When you and your boyfriend first met, you probably felt that he could do no wrong. You walked around in a blissful state, enjoying the emotional rush that comes with new love. Now you are a few months or even years into the relationship, and you’re starting to wonder if Prince Charming is really a frog. Welcome to stage two of falling in love, or what therapist Zoe Hicks calls "landing." The high of infatuation cannot stay forever, and now comes the phase in which you decide whether you are really right for each other. To make that decision, it helps to understand what’s going on in your mind and heart.
I Love You, Go Away!
Little kids scream “I hate you!” when their parents refuse to buy a new toy. The hostility is so real, in the heat of the moment, that they can’t see past it or imagine life without it. Once they have vented the emotion, however, they are back to their loving, happy selves. This is a normal defense mechanism known as splitting. The child hasn’t learned to integrate both the good and bad parts of someone into a whole person, and therefore sees that person as all good or all bad, depending on personal emotions at the time. As people grow and mature, they learn better integration skills, but for many people, some splitting remains. If you see your boyfriend as all good or all bad, depending on how you feel, consider the possibility that you are splitting.
My Brain Is Exploding
Emotions are highly volatile and affected by many factors, only one of which is your boyfriend’s behavior. You know in your mind that he is not to blame for all your negative emotions, and you know that no matter how badly he behaves in one situation, you will have happy times again. Knowing that and being able to cope with it, however, are two different things. Cognitive dissonance occurs when you hold two conflicting thoughts or feelings at the same time. Your brain wants to resolve the conflict, but both conditions are equally true. Cognitive dissonance often leads to mixed emotions, in which the bad seems worse than it is while the good seems better.
Acknowledging and Accepting
Regardless of the reasons behind your feelings, the first step to resolving them is to acknowledge and accept them, suggests Danielle Dipirro of PositivelyPresent.com. For many people, the natural reaction to conflicting emotions is to suppress them or run away from them. The more you try to avoid your feelings, however, the more strongly they will come. Stay in the moment, take time to identify exactly what you are feeling and let the emotions wash through you. This brings down the intensity and helps you cope.
Finding an Outlet
Dipirro also points out that everyone needs an outlet. Bottling up or repressing your feelings leads to explosions far beyond the situation at hand. Journaling, talking to a trusted friend and engaging in hard physical exertion are just a few of your choices. Some people turn up the radio and dance around the living room. Some scream loudly and pound on a pillow. The choice is yours, as long as you choose something nondestructive that makes you feel better.
Make Up or Break Up
Once you have identified, accepted and vented your feelings, you can make a more logical decision about your boyfriend. Engage him in a conversation about your relationship, but avoid playing the blame game. Ask his opinion on the direction in which you’re headed. Clearly lay out your concerns and feelings. Enlist his help in identifying exactly what is bothering you and seeking a solution. Of course, if he is abusive in any way or if your gut tells you that he is not the right guy, walk away with your head held high.
- Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images