How to get through bad patches in a relationship
I actually disagree that there is such a thing as a bad patch in a relationship. Every relationship is made up of individual moments, which are guided by how each person in the relationship is feeling at that particular moment. However, a lot of couples refer to a consistent spell of negative emotions in their relationship as a “bad patch”. There are several ways to become more conscious about these situations and ultimately decide how best to rectify them…
The main cause of bad emotions in a relationship:
The main catalyst for negative emotions in a relationship and what constitutes for 99% of those emotions is a feeling of inadequate validation from your partner, or to put it another way, not feeling loved enough!
Think back to all the times you have felt even the slightest bit of resentment towards your partner and I imagine you can make relate to the concept of not feeling loved or respected. Even seemingly trivial acts in a relationship can contribute towards this. Something inconsequential such as your partner not showing enough interest in something you’ve achieved, or your partner not taking the time to understand your point of view can incite these initial feelings of underlying resentment. Even a justifiable reason from your partner, such as being overwhelmed or busy, cannot counteract the stirring emotions.
Remember that this goes both ways. Make sure you’re never biased when trying to analyse a situation relevant to the above.
Think before you act:
The thing that distinguishes a discussion from an argument, even if both are on the exact same topic, is the level of negative emotion. This is almost always due to not allowing enough time for one’s emotions to settle and to rationalise respective viewpoints into a format that can be discussed.
The reason I argue so rarely with my girlfriend is because I always allow myself this time to think about my feelings, instead of blowing off and acting irrationally in the moment.
If a point needs to be said, then it needs to be said, but conveying your point through arguments and raised voices is extremely counter-productive. It makes both parties angry and less willing to actually take on board the points. Subsequent feelings of resentment are inevitable.
Talk it through:
Expanding on from the previous point, I do believe that disputes and negative emotions need to be discussed if that’s the way you prefer to deal with them. However, you want to do this once you are both in a calm and unoccupied state and your feelings have already been rationalised. A mutual desire to calmly discuss the issue is the first step to avoid accidently shifting back into argument mode.
You want to be especially careful to present your points as personal feelings without blame. The moment any kind of accusatory language appears is when the other half of the relationship starts to feel victimised and disrespected.
Don’t let little things get on your nerves:
I often mention about having standards in a relationship but I think we can all agree that this does not include the little, insignificant quirks and attributes your partner no doubt has. Embrace these things; they are what make your partner special and unique!
A well-known proverb is “familiarity breeds contempt” and you have to accept that the longer you spend in a relationship with someone – especially if you decide to live together – the more likely there are to be little things that annoy you.
Key differences between male and female psychology:
A lot of bad patches in relationships can be attributed to a communication breakdown. The truth is that many couples argue as if they are arguing with someone of the same gender and despite modern culture wanting males and females to be equal, gender research still highlights substantial differences between male and female psychology.
A book that delves into this aspect of psychology in a non-technical way is the best-selling relationship book, Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus by John Gray. Although this book is very mainstream and the majority of its content is not particularly groundbreaking, the section on how men and women communicate differently is brilliant.
I’d strongly recommend reading the book if the topic is of interest to you. The key points to take from it are that men communicate through logic and solutions whilst women communicate through emotions and empathy. These are obviously gross generalisations but I’ve found they are largely true for the many people I have met in my life.
Refresh the relationship:
If talking through your feelings with your partner has not improved a bad patch, then some other practical solutions will be required.
Relationships become stale and unfulfilling when they get stuck in a routine. I’m aware that with variables such as kids and demanding jobs, a routine is often a necessity, but if you want to rectify a relationship that is going sour, you have to refresh it in some way. Presumably it was fresh when it first started!
Try and frequently do new and exciting things that break away from the standard routine. These can be trips away or new hobbies. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive so use your imagination for ways you can achieve this.
Take unmonitored time out:
Time out is often a good thing but a lot people blow this concept out of proportion by making a statement out of it, or worse, using the dreaded words, “we’re on a break!”
You don’t need to proclaim that you are taking time out to revitalise yourself; you just need to do it! Be busy, fulfil your mind and the next time you see your partner, it is unlikely you will be in the same emotional state as before.
Reassess why you are together:
I’ve written before about how attractive of a mentality of abundance towards relationships is but the fact of the matter is that a lot of people are too scared to apply it.
If you are in a relationship then take a moment to look back at the key attributes that attracted you to one another in the first place. Now see if they still hold true. I believe that no person is worth compromising your values and desires for and I outlined this in the article Steps for finding the perfect partner.
I rarely advise couples to break up – it should be there decision alone – but if you’ve read through this article looking for solutions and haven’t discovered any that work for you, then perhaps it is time to reassess why you are in the relationship.
Remember that even the most ostensibly perfect relationships have hiccups and unpleasant moments. It is working through those moments and reducing how often they occur that leads to a consistently happy relationship. 🙂
Oh my. I can not believe how many stark realizations I had whilst reading this Samuel. I have been guilty of so many of your points in the past. Luckily I think I have found my dream man now but you still highlighted many points that I think I knew deep down but never wanted to admit. All the best. Cass @supernan
I’m glad you found this article useful. 🙂 I’ve thought long and hard about ‘levels of consciousness’ in relationships and it’s something I intend to write about in the future. I think it’s useful to know these sorts of theories whilst in a relationship but it is equally important to approach each situation as independent and use intuition as a primary basis for actions. 🙂
Thanks for your comment,
A really useful piece, Samuel. I’d like to add (if I may) that it’s often really hard for couples to come down after the initial high of their ‘in love’ phase has worn off. I’ve been reading about ‘Imago’ theory and therapy – http://imago.com.au/WhatIsImago.php developed by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. I haven’t looked into it deeply, but it’s really quite fascinating and useful – lots of stuff about the power struggle that goes on once the relationship has become established and the way we tell ourselves stories in our heads about each other.
