Building A Strong Relationship – Keeping It All Under Control.
In the beginning:
If you are the passive partner, you are responding to someone with demonstrable ambivalence about permanent relationships. Although you may start out with serious reservations about this new partner, you typically ignore them. For example:
- Even when this person presents sufficient evidence, either through words, deeds, or history, that he/she is commitment phobic or otherwise unavailable, you are likely to hold nothing back.
- Even when you recognize – or others tell you – that this person is not emotionally reliable, your fantasies and hopes become focused on cementing a permanent relationship.
Sometimes it seems as though you respond almost as if you are being tested on your ability to respond. Perhaps because you sense that your partner is not fully capable of commitment, you are inappropriately frightened of losing this fledgling relationship. A relationship you clearly want to save.
For reasons that are illusory, you quickly become overly committed to what you perceive as the relationships potential.
This attitude leaves you vulnerable and exposed. But instead of attending to this condition, you may take pride in being able to achieve this high degree of involvement and responsiveness. You may tell yourself that your ability to trust, before trust is earned, is proof of your capacity for love and sharing. (Hopefully, during the relationship, you won’t have to deal with jealousy and insecurity ).
Although it is hard to accuse you of being irresponsible to others, you are probably not being responsible to yourself. Your tendency to cooperate with an agenda designed by someone you barely know leaves you open for disappointment and confusion. You need to be more self-protective and to behave more wisely.
Here are suggestions for changing the course of your relationship:
KEEP YOUR FANTASIES UNDER CONTROL – You know by now that you have a very active fantasy life and that at the beginning of a relationship you immediately adjust your fantasies to include this new person. This can’t help but influence both your behavior and your expectations.
For example, you’re meeting someone for coffee, and in your fantasies you’re thinking about words of love and commitment. You have a date for the movies, and in your fantasies you’re planning a wedding. You go out to dinner, and in your fantasies you’re on your honeymoon.
Even your sexual fantasies tend to be committed. The only problem with this is that it makes you too invested in a relationship that hasn’t gotten off the ground and too committed to a person who has done little or nothing to earn it.
You should always try to keep your fantasies under control. Otherwise our responses may be more influenced by your dreams than by the real flesh-and-blood human being with human failings.
MAINTAIN APPROPRIATE RESPONSES – If you give too soon, you put too much pressure on the relationship. You have a responsibility to maintain appropriate boundaries. Enjoy the pursuit, but don’t get totally caught up in it.
Don’t treat the beginning of a relationship as though it’s already the most important relationship you’ll ever have. You don’t know what’s going to happen. If this new person’s interest is as reliable as you think it is, it’s not going to disappear overnight.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: If this is the romance of your lifetime, you’ll have a lifetime to enjoy it. So slow down!
Always remember, when new partners tell you they have commitment conflicts, no matter how attentive or loving they may be, listen to their words, believe them, and adjust your expectations accordingly.
DON’T ALLOW YOURSELF UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS – If you allow your expectations to soar early in a relationship, it leaves you vulnerable for a terrible disappointment. Keep your expectations realistic and don’t jump to commitment conclusions about what is said, no matter what your new partner says or promises.
Always keep in mind that those with active commitment conflicts frequently use romantic phrases they mean only for the moment. They are capable of making plans they will never follow through on. The words raise your expectations because they gibe with your fantasies of what a new romance should feel like. But words can’t always be trusted, particularly in a new relationship.
GET A NEW PARTNER’S ROMANTIC HISTORY AND PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU HEAR – If this person has a rocky history with others, don’t expect it to be different with you. Yes, we know that you are special. That doesn’t mean that you will be able to drastically change someone’s pattern. Heed what you hear and be forewarned.
You don’t have to prepare a test and sharpen all your number-two pencils in order to find out what you need to know from a new partner. Typically people like to share information. And even if someone is trying to conceal information, no one hides emotional garbage very well. Your job is to wake up and smell the garbage.
DON’T BE TOO EASILY WON OVER – There are a million and one different ways to impress or “win” someone over. Perhaps your new love is buying you gifts or being kind to your grandparents.
Perhaps what impresses you most is his wit, or her sensitivity or emotional depth. He or she is telling you about childhood incidents, adolescent trauma, and adult pain.
This is very winning and seductive. Listen and take it all in. Perhaps you are establishing an intimate, connected relationship. But you may also be with someone who bares his or her soul regularly. Always give the relationship some time before you decide that it’s the right one.
PROTECT YOUR CHILDREN, YOUR WORK, AND YOUR LIFE – Lovers can come and lovers can go, but your children, your work, and the rest of your life are going to be with you for a long time.
Don’t start rearranging your life until you are sure you are with someone who is kind, supportive, caring, involved, and committed.
Yes, we know that sometimes people have to take risk, but don’t put any of the essential elements of your life at risk until you are operating on more than a romantic promise. Allow someone into your life slowly, one step at a time – over a period of time.
Keep in mind that committing oneself too soon is as indicative of a commitment conflict as not being able to commit at all. It shows an unrealistic attitude toward love and romance.