Resilient Relationships

Four wooden block that spell "love". The purpose is to build resilience in relationships

Healthy relationships don’t just happen. Relationship building depends on so many factors that help or hinder how things go between you and your honey. Almost all of us have been in unsuccessful relationships multiple times.  Research tells us that about 85% of romantic connections fail. 85 % is a huge number. However, as a culture, we are optimistic.  Most of us keep trying to get relationships right, even after we have had our hearts trampled.  This is true even if we have experienced anxiety or depression after a break-up. This get up and do it again attitude is part of being resilient.

I have gleaned some wisdom, first hand, with my own break up history.  But more of my knowledge comes from working with clients for over 25 years. Listening to their dolorous laments and then their optimistic campaigns to begin again is always fascinating. In fact, many times people leave a painful relationship just so they can be available if anything better should present itself. They haven’t even recovered, but already are hoping for a new connection.

Healthy and Content Relationships

So, break-ups can be a devastating event. At the same time, a break-up can be educational and can lead you to a better romantic future if you are willing to learn from the experience. Maybe the information can help you with relationship building skills. This maybe should be at the top of your list of what to do after a break-up.

Getting it right in a forever sort of way is harder than ever according to Ester Perel. She is a therapist, author and lecturer who has studied traditional marriage and erotic desire in her practice and research. During her interview on Fresh Air on NPR in Dec of 2017 she said, 

Relationship expectations are at an all-time high. We want everything that we expected in traditional marriage in terms of companionship and economic support and family life and social status; and then we also want what the romantic marriage brought us, which was a sense of belonging and connection and intimacy and a best friend and a trusted confidant and a passionate lover. And then we now also want self-fulfillment in our relationships and we want to find a “soul mate,” a word that for most of history was reserved to God.” 

Ester Perel

Let’s Go Back To The Beginning

My clients will often say that they wish they could to go back to the beginning of their relationship. They describe the beginning as wonderful.  Often, a client will hang-on through some really rough times in hopes of getting back to the way things were when they first fell in love.  Most couples do experience a happy period, at first. This happy state is sometimes referred to as “Limerence”.


Learn more about the term limerence

The term  Limerence was coined by Dorothy Tennov . She was an American psychologist who introduced the idea in her book, Love and Limerence – the Experience of Being in Love published in 1979.  Limerence refers to,

“the state of being infatuated or obsessed with another person, typically experienced involuntarily and characterized by a strong desire for reciprocation of one’s feelings but not primarily for a sexual relationship.”  

Dorothy Tennov

Tennov’s research was based on interviews with thousands of people who described the same feelings of euphoria which lasted an average of 24 months during the first part of a relationship.

Is Extending Limerence a Good Idea?

Treating each other well is a must.  Doing so nurtures positive transactions and a healthy connection. But sustaining Limerence over a long period of time might wear you out.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea that early pair-bonding usually brings out the best in us.  When you are first seeing each other, you are likely to do everything you can to be your best self.  Who wouldn’t fall in love with that?  You are more likely to make that person a priority, to learn everything you can about them, listen to them, do thoughtful things, take their side, show respect. But eventually, you will settle into a more relaxed interaction.  This part is critical. You will fall back into “your old habits.” So, make sure your habits are good ones.

If you cultivate habits that turn you into someone that is fun and safe to live with, most things should be good. The limerence part? Well, that might not hold up to reality and it might be exhausting to always try to be “on.” What can you learn from being in Limerence? Try to incorporate some of the thoughtfulness and energy you used to bring with you.

Myriam Mayshark is a licensed mental health therapist in New York state.

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