When Your Relationship Loses its "New"

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Q:

Dear Dr. Darcy:

Lately, my girlfriend and I fight constantly. I don’t know how this happened because we used to get along so well but suddenly like within the last couple of months, everything she says pisses me off and judging from the way she snaps at me, I’m guessing I evoke the same feeling in her. She’s constantly criticizing what I do and then complains when I don’t want to touch her at night. How am I supposed to forget what a bitch she is during the day and have sex at night?

Now she’s saying that if we don’t start having sex daily, she’s going to break up because she didn’t sign up for a sexless relationship and we’ve only been dating 7 months. She’s totally threatening to abandon me at this point. I’m not sure this can be fixed but I’m paralyzed with fear over losing her. And did I mention she refuses to go to couples counseling?  Is this hopeless?

A:

It’s not hopeless. It’s normal.

You’ve recently exited the Honeymoon Stage of your relationship, which generally lasts between 6-months and 2 years, and you’re now in the Organic Love Stage. Welcome, and I’m sorry.

The Organic Love Stage  is when the intoxication from the honeymoon begins to wear off and is replaced with love and safety, which sounds amazing, except for 2 things:

  1. Love without relationship skills is never enough. Truly. Never. And since no one teaches us relationship skills, most people don’t have the tools needed to handle the next part of Organic Love...

  2. Safety causes us to unconsciously test our newfound love, and that’s where the fighting begins.

In the Honeymoon Stage, you were inundated with neurochemicals that caused you to see your partner through a lens of roses. The infatuation you felt was something that happened to you - not something you had to work for by having relationship skills.  

In Organic Love, the love is real, but you haven’t learned how to resolve problems yet - because there were no problems in the Honeymoon Stage. The love is raw and immature because you’re used to experiencing love as an emotion rather than as an emotion that results from behaving mindfully which then promotes the emotion of love.

Organic Love is where most relationships live and die. If they live, the couple tends to exist in a state of warfare, endlessly criticizing and fighting with one another, or the relationship better resembles a cold war where partners are sexless, quietly hostile, devoid of warmth and are likely sleeping in separate rooms.

The Organic Love Stage is natural and it occurs because there’s trust between you which is allowing you each to engage in some unconscious testing:  You want her to be nice and in exchange, you’ll give her sex – she wants to have sex and in exchange, she’ll be nice.

If you’re to get through this stage and transition to the Mindful Love Stage (the promised land), you’re going to have to cultivate some compassion for one another and practice the art of feeling annoyed and not acting on it.

Every thought that comes into your head doesn’t have to be expressed. And every feeling that you have doesn’t need to register on your face. Some things are better left unexpressed because, in the final analysis, they really don’t matter.

Which brings me to my last thought: When you’re fighting about everything, you’re actually fighting about nothing.  The things that are provoking conflict are likely historical. You need to get your asses into couple’s counseling - otherwise, you’ll become a statistic.

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