do a very brief recap of our last article: Romantic Love, AKA Limerance, is what
Katy Perry is singing about in her song I Kissed A Girl:
Us girls we are so magical
Soft skin, red lips, so kissable
resist so touchable
Too good to deny it
That is definitely
romantic love mixed with a good bit of lust. It's the place where the world is
wonderful, she is the woman of your dreams, the sex is incredible and you're doing
it nonstop like wild rabbits, and it will be like this forever. This stage lasts
from six months to one and a half or two years.
The Power Struggle, AKA Adjusting to Reality, is where flossing her teeth at a
fancy restaurant is no longer cute, cutting her toenails and leaving them on the
coffee table in the living room is just flat-out gross, and you start to hate
picking her dirty underwear up off the bathroom floor. You may feel like you have
given in too much, and that you need to set your boundaries. Fears of intimacy
show up and disagreements, fighting, sarcasm and resentments start to form. You
can get through this stage, but it does take work.
Re-evaluation, AKA Transformation, is about realizing that you do care enough
about this person to want a real relationship with her. You realize that a good
relationship takes work, compromise, self-change and cooperation, and learn to
work toward making the relationship physically, emotionally and verbally safe
for you both.
You do this by learning new ways to communicate, including
arguing effectively, creating a safe environment, and becoming partners in healing
rather than partners who are constantly negative toward each other. This can start
as small arguments, then fighting, which can move into raging. The arguing and
fighting will happen, even yelling at times, but to work on the relationship you
want, and not focus only on the issues of what you don't like about your relationship
and your partner, you must look at your contributions to the issues.
You and/or your partner may continue to feel afraid, angry or any number of nasty
feelings. One or both of you may push against making changes, sometimes at the
same time and sometimes at different times. The point is that you each decide
that this is a cooperative effort, and that you have to take responsibility for
yourselves, and stop pointing fingers at each other. To be right means someone
must be wrong. This places us back into a power struggle. It is about owning our
own behavior, and not taking someone else's inventory for them.
affair begins at this point, then it can be an iffy proposition for the original
relationship to recover from. The affair will be in the romantic stage and has
too much excitement, in comparison to the struggling relationship that may seem
as if it needs to be flushed down the toilet. If the affair is ended and the couple
works to save their relationship, too much damage may have been done as extra
resentments are added for both parties to deal with.
To move forward,
you must work on new coping tools and skills to help yourself create the relationship
you both want. Look to people who have "been that and are done there"
like couples that have been together and happy for at least a decade or more.
Ask them how they made it through the good and bad times. You can also look for
relationship self-help books, read them and do the exercises together. Think about
your parent's relationship(s) and see what dynamics you are playing out in your
own life that are similar or the same. For example, your parents fought all the
time and now you hear things they said coming out of your own mouth. Are the themes
of the arguments the same? Did one or both of your parents have affairs and now
you are doing the same thing by looking outside of the relationship to "fix"
or escape yours?
Look at how YOU contribute to the problems with your
attitudes, statements and body language. If you're into team sports, you must
discuss the game plan, practice the moves and work together to win the game. You
must do the same thing with a relationship.
When you are in a relationship,
it is like being on a team. Sometimes there are ways you need to improve your
own skills, and sometimes you need to work together. Sometimes you need a coach
to point out the things you can't see when you are in the middle of an intense
If you need a coach to help you, consider therapy as a means to
get through this stage. Most couples don't seek counseling until they're at a
point when things have gone too far, and too much water is under the bridge. They
need help in breaking up at that point. Don't wait to decide that therapy is an
answer if nothing else works. Go early on in the process
Reconciliation or Real Love happens if your relationship makes it through
the third stage. This is where the two of you begin to come back together again.
You put away the past hurts, and she starts looking good to you again. Your desire
for each other heats up again, and you can now work toward becoming true partners.
Differences and conflicts are seen through new eyes, you've been through
the war, and you see what's at stake. You do love her, and this love can make
it! It's at this point that you understand that there will always be differences,
after all you are two unique human beings, and you can't change the other person.
The relationship becomes satisfying on new levels, and the intimacy between you
is not just physical but emotional as well. You may begin to realize that you
each have been projecting your own issues on each other.
You always assumed she was trying to take over your interests and/or
hobbies, and you finally figure out that she was simply looking for common ground
for you both to bond.
You always assumed you would be abandoned because
one of your parents bailed on you, and because of that you put up walls, and didn't
let her in, assuming she would eventually leave.
Or, because of your
own past issues, you have thoughts of leaving when things get tough instead of
toughing it out to find solutions.
Eventually, you realize that conflicts
are a part of a growing relationship, and life will never be conflict free. At
this point you can reach an understanding that conflict is a means of growth,
and not the terrible risk you once thought it was. You have your needs and she
has hers, and you must find a way to meet them in healthy ways.
love to play softball but you hate it. The solution may be she joins a softball
league, and you go watch her play. During this stage, you may see that she is
as committed as you to be the loving couple you each envisioned yourselves to
Stage Five: Real Love or Acceptance. In this last stage both of you
can reconcile your needs and the needs of the relationship, and work out compromises.
Each person takes responsibility for her desires, decisions and behaviors, while
creating loving support for her partner. You work to maintain a balance between
being independent and being in a partnership. You have learned to have respect,
passion, intimacy and you are happy to join your life with your partner's. Conflicts
are resolved with less fear and more confidence, because you now know that you
can work through these problems and come out stronger in the end. Always remember
that these stages are fluid, and we can go back and forth from one stage to another,
even going back to ones we've already visited. Sometimes we can even get stuck
in a stage. It is possible for one partner to be in one stage, and the other partner
to be in another, so you have to work as a team to win this game. Again, sometimes
it takes an outsider to see the issues.
We hope that this two-part article
has in some way helped you see that each relationship has its problems, and that
there is no relationship that stays romantic forever. The process to reach real
love can take time to achieve. Nothing worth having is easy, and you can have
the relationship you want, but it will take work, patience and follow-through.
You just need to be patient and forgiving with your partner and yourself, and
always remember that life is really about the journey, not the destination. For
more help with your relationship, be sure to see our book "Relationship
Advice for Lesbians and Bisexual Women."