All relationships go through a “honeymoon” stage. If they didn’t, the human race in western society would probably have died out by now. Falling in love doesn’t require a lot of effort and we see it as a good thing (if we’re single and hoping to meet the right person with whom to spend our lives.) Meeting someone who shares our interests, values, goals as well as listening to our opinions is one of life’s great pleasures. The euphoria of romantic love seems to blind us to the reality about another person or our own desires.  While other couples may have conflict, most newly marrieds believe they are going to be different and this blissful sense of togetherness is going to last forever.

How many women have told their new ‘perfect soul mate’ how much they loved football (when in reality it’s the most boring thing they’ve ever watched)? Is such a woman lying? Well, yes she is. Initially, watching a game with him is exciting (but it’s the being with him that she finds exciting – not the game!) When we say what we think our partner wants to hear, we are actually lying. People are often willing to put their own interests and opinions on hold to continue enjoying that feeling of togetherness. What if he goes and buys her a season ticket? He may feel bewildered if she seems less than enthusiastic and grateful for his generosity. If we hide our own true feelings about things, are we being dishonest? Yes, we are, with both our partner and ourselves.

Potential problems that arise during the honeymoon phase occur when people never want to let go of that stage. They try to continue holding on to the deception that the relationship is perfect and all fulfilling. Others may completely avoid any disagreement or conflict. Such a couple who avoid conflict may see every disagreement as a major threat, so “lie” to avoid any conflict. Doing this is problematic as it can shield the relationship from necessary growing pains. So am I saying a couple should argue about every disagreement? Absolutely not, but it is helpful to learn to discuss them. Just a word about conflict avoidance – it can be a learned from parents or it can also be a strategy used by those who grew up in high conflict homes. Sometimes a couple can be so concerned with not upsetting one another, that neither get what they want.

We all need to do a reality check at times. Every couple will have differences of opinions, values, interests and goals. Partners will frustrate and even disappoint one another sometimes. These are not bad things to be avoided, but can be opportunities to grow closer to each other and develop effective communication strategies. That can be really uncomfortable, but it is a sign that a relationship is growing, not dying. None of us want to live in an emotional vacuum!

Jenny Billingham

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