Beyond the limerence phase in the early stages of a relationship, couples can struggle to develop and maintain a long-term relationship.
Falling madly in love with your other half is exciting, set rollicking in motion, drunk on the idea that our “missing piece” has been found, supposedly “set for life.” I must be with them to be happy...so we think.
Everyone wants to be comforted, loved, and cared for. The hopped-up dose of the “early infatuation” hormone cocktail is quite truthfully the most habit-forming drug on earth, meaning we ride the wave of joy and wellbeing, ignoring the rocks of our new partner’s less admirable qualities underneath.
What’s behind the curtain?
Thinking more critically, our partner is really attracted to a projection of us or an idealised version of who they think we might be. We no longer see each other clearly. Here, the cocktail is wearing off, so now we see the things we don’t like so much. Sometimes, we can feel like we’ve made an error. They might have annoying habits, like leaving the mug next to the dishwasher or putting their clothes on the floor next to the basket. Or maybe they're struggling to navigate bigger stressors in life. Brave faced.
Suddenly, the focus swings the other way. Now, we only see what we don’t like in our partner. We might try to change them. In time our negativity bias kicks in and we only see their bad qualities, not the good ones that are still there.
In an ideal world, self-compassion kicks in, when we notice these less admirable aspects of our other half. In consoling ourselves, we come to the realisation that we can soothe our disappointment or distress and meet that need by ourselves.
The Beginning of Self Compassion for Couples
Stemming from our feelings of comfort, a sense of calmness and composure appears, allowing us to see our partner again more clearly. It becomes a science experiment, picking them apart with curiosity to notice everything, from the parts we like or dislike to who this person is and what is meaningful to them.
Now they exist solely for us outside our realm of likes and dislikes, no longer as an extension of ourselves, so we see them as they truly are. We can accept and love them for who they are. The bottom line is, we don’t have to be good to be loved. We all long for unconditional love and understanding.
Let our values be the wheel
Think about what your partner is and who they are. What might be meaningful to them? What is meaningful to you? Be curious and open to understanding in a deeper way what is fundamental and matters to you. The ones that overlap are your “core relational values” that function similar to the steering wheel. These values can keep us on course together but then can also help us back to new discoveries when we have drifted off.
Connect with Joy
Knowing and supporting our partner’s core values allows us to experience their joy with anything in alignment with those values. We can truly celebrate with them! We can be joyful together. You especially, knowing that our loved one is truly happy. We don’t have to sacrifice connection for freedom.
Michelle Becker https://centerformsc.org/when-the-dopamine-blinders-come-off-self-compassion-is-there/