Does this sound familiar?
You meet someone, are immediately attracted, and fall head over heels in love with them.
And for a while it is exciting and fulfilling. You’re on top of the world.
But then things slowly start to devolve. At first, it’s little annoyances, then you catch yourself getting in bad moods more often. You start to fight, promises are broken and you begin to realize that you’re stuck in a never-ending unhappiness cycle, wondering how things got so bad so fast.
And then what can you do?
San Francisco Psychologist Dr. Ann Schiebert has a novel recommendation for you.
“Write up a joint statement of values that identifies each person’s likes, dislikes, expectations, values, dreams, goals, and boundaries,” she says. “Have both parties sign it. If a relationship is consistently unhappy for one or both parties, include a statement about how the couple will end the relationship.”
As a clinical psychologist with over 25 years of experience, she has developed a novel approach to romantic relationships that is changing lives significantly, especially when the relationship goes bad.
“You have options. You can sign on a relationship contract that says love, honor and cherish,” she says. “You can also strike the “obey” part if you want to. The point is to create a relationship contract that feels valuing and kind to both parties”.
In Let’s Make a Contract – Getting Through Unhappy Romantic Relationships, Dr. Schiebert draws upon the wisdom and personal experiences she acquired, and skillfully takes the mystery out of the many lessons learned during her many years of practice. She describes how to discover why you’re unhappy, why you stay unhappy, and how to boost the chances of achieving a fulfilling romance.
“People in unhappy romantic relationships bury their inner self – that part of them that says “this doesn’t feel good,” or “that was unkind,” or “I feel so demeaned and disrespected,” and, “I really don’t like this person very much.” We think that our “loved” one changed and wonder why we didn’t see it before it got bad”.
She identifies five primary ways to prevent this from occurring:
1. Don’t let yourself fall in love with strangers. Even when you are looking for love, you have to keep an eye on your hormones and body chemistry to prevent the “love cocktail” (oxytocin, PEA, dopamine and norepinephrine) from driving your bus. You want to allow your better instincts to exercise caution and protect you from getting into the wrong type of relationship with the wrong type of person. So, stay in control of your emotions and your actions.
2. Don’t bury the truth that you know very little about the person you just fell in love with. Realize that it takes time to learn and understand the personality, history, and character of a person you “love.” You need time to identify the attributes, talents, skills, personality traits that the object of your desire may and may not have. Pay attention, identify, and then write down the things you really have in common, the things you like and don’t like, the goals you each have, and the things you want and don’t want.
3.Identify specifically what makes you feel loved. Be specific. Embrace every single idea or behavior. Describe the things that really do make you feel loved and appreciated.
4.Pay equal attention to identifying the qualities and behaviors that you don’t like. Take off the rose-colored glasses. Look for and notice traits you don’t like in people and carry this NO list with you. If a potential partner hits on one of those hot buttons, pay attention! Do not ignore the warning signs and alarms that go off. Recognize them. Acknowledge them. Get ready to tackle them.
5.Don’t allow value violations. You will know when you feel you have been disrespected because you will feel anxious, unhappy, fearful, or demeaned by some interaction with your “loved” one. Realize that you will feel lousy and may be unable to express the words to explain exactly why. Don’t avoid or put off a discussion about your feelings no matter how uncomfortable or painful the conversation may be. It is time for problem solving – not eternal suffering.
6.Don’t ignore your personal boundaries. If each unhappy encounter becomes a shovel full of hurt feelings, sadness, frustration, self-recrimination and powerlessness that buries all the good feelings that you experienced, you can rightfully see the real person – and realize they are not a match. Don’t let things get so bad that you feel helpless to create change in the relationship. You still have the opportunity to make the changes you need.
Does your relationship feel buried in unhappiness? How do you go from burial to resurrection? Believe what you see. Trust your feelings and reactions. Know your red flags and deal breakers and respect them because if YOU don’t, no one else will.
1. Take your time and really get to know a person. Learn about the “love cocktail” and do not turn your life over to it. Realize that falling in love is a passing phase that lasts about six months. Thus, make sure that you take that six months to get to know a potential romantic partner.
2. Believe reality when people show you who they really are – the first time. Maya Angelou’s says it right… “what you see is what you get.” Forget the idea that “what I see that I don’t like, I can change.” It ain’t gonna happen!
3. Base your relationship on values not chemistry. Know what your values are and find out what your potential relationship partners’ value are. Are they similar and compatible or not? Document these carefully and share them with each other. Like values are one of the best foundations for happy romantic relationships. Most of the suffering in our unhappy romantic relationships occurs when a partner disregards your values. Knowing them in advance often prevents the violation from occurring.
4. Never give a pass to abhorrent behavior. Never give rudeness, insults, verbal, emotional, or physical abuse a “pass”. If you do, you give your abuser permission to continue on. Don’t even think that promises and/or make-up sex are the foundation and path to healing from hurtful actions. You must use therapy, problem solving, and discovering what happens that makes you feel unhappy to provide you with the right solutions.
5. Be authentic and be true to yourself at all times. Honor it. Respect it. It is the mix of all your talents, thoughts, hopes, and dreams. Do not sacrifice your true self for someone who does not respect and honor it.