiar misery of disappointment than let yourself believe that this person could, maybe, actually make you happy.

Trust is a difficult skill to learn, and an even more difficult one to master. But it starts with making a leap of faith. It requires an intelligence – knowing who is worthy of your faith and who isn’t. You can never know for certain if you don’t try. Maybe they will let you down – or maybe they won’t. And really what’s the worst that could happen? You’ve survived every heartbreak you’ve had so far and come out stronger. 

Maybe they aren’t perfect. We can swipe to find the next one, never moving forward, placating ourselves with superficial connections and endless first dates. Convince ourselves that we really are trying, our eyes firmly on the greener grass on the distant other side. We forget that we have to work to build relationships, which are getting harder and harder to build with each day that passes. In a disconnected society constantly exposed to perfection, we see celebrity couples living idealistic lives on screen, look at ourselves and wonder what we’re doing wrong. But nothing is ever perfect. Real love is built on compromise and trust – seeing your partners flaws and accepting them anyway. Imagine how it would feel for someone to love not only your picture-perfect side but all the worst things about you too. 

In the end, completely unconditional and trusting love is worth the risk of heartbreak. So, what have you got to lose? 

Summer loving happened so fast, summer loving did it last?

The weather warms up, we spend more time outdoors, more time with our friends and we’re exposed to more people.  The chances of meeting someone surge but will that increase the likelihood of finding a long term committed relationship?  Warm weather has been known to influence human behaviour, with a particular demonstration in the context of increasing aggression (Anderson et al, 2000) but is there any impact when it comes to romantic relationships and if so how long does it last? 

Temperatures rise in the summer months (British weather permitting!) and so do the number of age-old summer romances. Summer romances are renowned for being short and sweet, but can they stand the test of time? Quickly established, summer romances can often seem like a whirlwind and with the indirect impact of warmer weather increasing mood, couples frequently overlook any red flags under the pretence of its summer fun. However, any romantic link has the potential to go the distance, whether that connection be made in the summer months or winter and with potential can come relationships.  This can be shown at the point where summer is drawing to a close. 

Known to some as the ‘cuffing season’ - the period during the autumn and winter months in which singletons are most likely to seek a serious relationship, and therefore the point where summer romances are either moved swiftly into relationships or cooled off. Summer romances are now under scrutiny, is this person someone you can see a relationship with, do they want the same? Its important to remember that you shouldn’t rush into a new relationship simply because you do not want to be alone but equally as important to give people the opportunity to show who they really are, as opposed to labelling them as a ‘summer fling’, when in fact there could be great potential for it to move forward. 

In conclusion, residual effects of good weather can trickle into how we feel and consequently impact how we approach potential relationships. With a positive attitude and an increase in contact with possible partners, there is likely to be an increase in the chance of a relationship. Whether that relationship lasts through the ‘cuffing season’ completely depends on the dynamic you have with your partner, something that is irrespective of the time of year. It’s important to remember that long term relationships can form through a range of ways, whether that be from friendship, slow burners or summer romances. They key is to give love a chance, however it first presents itself. 

 

References 

Anderson, C. A., Anderson, K. B., Dorr, N., DeNeve, K. M., & Flanagan, M. (2000). Temperature and aggression. In Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 32, pp. 63-133). Academic Press.

Anxiety in Relationships: how to recognise and deal with it!

Being in a relationship can be the best feeling in the world. Finding ‘The One’ is like reaching the long distant light at the end of the dating tunnel. It’s normal to experience relationship anxiety during the early stages of a relationship. We are plagued by questions such as ‘do they like me?’ ‘do I like them?’ ‘will this work out?’. Unfortunately for those who suffer from anxiety, these fears are unlikely to be assuaged as time goes on. In fact, as couples grow closer, anxiety can heighten as the stakes get higher. So how do we recognise anxiety within ourselves and how do we handle it? 

