Change the way you move on and find a truly healthy relationship!
Ever find yourself considering moving on from that not-so-happy-not-so-healthy relationship by diving head first into another one? You are not alone. This is an extremely common human response to frustration, but the cost can be higher than you might anticipate.
A friend was telling me recently about how she was feeling confused and helpless in her relationship. She was trying to figure out if she should break up with her boyfriend of a year. This alone would have been a worthy endeavor, considering what I know about their relationship. However, my concern stems from the real question she’s actually asking, which is if she should leave her unhealthy relationship for a new, seemingly healthier one.
The New Frying Pan Still Burns
This new potential mate of hers, a coworker, has made her feel cared for, seen, and more than anything else, heard. These are great attributes of a relationship in and of themselves. As her friend, I want her to be in a relationship that makesher feel this way. However, this is dangerous territory.
In my experience, jumping quickly into a new relationship rarely ends in a Happily Ever After outcome. This is because without taking time and space to actively heal and reset yourself, outside of any relationship, you will likely fall into a similar relationship pattern—even and especially if this shiny new person seems radically different in the beginning.
This is what I like to call the Relationship Hoarding Effect: if you clean out a hoarder’s house without first helping the person resolve the reason behind the behavior, he or she will fill up the house quicker than it got filled the first time.
The same is true for relationships. If you leave one relationship and jump into a new relationship without first understanding what didn’t work and why, the problems and patterns are likely to repeat themselves in the new relationship. So if you find yourself in a similar situation, and you want to maximize your chances of a finding a better relationship in the future, I recommend taking some reset steps.
Cool Down and Reset
After a break-up or separation, and before you even consider a new relationship, take these four simple yet vital Relationship Reset Steps.
- Recover- Allow yourself to feel and cope with what you feel. No, really. It will not actually kill you. Let yourself feel the sadness, hurt, anger, and even regrets about your previous relationship. But don’t just sit on your couch eating ice cream, swilling wine, and sulking for days on end. Talk to friends, family, or consider psychotherapy if you're having a rough time with it. Learn how to deal with your feelings as they come up—go to the gym, paint, meditate, play basketball, write, socialize, go for a hike—whatever it is that helps you feel your feelings and then, feel better.
- Evaluate- Once the hurt, sadness or anger simmers down, reflect on your previous relationship. Reflect on what worked, what did not work, when you began to have difficulties, how you attempted to deal with and resolve these problems, etc. What was your significant other’s role? But more importantly, what was your role in the problems? Were there “red flags” that you disregarded?
- Compare - Reflect on how the problems and roles of this relationship are similar to previous romantic and nonromantic relationships, for instance, with family members or friends. You’ve guessed it - they are likely related! This is vital step in not getting burned or doing the burning in your future relationships.
- Clarify- Once you have an idea of what did not work with your previous relationship(s), clarify what you are looking for when you meet someone new. All too often, I hear about people trying to avoid certain qualities, and somehow they manage to find them all over again. If you direct your attention to what you are trying to find or attract in a potential partner, you are more likely to find it. It can help to write down a brief profile of who and what you’re looking for, which you don’t need to share with anyone. This is for your own personal direction.
Now, unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that if you take these steps that you will find the Holy Grail of relationships in your next venture out into the dating scene. I can guarantee that you are much more likely to have healed the burns of your last relationship, and through understanding yourself and your relationship patterns, be less likely to repeat them in your future romantic endeavors. After all, the whole reason we seek relationships is to expand our sense of love, companionship, belonging, and intimate connection. It’s not to fry in an unhappy pan.
For similar articles or information on Individual Relationship Therapist, Kristen Hick, Psy.D. visit www.centerforsharedinsight.com.
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