The Happiness Connection  

Alone together

Many of my conversations over the past few weeks have been about relationship challenges that surfaced during the holiday season.

Just like life, relationships are journeys. They rarely stand still for long because the people in them are continually growing and changing. Just like life, it is up to you to decide how you are going to react to the circumstances your relationship presents you with.

While speaking at an event a few days ago, I shared one of my marital stories.

We had only been married for a couple of years when my husband came home from work and said he wanted to go on a boys’ ski holiday with a few of his mates.

His words may have been about skiing in France, but my brain heard, “I want a divorce.”

I cried for days thinking that my husband didn’t love me any more. My parents had never gone on separate holidays and as they were my model for marriage, I jumped to a conclusion that wasn’t accurate.

Healthy relationships go through three distinct stages.

The first stage is when you want to spend every minute together. You may even feel a physical ache if you are apart for too long. I call this the honeymoon phase. This is a time when you are not only eager to merge your lives, you are more tolerant and willing to accept your partner’s quirky/annoying ways.

I once told a boyfriend that I loved hearing him snore. It let me know he was there. Unfortunately, my husband didn’t snore when we were in the first stage, so he only got “Roll over!”

The honeymoon phase doesn’t last forever. If you believe it will, you will be disappointed. Honeymoon phase junkies tend to constantly move in and out of relationships, searching for something that is not designed to last forever.

The second stage comes with a need to step back from the bubble of love, and become more involved with the bigger picture of life. This is a time when you want to return to your own interests, friends, and the world around you.

This urge to step back from your relationship does not mean you no longer love your partner, or don’t want to be with them, you just don’t want to be only with them. It is an adjustment, a natural process.

The third and most satisfying stage arrives when you successfully find a balance between connection and separation that suits you both.

Rarely do couples arrive at the stepping back stage at the same time. One person still wants to spend every minute together, while the other one is ready to turn to their individual interests and dreams.

It doesn’t help that the relationships in fairy tales play such a big role in how we perceive what marriage should be like. The happily ever after belief encourages couples to keep the tough times strictly private. They only seem to share what is working well.

For the unsuspecting person who is looking at other people’s marriages, the good ones seem to only have one stage. When their own honeymoon phase ends, they think that spells the end of the relationship.

My husband was ready to move into stage two before I was. Because neither of us had ever heard about the stages of a relationship, I thought he didn’t care about me any more, and he thought – I’m not sure what he thought. I suspect he thought I was being clingy and ridiculous.

Conflict is bound to arise as you move toward the second stage, especially if one person is ready to transfer before the other one.

Relationships can get caught in a never-ending cycle of conflict if they get stuck in the second stage. You will never be able to move to the satisfaction of stage three if you can’t find a way to establish balance between connection and separation.

These stuck marriages may turn into power struggles between the person advocating togetherness, and the one advocating individuality.

There isn’t a magic formula or one size fits all answer to the balance dilemma. Every relationship is different. Some happy couples seem to spend most of their time apart, while others thrive creating a life of togetherness.

Your relationship is unique, and it is up to you and your partner to find a split that works for both of you. When you get it right, you will feel that you have equal parts couple and individual.

If you wonder whether you have moved into stage three, or want to know what to work on to if you are stuck in stage two, here are some of the characteristics of being in a balanced relationship.

Rather than feeling the marriage, or your individuality is more important, you both honour and protect connection and separation equally.

You are advocates for each other’s individuality, and encourage your partner to have separate interests and chase their dreams.

High quality times happen regularly and predictably because you know innately this makes you both feel safe and secure in your relationship. Knowing you have time together makes it easier to have time apart.

You take time to ensure your partner trusts you, feels seen, and knows they are a priority.

My husband and I were stuck in stage two for many, many years, and as a result, we accumulated baggage that had to be dealt with before we could find balance and move into stage three. The good news is that we were able to do that.

I don’t say this because I want to brag; I say this because I want you to know it is possible.

“If I knew then what I know now,” has never been truer than when I reflect on my reaction to my husband wanting to go skiing without me.

A little knowledge can go a long way. Take this knowledge and look at your relationship.

I hope it can help prepare you for stage two, help you move into stage three, or let you smile with satisfaction, knowing you have already arrived.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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