There came that moment in their relationship where she stood in front of the mirror and said, ‘I don’t want to be his girlfriend all my life.’ When one of the two seeks to move to ‘a next stage’, whether it is moving together, getting engaged, getting married or undertaking a project that involves radical changes, it is normal that fears and insecurities arise that, if poorly managed, can lead to the end of the relationship. Worse yet, they can build a toxic relationship dynamic.
If you feel identified with this situation, do not despair! Experts in couples therapy give you these tips for relationships to take a step ‘further’ effectively.
1. Analyze what the expectations are
Both you and your partner need to be clear about your expectations and watch out for whether or not they change. “Most couple conflicts come from unfulfilled expectations, but, above all, from discovering others that had not been communicated,” explains María, a family and couple psychologist and author of the book Intelligence in Couple.
From how each expects to be treated by the other, what is generally desired from the relationship, who will make breakfast or who will pay for household services to deeper issues such as affection, sexuality, whether they will be monogamous or not, if they are looking to have children and when… Anyway: the ranges of expectations should be defined as specifically as possible. That is why analyzing them is the first step in establishing any committed relationship.
As Maria says: “We are largely disappointed or satisfied with life together, depending on how closely what is happening matches what we expect or what we think should happen. Expectations can lead to complete disappointment and frustration or to a deeper connection and more intimacy between the two of you. “
2. Don’t be silent
When a person feels stuck in a relationship that does not seem to evolve, one of the most common mistakes they make is to remain silent and suffer.
This generates, according to Nelly Rojas, a couples therapist, that during problematic encounters “outbursts” are generated in which the other person is blamed for their own discomfort. It is also common to constantly divert the problem.
In fact, for Rojas, the lack of an effective conversation is the fundamental problem of any couple at any point in their relationship.
“Talking is extremely important because that is where it will be evident how they are going to handle the spheres that make up a romantic relationship: affection, sex, communication and money,” she explains.
For example, If a couple wants to move under the same roof, they will probably both have to discuss how this will affect the economic and material dimension, as well as the effective one.
If they want to open the relationship, they will also bring up the sexual and affective dimensions. “If one of these spheres is not treated, the relationship may become unbalanced and generate more conflicts,” warns the therapist.
The fundamental thing is that when talking, you have to be open to accepting the difference; understand that living with a partner is not equivalent to demanding that both of you think in the same way when faced with a situation.
“Most couples have not been educated for that either at home or at school, so there is a fight for being right, fights based on intolerance and lack of empathy,” explains Nelly Rojas.
3. Identify why you feel stuck
You may be wondering how soon a person should bring up the topic of “stagnation” to their partner. Wouldn’t it be very intense to talk so much about so many concerns?
All relationships have their own communication patterns, explains María Elena, but it is even more important to talk about this when one of the two feels that it is an issue that could attract conflict or that it is prohibited in some way.
The expert says that, in her experience as a therapist, she has seen that other ideal situations to bring up the discussion are if what they are experiencing is not in correspondence with the goals they have in mind, if they feel that they live in monotony, boring, or if you feel like you have a “brotherly” relationship rather than a romantic one.
4. Be your own priority
Accept the need for change honestly, attend to your feelings, and acknowledge your own limits. “Each one must work on their self-esteem before committing to take an important step,” says therapist Nelly Rojas, who has been working in relationships for 35 years.
Strengthening your self-esteem will prevent possible manipulations from your partner and allow unrealistic expectations regarding taking a next step.
Be careful: never go to a more committed stage of a relationship if you have not solved problems that could carry over into your life as a couple.
The arrangement is not to take refuge in change, not even in situations as delicate as depression. This was demonstrated by a study published in the journal PscyhologyToday that invites us not to confuse “the honeymoon effect” (a temporary happiness that comes with a new union or marriage) with a resolution of personal problems.
For example, “the problems of ties between parents and children or the unhealed guilt of previous romantic relationships, if not resolved, tend to transfer to conflicts that are reflected in the life of the couple,” adds Rojas.
5. Lose the fear of losing
The idea is not to avoid problems during the changes that a couple may go through, but to face them on time and with sincerity.
So try not to get carried away by the fear that the relationship will end if you believe, for some reason, that the requests you want to make of your partner may harm them in this regard.
In this type of process, having empathy with the other and validating their claims is key to not demanding unrealistic situations, regardless of the outcome of the transition that you want to carry out.
“Otherwise, forcing situations that do not work or are considered harmful for both you and your partner is a form of manipulation that will manifest itself in other types of frustrations that are more problematic in the long term,” explains Rojas.
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