This benchmark could signal the beginning of a more successful relationship.
So, you've fallen in love — you're all in.
You're spending the rest of your life with the perfect person.
They're everything you ever dreamed of …until they're not.
Look out - here comes disillusionment.
Most couples go through it because it's hard to avoid.
Once you start living with someone, you see behind the curtain - the good times get mixed with the bad, and something's got to give.
Sometimes it's the whole relationship.
Statistics from The Gottman Institute show:
- Couples whose dynamic includes criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling can predict early divorce, generally five and a half years after the wedding.
- The average couple waits six years before getting professional help.
- Half of all marriages that end do so in the first seven years.
- In the first three years after a new baby comes, 67% of couples experience a drop in happiness.
But disillusionment doesn't always equal disenchantment.
Disenchantment happens when you give up too much for your partner, go into denial about dealbreakers, or tether yourself to someone who's just plain wrong for you.
In that case, disillusionment is more like seeing the light and facing the truth.
But what about when you're with "the one"?
When you adore the person you're with, but they just can't live up to the character you've seen in your rose-colored glasses?
Because I think we all see the best in our partners when we first fall in love - we see the best to the exclusion of everything else.
It's called idealization, and we all do it.
Because in the beginning, when things are hot n' heavy, you can't help yourself.
You get infatuated - it's science!
When you fall in love, a biochemical process happens in your brain, similar to addiction.
This is why you can feel high on love when it's fresh and new.
The chemicals are:
And we're at their mercy.
It's why you're so irritating to your friends when you're freshly in love.
You think you're subtly romantic when you're actually stinking drunk at a party for two.
Because intense love can actually have symptoms, including:
- Nervous excitement - followed by cold sweats and flushing
- Tingling stomach and also shivers and heart palpitations
- Tunnel vision focused on your partner
- Extreme feelings of dependency
- The desire to be "one" with your partner
- Intense feelings of anxiety and euphoria
And it comes on so strong; you forget it can't last.
Nothing that intense can.
So, as we get a little more settled in, reality starts showing itself, and that's when you can get into trouble if you're not prepared.
It can feel like withdrawal.
It can feel like a bigger problem than it is.
But even though you see things you didn't see before (and might not like), it doesn't necessarily mean your relationship is broken.
It might just be going through a transition.
I understand because I've been through it.
When I fell in love with my husband, I idolized him.
He loved and validated me. He nurtured and took care of me. Those were things I'd never experienced before.
But the real reason I fell for him is that he's fierce and brave.
He's fearless and reacts lightning fast in a crisis:
- Driving his parents and sister home from a family function in his early 20's, he averted a collision with an out-of-control tar truck on a highway. He still doesn't really know how he did it except that everything went into slow motion, and it felt like he was watching a movie.
- Another time while working a landscaping job, he saved a coworker from being crushed by an unsecured boulder. When he heard the man call for help, he grabbed a metal rod and wedged himself between the rock and his friend, holding it until they could get help.
That all happened before we met, but I've also witnessed the hero in him spring into action.
A few years back, during a trip to the sugar bush with our daughter, an unfortunate accident happened that could have quickly turned tragic.
For those unfamiliar, this interactive, outdoor attraction takes you on a walking tour of the history of maple syrup making.
It's a popular fall family outing where I live.
Open fire pits dot forest pathways with people dressed in period costumes reenacting how maple syrup was made in the "olden days."
Most of the people who work there are teenagers who do it as a part-time job.
As we came upon one of the exhibits, a young worker caught her 1800's style dress on fire.
She was in shock, staring down at the flames licking higher and higher up her skirt.
It caught my husband's eye, and in a split second, he dropped our brand new camera and raced over to her.
At that moment, there was nothing but the girl and him.
He ripped the costume off, balled it up in his bare hands, and stomped out the flame (she had pants on under it).
That's the kind of person my husband is.
He's a fierce, fast-acting hero who switches into overdrive the instant he sees a call to action.
And even though I love that about him, I also hate it.
It makes me feel safe and protected when used for my benefit, but there's a flip side to this trait that I'm not so crazy about.
There's always a big bang when that hero-fuse gets lit, but, unfortunately, his fight or flight response gets triggered when we fight.
So with him, a fight always begins with fireworks.
When we first got together, I hadn't considered how this part of his personality could affect me negatively. How could I when we never fought?
So you can imagine my surprise, the first time he went off on me.
Those early fights were the beginning of the disillusionment that took him from hero to human.
I understand how he operates now, but those explosions were scary for me in the beginning.
I had to admit to myself that he wasn't perfect.
So I made a choice.
I chose to let go of my expectations.
I had promised to love him, and if I was going to love him, I had to love and accept all of him.
Now that I know more about his early life experiences and what's shaped him, I understand why he's wired the way he is.
It was a defense mechanism developed very early in life to help him cope, and it became a hardwired part of who he is.
I accepted that part of him, but I didn't resign myself to it. It was something we needed to work on - together.
It meant me that meant watching my own triggers, trying not to trigger him, and practicing loving detachment.
Loving detachment can help you work out your disillusionment issues by:
- Setting appropriate boundaries
- Accepting reality
- Keeping you in the present
- Making you responsible for your own needs and feelings
- Avoiding unnecessary drama
It also meant me standing up for myself despite his force and learning to be a stronger advocate for myself.
For him, it meant practicing mindfulness, working on his temper, and addressing his past.
We also worked together proactively to create a fighting style that works for both of us.
This was especially important in the beginning when we both still didn't know what to expect from each other.
We set rules and boundaries for fighting and did our best to always stick to them to work towards a more healthy way to resolve conflict.
Because we've always had complete trust, we became great sparring partners, and we've both changed and grown.
We've both learned to communicate better and be more vulnerable.
There have been some hiccups along the way, but I know I'm a better person now.
But be careful.
Acceptance isn't denial.
They might look the same from the outside, but they make you feel much different on the inside.
If you're forcing yourself to accept something that you shouldn't, that's not good.
But when you really love someone, and they're good for you, it feels good to accept everything about them.
It creates a safe space where you can both be who you are without shame.
Then you can work on yourselves with enthusiasm — not because you're ashamed or afraid of abandonment but because you want to be happier and emotionally closer.
Because you both want to do better and be better, for each other and yourselves.
When you do this, your relationship becomes a sacred space for both of you.
But don't feel bad if yours is going through growing pains.
You're not alone. I know I wasn't.
Almost every friend I have has said the same thing about their partner.
It's a universal paradox; the thing you love about someone can also be the thing you hate:
- Easy-going people can be unhelpful.
- Fierce people can be aggressive.
- Charismatic people can be manipulative.
- Sensitive people can be fragile.
Think about yourself. Do you have a strength that becomes a liability now and again?
I'm a helper, which also makes me a sucker. So people take advantage of me.
I'm also passionate, and I speak my mind. The flip side is that I shoot my mouth off without thinking, and I have a hard time knowing when to shut up.
My husband accepts me even when my qualities backfire.
So, here's my advice for anyone navigating the stormy seas of disillusionment:
- Recognize the idealized person you fell in love with is actually a human being with flaws and faults living inside the facade you built in your mind.
- Embrace your partner for who they are and take the good with the bad, especially if the good and bad are two sides of the same coin.
- Take comfort, knowing this is a normal part of any long-term relationship and your first step towards acceptance and unconditional love.
And take heart this benchmark could signal the beginning of long-term happiness and a more successful relationship.
It makes everything more real and honest and creates a safe space for both people.
By getting past disillusionment and practicing acceptance, you can work on the issues that trip you up to deepen and strengthen your bond.
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