To some degree, all of us suffer from a fear of intimacy. No one enjoys being hurt, rejected or discarded, but we cope with this fear in a variety of different ways. Some of us will overcompensate for our fear by smothering our partners with affection, and others will detach or avoid so that they never have to run the risk at all. Fear of intimacy can be fuelled by a negative inner monologue, which can promote unhealthy reactions such as hostile and paranoid thinking, distrust, defensiveness and jealousy, all while lowering self-esteem and confidence – ironically two traits that are consistently rated as being highly desirable and attractive in a partner. 

The key principle of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is that through challenging negative cognition, we can break the cycle of negative thinking and subsequently change our behaviours. However, before we can challenge our negative thinking in the context of a relationship, we have to first allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Being in a relationship involves putting yourself out there and running the risk of being hurt. We must first accept that this hurt may happen and that this is okay. We, humans, are much more resilient to suffering than we give ourselves credit for. If we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and accept the risk of being hurt, we protect ourselves from letting one awry affirmative act on our partner's behalf bringing the whole house of cards tumbling down. 

Allowing yourself to be vulnerable comes along with letting your partner help you. Communication, as always, is key. However, it can be hard to let your partner know how to help you if you don’t know yourself. Find the right balance between opening up and not becoming entirely emotionally reliant on your significant other. It’s important to remember to take their feelings into account as well – relationships are a two-way street and it is very likely that your partner has fears, worries, and concerns of their own. 

If left unchecked, anxiety can create distance in relationships. Anxious thoughts are distracting and can prevent us from really relating to our partner. In practice, they can snowball and leave you feeling insecure. You might act out against your partner based on these irrational thoughts, which in turn can set your partner off, effectively creating the distance that you initially feared. We are much more resilient than we think – and can handle the hurts and rejections we so fear. Humans have an incredible capacity to heal, and, an incredible capacity to love. 

Stay tuned for part two – discussing how to deal with a partner who is anxious in a positive and healthy dynamic 

Set relationship goals

When it comes to relationships, many people expect fate to throw them in the path of their perfect partner. More people fail to make a relationship work because they think romance should ‘just happen’ than for any other reason. The fact is, people who are successful at maintaining an amazing relationship are proactive and positive about it. Somehow it doesn’t seem ‘sexy’ to think about goal-setting in terms of relationships. We grow up reading fairy tales such as Cinderella, we watch romantic movies, and at no point does the romantic lead ever sit down and write a list of relationship goals – it doesn’t fit the romantic image we dream of. The irony is, setting relationship goals is the best way to create your ‘happy ever after’. In every other area of your life in which you want to achieve something you would set goals, make plans and take action, so why should romance be any different?

Be clear about what you want from your partner and relationship

Start by defining a few key needs you’re not prepared to compromise on in your partner or relationship. It might be trust, kindness or a sense of fun, for example. Then think further about your key preferences in terms of the lifestyle you would like to have. This is not about creating a ‘made to order’ list of requirements, but about being clear about what you want – and what you don’t want.

Set goals: what do you want to achieve?

Do you long to go out more with your partner? Have more fun together? Create more intimacy? Develop more common interests or a particular lifestyle? Improve communication within the relationship? Get married and have children? Be clear about not just the type of relationship you would like to have, but also your vision of the future and how you would like your relationship to be.

Plan for your goals using the SMART approach (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound). Will you create date nights, factor in more time to talk, or make more time for intimacy? Whatever you decide, make sure your plans are SMART so that you can make yourself accountable and track progress.

Take action

Whatever you plan, make sure that you now take action. Make it happen. Taking action towards your goals will give you a magnetic energy which will draw the two of you together. Take steps towards your goals every day and be positive in the face of any set-backs. Remember, the people whose relationships are the most successful are people who are proactive, aware and positive in their approach, whether this is to find a partner or to create a magical relationship. As the old adage goes, ‘true love isn’t found; it’s built.’

Remember, we are conditioned to believe that we need to find one ‘perfect’ person who will meet all our needs for the rest of our life. The problem that many people have in terms of meeting suitable partners is that they confuse ‘perfect for them’ with ‘perfect’. There is no such thing as a perfect person. None of us is, and expecting partners to be perfect will only result in disappointment. Stop expecting your partner to be perfect, or to fulfil your every need, and instead be open and willing to work on building the relationship that is perfect for you.