Thankyou so much for the link, it was a really interesting read. 🙂
My mother is a health visitor and parenting advisor so we’ve had many in depth discussions about the psychology surrounding early development. I’ve never comprehensively related this early development to relationships and choice of partner before though.
Although I agree that these kind of adaptations and connections exist, I’ve always promoted personal development as a means to achieve couple development, which over time aims to void the original adaptations.
The bit I enjoyed the most from that article was distinguishing the three stages of romantic love. The ‘power struggle’ stage is something that I consistently see amongst evolving relationships and I think it’s managing and getting through that stage in particular that signifies a truly fulfilling relationship. 🙂
I also loved the quotes at the bottom of the article. 🙂
Thankyou for your comment and link Helen,
Great read! I am going through a shocking time in my relationship at the moment and finding it difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Your words rang very true on many levels for me and I could see that my partner could rationalise with what you have written also, so I copied and pasted it to him to read over at his leisure! Thank goodness for people like you who just need to write a few words of wisdom to make those who feel trapped see a little common sense! I’m now going to read about power struggles!!!
Many Thanks! 🙂
Thankyou for your kind words, 🙂
Yes I would recommend reading up on the ‘power struggle’ in a relationship. I believe it is only when a couple are unanimously and consciously aware of such a stage in a relationship that they can progress through it, so it is also good that you’ve involved your partner in this research.
Some couples stumble upon these realisations through consequence but the ones that don’t are part of the reason that we have such a high divorce rate these days, which is saddening. It’s so great that you’re keen on actively improving your relationship.
Do keep in touch… My e-mail address is near the top of this page. 🙂
Me and my girlfriend have been going out for a year now and we fight alot and were both really mean to each other sometimes and today she was awful to me and i was pretty awful to her and i just get mad real easily n so does she u just need some advice to help me and her have a long lasting relationship forever i just dont want us to fight anymore and and treat each other bad so what can i do please send me something back!
The first thing you need to do is look deeply into WHY you are fighting and arguing… Are there any recurring themes?
Once a couple get into the routine of arguing their points and emotions, it becomes a downward spiral, so you want to catch the start of these moments early (either with effort from your partner too or take the lead yourself if she doesn’t seem willing to do so) and allow yourself a lot more ‘cooling off’ time before getting into the trap of being mean to each other automatically.
Emotions can be changed in an instant, so when you catch your girlfriend being mean to you, try and make a big effort to resist the temptation to retaliate.
All the best,
This Piece Was Really Helpful For Me, Unfortunately Me And My Boyfriend Still Aren’t Doing As Good, Lots Of Stress And I’m Not Sure What To Do.. I’ve read This Overr And Over But Not Sure How To Apply It Again** To Him. It Takes Two People For A Relationship And I Feel Like I’m The Only One In It..
Whilst it may take two people to make a relationship work, you are in control of how you feel, react and respond when you are with your boyfriend.
Rather than battle for understanding and improvements, you can take it upon yourself to inspire and enlighten your boyfriend’s attitude towards the relationship. It may seem easier if you are putting in mutual effort towards the relationship but sometimes one person needs a bit more initial guidance to really start to instigate changes.
In fact, even if a bad patch is mutually recognised, it is usually one person who is instrumental in turning things around and making sure to avoid getting roped back into any negativity on a day to day basis.
If you continue to personally work on the aspects of the relationship that you feel need improving, whilst also making an effort to be happy and positive around your boyfriend as often as possible, I’m sure he will start to follow suit.
All the best,
Sam hi name is aj I would love to ask you a few questions if possible can you please email at the provided email of possible thank you.
If your questions are related to the above article then feel free to ask them here. If you would prefer to email me then please use the Contact page at the top of the website.
Bear in mind that I receive a lot of emails and therefore it might take me a short while to respond, but I do respond to every email I receive eventually. 🙂
If you would like ongoing communication of have lots of questions, I do offer a priority email service for a small fee, where I can guarantee a 24 hour response rate and more in-depth answers. Again, please use the Contact page if you are interested in that.
I look forward to hearing from you,
So I for some reason can’t control my self when I text other girls besides my gf and it is destroying my relationship. When I text other girls I guess you could say I flirt with them but I don’t know how to stop myself from doing that, do you have any advice.
The thing to distinguish between is flirting as a means for socialising, and flirting with intent to attract and seduce. There is nothing wrong with the former and it is essentially a part of your personality. The latter, however, introduces a layer of deception that would be unacceptable in most relationships. If you ever find yourself introducing sexualisation or not being clear about your relationship status where it would be natural to do so, then there is an underlying intent.
Either way, talk to your girlfriend about this honestly. Let her know what aspects of flirting are natural, internalised parts of your personality and find out what your respective boundaries are towards flirting. Think about how you would feel if the roles were reversed and your girlfriend was talking to other men in a similar fashion to the texts you mention. I personally do not mind my girlfriend innocently flirting with other men because I know it makes her a more attractive, fun and sociable person all round.
It is all about knowing each other’s true desires and levels of intent, and trusting that they are honest about them. In your case it is firstly about making sure you are honest with yourself about what the flirting actually signifies.
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