Couples Therapy, Marriage GrowthRelationships mature over time.

The initial attraction may be physical, and this may carry the relationship for some time to the point of making an emotional commitment. Then the excitement and promise of sharing our life with another person can lead to a stage of heightened expectations where we ignore or minimize the discomfort that we may feel from time to time in the relationship.

But this stage comes to an end and we finally express our frustration. “Why are you always telling me what to do?” “Can’t you give me any time to myself?” “Don’t you know who I am?” “Why don’t you shower me with love like you used to?”  Notice in these examples that blame is cast on the other person. The one hurling the blame does not look within (for example, “I have difficulty because of my own issues when someone tells me what to do.”).

This is a particularly vulnerable stage in the course of an emotionally committed relationship, can serve as a make or break challenge. It is at this stage that an equilibrium – or, more accurately, a standoff – is reached by the two partners. “I won’t challenge you and you won’t challenge me, and we’ll just accept the fact that we will be distant from each other.”

In contrast, healthier relationships move into a different and more mature stage – where both partners look within to find the source of their own anxiety, find ways to soothe themselves without trying to change the other person, and learn to accept and love the other person despite their frustrating quirks. When this occurs, and when the distance between the partners has been resolved, the genuine excitement and passion of the relationship can continue to flourish – this time in a mature, accepting, and integrated manner.

Dr. Baya Mebarek, Psy.D.,LMFT