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Love on the Rocks

Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD - Blogs
By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhDPsychologistFebruary 17, 2016
From the WebMD Archives

Being in love can make you feel like you’re floating – like a helium balloon moving freely in the clouds. But, when that balloon pops, it is a long way down – and hitting the ground is painful, really painful.

People go to great lengths to avoid this kind of pain. They deny the seriousness of growing relationship problems. They hang on, praying that one day the relationship will just go back to the way it was. And they do what they can to avoid more conflict, which often means avoiding their partner. The result is that the strain in their relationship grows. Someone cheats, they live parallel lives, or their relationship becomes increasingly explosive. None of it is good.

If this describes your path, consider an alternative route. Think about confronting the problems honestly earlier in the relationship – like right now.

How you should go about confronting the problems depends on the current state of your relationship – whether the relationship is already “on the rocks” or just headed that direction:

On the rocks: If you know in your heart that your relationship is over, then end it. There is no good time to do this – you will always be able to find a reason to put it off, such as waiting until after a winter vacation or Memorial Day – or even National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day. Of course you need to use good judgment (don’t end things on your partner’s birthday), but continuing to put off that final conversation is just prolonging the agony and making your situation worse.

You may find it helpful to prepare yourself for this ending. Talk with a friend to get support for your decision and to plan out what you want to say. Also, think about  what you will do after the relationship is officially over. You may want time alone to grieve the relationship, but also schedule fun activities and share with friends who will be supportive when you are struggling.

Headed for the rocks: Be honest with yourself about the seriousness of your problems. Then be honest with your partner. The longer you wait to do this, the more strained your relationship will become and the less likely the two of you will be able to get your relationship back on solid ground.

Before talking with your partner, consciously think about what you love about them and the good times you’ve enjoyed together. By doing this, you are more likely to approach your partner in a constructive “let’s fix this together” way. Then consider the current problems and the changes you and your partner can make to improve your relationship.  Finally, talk with your partner at a calm time when they are most likely to be open to the discussion. Also, keep in mind that this very important topic will need to be part of an ongoing conversation.

Again, you might want to talk with supportive friends to help you keep the problems in perspective and find the best way to work through them with your partner.

See the rocks from distance: If you are generally happy in your relationship, now is the time to address problems that arise. Yes, it’s okay to let some things go without addressing them. But if you keep going back to them in your head or certain upsetting patterns are becoming clear, discuss them. While it won’t be pleasant, you’ll be taking care of issues before they threaten your relationship.

Entries for the Relationships blog are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for individual professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need help for an emotional or behavioral problem, please seek the assistance of a psychologist or other qualified mental health professional.

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About the Author
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

Dr. Becker-Phelps is a licensed psychologist in NJ and NY, and is on staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset. She is dedicated to helping people understand themselves and what they need to do to become emotionally and psychologically healthy. She accomplishes this through her work as a psychotherapist, speaker and writer. She is the author of Bouncing Back from Rejection and Insecure in Love.

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