Love is like oxygen for a relationship: it is necessary but not always sufficient for survival. In fact, sometimes love makes it difficult to be realistic about when to call it quits. If you are asking yourself whether love is enough to overcome any obstacle, it may be time to take inventory of the relationship.
Level of Commitment
People have the "define the relationship" conversation for a reason: you cannot assume that you and your partner have the same level of commitment. Make sure you both see eye-to-eye about your goals for the relationship. Talk about whether this is only a summer fling or whether you plan on going your separate ways at the end of the school year. Consider if this is someone who you can see yourself with down the road. The more committed the two of you are, the better you will be at jumping over hurdles in the relationship.
Pros and Cons List
Make two lists of your partner's attributes: one for the things you like and another for the things that you don't like. Next, rate each item on a scale from 1 to 5 for how important each attribute is. Finally, calculate the total for both lists and subtract the con list from the pro list. If you get a positive number, this is a sign that the relationship may be worth fighting for.
When problems arise, consider how good you and your partner are at coping with them -- you may love someone, but you have to effectively cope with the serious issues to have a successful relationship. Developing good listening skills can help you resolve conflicts more effectively. In "Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment," Martin Seligman describes five keys to responsive and attentive listening: 1) Validate your partner through comments like, "I understand" and "I see what you mean"; 2) Give your partner your undivided attention. This means no checking your phone or looking at the computer; 3) Refrain from problem-solving. Your partner may just want you to hear what he has to say without fixing anything; 4) Paraphrase what you heard to demonstrate that you’re listening; and 5) Use "I" statements rather than "you" statements. If you differ in your views on cleanliness, you might say "I get frustrated when you leave your dirty clothes on the floor" versus "You’re such a slob!"
Ending the Relationship
Sometimes love isn't enough to make a relationship work. If you're staying in a relationship to avoid the pain of breaking up, keep in mind that painful events are often not as bad you think they will be. In an article published in 2009 in "The Journal of Positive Psychology," Gary Lewandowski found that writing about the positive aspects of a breakup made people feel more positive and helped them develop a new perspective on how to improve future relationships. You may not be able to overcome every obstacle in a relationship, but each obstacle gives you an opportunity to learn something new about yourself.
- Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment; Martin Seligman
- American Psychological Association: Breakups Aren't All Bad: Coping Strategies to Promote Positive Outcomes
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