**This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as witnessed and told to me by a former client who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.
They were compatible on paper. Both loved reading and dining out and had a mutual passion for travel. They even shared the same taste in music. So when they met through a mutual friend, it seemed like fate.
But not long after becoming an official couple, things started to unravel. She would withdraw from him, only to come back a few days later apologizing and begging for forgiveness. This happened again and again until he recognized the pattern.
“It was like walking on eggshells,” he said. “I never knew when she would pull away.”
Eventually, he had had enough. “She threatened to break up with me every year around the same time. It was almost like she had a timer set,” he said. “The crazy thing is, we got along so well otherwise. It was hard to exist in a relationship with my heart constantly on the chopping block.”
The final straw came when she broke up with him for the fifth time in four years. “I just couldn’t do it anymore,” he said. “It was too emotionally draining.”
Relationship weather patterns
I’ve worked with couples for many years, and I’ve noticed that there seems to be a pattern to how relationships “weather” over time. It’s almost as if there are four distinct seasons that couples go through, and each season has its challenges.
The first season is what I call the “honeymoon” phase. This is when everything is new and exciting, and you can’t get enough of each other. It’s a time of infatuation and idealization, usually lasting for the first few months (or even years) of a relationship.
“In the early part of a relationship — the falling in love stage — the other person is the center of your life. You forgive everything in these early stages. The other person has faults, and you see them, but it doesn’t matter. Maybe they leave their dirty dishes in the sink, but they make you laugh at least daily, so it’s okay. Good things outweigh the negative here.” — Lucy Brown, Ph.D.
The second season is what I call the “struggle” phase. This is when the rose-colored glasses start to fog up, and you begin to see your partner’s flaws. This is also when conflicts arise, so many couples argue more during this phase.
The third season is what I call the “compromise” phase. This is when couples learn to work through their differences and find a middle ground. Couples who make it through this phase often find their relationship is stronger and more resilient.
The fourth and final season is what I call the “acceptance” phase. This is when couples come to terms with each other’s flaws and learn to love each other unconditionally. This is often when relationships peak and some partners find that they are more in love with each other than ever before.
“As time goes on and your relationship has weathered a few storms, a sense of collaboration takes over. As a dedicated team, you and your partner understand each other and begin to take on the world together.” — Kimberly Drake, PsychCentral
No matter what season your relationship is in, know that all relationships go through ups and downs. Disappointment, frustration, and even anger are all normal parts of being in a relationship. The most critical piece is how you navigate the changing weather in the relationship.
If both people are willing to weather the storms together, the relationship has a good chance of lasting. But if only one person is willing to do the work, the relationship will likely fizzle out.
What season is your relationship in? Have you had trouble weathering the storms? Feel free to share in the comments.