Here’s a great idea: When your relationship hits a rough patch, make sure to pop it into next gear -- you know, take it to the next level. I know you're probably thinking, “said no one ever.” But people seem to do this all the time.
Things are starting to get a little shaky, so you do what feels most natural: you hold on tighter to your partner and your relationship.
You think that keeping people closer will stop them from leaving. But that's never the case, is it? People move from dating to living together, and after that it's marriage and children. And while that’s all nice and dandy when things are working well, making these jumps for the sake of saving a relationship isn’t only taking two steps back; it’s ludicrous.
A relationship can be in one of three stages. It can be moving forward and growing, it can be stagnant, or it can be regressing and falling apart.
We all want the first stage. We want to feel that our relationship is alive. But although relationships change every day -- in one way or another -- they don’t always grow. Sometimes the little changes we experience feel more like stagnancy.
People are naturally averse to stagnancy, but it's normal from time to time. Our lives cannot infinitely progress. Things sometimes do slow down, and that’s okay.
What isn’t okay is allowing the relationship to get rocky -- allowing it to reach the point when it needs saving. The question is: If we do reach that point, how do we fix it? How do we go from a failing relationship to a growing one?
Well, I can definitely tell you what you can’t do. You can’t switch from being in reverse to going full speed ahead. You have to make it through neutral first. You have to get your relationship back to where it was before you can move it forward. Switching gears so aggressively and carelessly could blow the whole engine.
I’m afraid there are no shortcuts. You’re going to have to put in the work to make things work.
Instead of trying to take things from bad to great, how about trying to make them simply good?
If things are a bit shaky in your relationship, don’t focus on trying to take things to the next level, because you clearly can’t handle the level that you are on now. You have just two good options. You can figure out a way to make things work in your current gear, or you can take things down a notch.
I know that that’s not what you want. But it's better that things be less intense rather than overly intense and destructive. Sometimes people move too quickly and aren’t able to handle the changes. What you don’t want to do in such a situation is to take things another step higher. That’s illogical. And, to be frank, it's silly.
Holding on tighter for the sake of keeping people in your life won’t work.
People are funny that way. The more you hold on to them, the more likely they are to pry themselves away from you. Again, it’s human nature. We want what we can't have, and we take the things we do have for granted.
If you want your relationship, you’re going to have to engage in some (acceptable) manipulation. You’re going to have to create an environment that convinces the other person to stay in it. At the same time, you need to make sure that the relationship you’re creating is one that will make you happy.
Instead of holding on tighter, give your partner a reason to hold on to you. Make him or her want you. I’m sure you think that the person you love should want you out of principle, but that’s not how people work. Have you ever heard the “I love you, but I’m not in love with you” line? Well, that’s what happens when you stop trying to make the other person want you. It’s easy in the beginning, when everything is new, but after a while you need to put in the work.
You need to manipulate the way your partner sees you. You need to make sure it's how you want to be seen. This isn’t wrong, and it isn’t lying or being deceitful. This is being smart and making it easier for the person you love to remain obsessed with you. If you think great relationships happen by accident, you’re delusional.
Taking a giant leap forward can ruin a relationship with potential.
The relationship is surely salvageable, but this isn’t the way to save it.
The most important relationship I ever had failed, in part, because things moved too quickly. There is no set time limit for relationship phases. The time it takes to move from one level to the next is different for every couple.
Sometimes people meet at the right time, fall for each other, and marry within the year. Sometimes this even works. Some couples take much longer to get to the same point, but their relationships are no less beautiful.
There is really only one thing that every happy, successful, loving, thriving relationship in the world has in common: It didn’t move too quickly. It's easy to ruin something with the love of your life by biting off more than you can chew.
Both you and your partner need to be ready for each level of commitment. If either of you aren't ready, then it won't work. I'm sorry. One of you will be miserable. And when one person is miserable, the other quickly follows suit.
If things are in a bit of a rut, don’t try to speed up the process. If anything, you ought to slow things down and better understand each other and your needs. All these steps in the process aren’t even really "steps." They’re parts of a whole. You need to allow yourself to enjoy each one as it comes.