Make your goals specific

Setting specific goals in a relationship can help to ensure that you are on the same page as a couple – and it also helps to keep the relationship vibrant rather than static. There is also more chance that the relationship will succeed over the long term if a couple has shared values and their individual, relationship and long-term goals are complementary. Goal-setting not only helps to outline what each person wants from the relationship; it also means you have the support of another person who understands you and what you are trying to achieve. 

Outlining goals can help couples understand what’s important to them both, and creates intimacy in the relationship as it encourages open and transparent communication. The key point is to make sure these goals move beyond the general (‘I want us to be happy’) to the specific (‘I want us to learn how to fight fairly and apologise to each other’).

To ensure that you are a good fit with your chosen partner, here are some of the things to think about when approaching love in this way.

·      What are your short-term goals?

·      What are your long-term goals?

·      Where do you see yourself in six months? A year? Ten years?

·      Which areas of your life are you willing to make compromises in?

·      Which aspects of yourself are you not willing to change? Why? (This will help you to enter a relationship with a better sense of your own identity and what you most value about yourself.)

·      Do you want children?

Once you have defined realistic goals, then you can work as a couple to put steps in place to make the relationship work. If you have different visions, you may need to work together, communicate and look at ways that you can both compromise. Make time to reassess your individual and relationship goals, as these can change over time, and you need to make sure that both people in the relationship feel that their needs are continuing to be met.

Though you must understand your partner’s goals, you also have to take into account your needs. Taking a pragmatic approach to love and having more realistic expectations of relationships can actually be empowering. This doesn’t mean that chemistry, lust and attraction are not necessary; it’s about making sure you have the best chance at love. When a person addresses their own needs, this tends to increase their self-esteem and confidence. Therefore, if you approach love in this way you are more likely to meet people who will be compatible with you, as well as increasing the chance of your relationship working out.

How the statement ‘I would like’ can change your relationship.

As we become an ever-growing individualistic society, it can be easy for us to fall into habits and thinking patterns that put us before others.  This can greatly affect the relationships we have with those around us, particularly with our romantic partners. If we tackle every situation with our partners with the mind-set of ‘how this will benefit me’, then your relationship will falter. Of course, there needs to be an element of ‘how this will affect me’, but this is very different from consistently asking yourself what you are gaining. 

As individuals, we all have an internal monologue, a conversation with ourselves. We may understand what we are telling ourselves but unless we express this in an open and clear fashion, how are we to expect anyone else to know what it is going on inside our heads. An element of a successful relationship is the ability to establish your needs and to communicate them in a manner that your partner will understand. This is where the difference comes into play, in respect to thinking in either a way of ‘how will this benefit me’ versus ‘how will this affect me’.  You can establish your needs in a relationship and build an understanding of how certain behaviours your partner exhibits will affect you and whether your partner is willing to listen and appreciate how these behaviours impact you and the relationship and vice versa. This is in comparison to someone stating what they want with no thought for their partner and simply trying to gain as much from the relationship without consideration of how their behaviours will affect their partner. 

Compromise, another element of a successful relationship, is something that can assure you approach your relationship asking what you would like from a relationship as opposed to ‘I want’ which can come across as dismissive. Of course, a balance has to be made, there needs to be an element of putting forward what you are looking for in your relationship but a tactic in how you do this.  Practicing the use of ‘I would like’ puts across a decisive but open to discussion air to communication and will allow you and your partner to build a relationship that is formed from both your perspectives. Further to that, ‘I’ statements, in general, allow you to take ownership of your feelings and your needs and gives you the control to express them in a calm way. When using ‘you’ to start off statements to your partner, it puts blame on them, driving a wedge between the two of you and limiting the likelihood of them listening to you.  

So, when you are next approaching your partner with a topic of conversation or something you would like to address in your relationship, try using ‘I would like’ whilst remaining open to hearing your partners perspective. All of which should allow for clear communication and a relationship of equality.