When American philosopher and psychoanalyst Erich Fromm claimed in his 1956 classic, The Art of Loving, that “there is hardly any enterprise which is started with such tremendous hopes and expectations, and yet, which fails so regularly, as love,” he was making a revelation that stands true in his time and, sadly, truer in our contemporary world.
Our world is littered with an abundance of news about the continuous decline in the quality of relationships–couples who started out with a fierce love but ended up breaking apart due to ‘irreconcilable differences’. As I’ve written earlier, many relationships that start smooth and strong begin to experience drastic change within months:
Then, enviable lovers became repelling strangers. The mutual energy that was so apparent between them suddenly diminished. The brightness of the star became the dimness of fog.
The question then is why? What are the reasons for the short span of our relationships? I’m sure it’s way beyond the mediocre explanation that familiarity with our loved ones eventually breeds contempt.
Vice’s Annie Lord, suggests, based on an earlier research by Nationwide that, the quality of earlier relationships with family and peers goes a long way in impacting the length of romantic relationships.
It turns out our sexual legacies are decided for us long before we sprout our first fluffy armpit hairs. If you had poor peer relationships at school, chances are you’re going to have fewer relationships, and the ones you do have will be shorter.
People who experience many long, committed romantic relationships got along with their family and friends.
Later in the article, Annie hinted at one other cause of short-spanned relationships, lack of mutual commitment and sacrifice:
Dr Kale Monk, psychologist and expert in on/off again relationship cycles, attributes mutual sacrifice as the key to sustained relationships…
[However,] sacrifice only works if you’re both doing it. “If you’re always the one who’s sacrificing, according to equity theory, you are under-benefiting in the relationship and you might become resentful,” Kale tells me. “Relationships don’t last long because I’m not willing to bend myself for someone else.”
One sided relationships have been the course of countless heart aches and break ups for so long. A relationship that started out sweet and is characterized by understanding of one another soon dwindles because somewhere along the line one of the couple consciously or unconsciously relents in contributing energy into the relationship.
How can this be prevented? How can you best reduce the chances of a sweet partner turning into an unbearable asshole in the future? Julia Pugachevsky, writing for Cosmopolitan, has suggested that you keep an eye out earlier on in the relationship for sweet, romantic gestures from potentials that might actually be pointers to them having only a short-term willingness or ability for the relationship.
Based on a research by Mariana Bockarova a doctor of relationship psychology at University of Toronto, Julia adviced against people who fiercely profess their love very early on in the relationship:
It’s normal to feel infatuated very quickly if you really like someone, but if a person says something as huge as, “I’m completely in love with you,” or, “I know you’re my soul mate and I want to spend the rest of my life with you,” only a few weeks into dating, you should take a few steps back, Dr. Bockarova says.
While people with these qualities may really believe they’re in love, they don’t actually know you or your flaws yet, Dr. Bockarova explains. So when you deviate from their perfect perception of you, you may be met with aggression or coldness.
There’s also a trail of red flags on someone who overtly opens up about themselves, especially sounding as though still deeply hurt about their past relationships, on the first date:
If an ex comes up naturally in the context of a story about a trip they took together, that’s one thing. But if they ramble about their past dating experiences or verbally rip apart people they’ve been with, they may not be in the right place to start a new relationship.
Then there’s a warning against clinginess and attachments going over-board. Echoing the wisdom of Maria Popova, the Brain Pickings oracle, who stated that “when lovers are expected to fuse together so closely and completely, mutuality mutates into a paralyzing co-dependence,” Julia wrote:
When you first hit it off with someone, it’s perfectly natural (and great!) to text and talk a lot. It’s certainly more romantic than that guy who takes four days just to text back “lol.” But overdoing it on the meme-sending—and everyone has their own threshold—can be a bad sign.
It should be a good thing for your partner to fall head over heels for you, yearning for your presence at all times, despising every instances of your demise and so on. However, an unhealthy obsession might be looming somewhere in the background:
Theoretically, “I just can’t get enough of you!” sounds flattering as heck, because yes, you are in fact an awesome human to be around. But if your new boo wants to come over to your place every night—even when you make it clear that you’re working or with friends or hell, just want a night to yourself—look out.
Similarly, watch out for traits of over-protectiveness and overtly irrational jealousy. To emphasis this, Julia quotes directly from Dr. Bockarova:
If you find yourself having to defend completely innocent behavior, or [with a partner who] insistent on prying into your phone or social media accounts in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable and isn’t reciprocated, there are definite red flags.
In his 2015 science fiction saga, Golden Son, best-selling author Pierce Brown remarked succinctly that “liars make the best promises.” In this vein, Julia finally warns against “people who make sweeping, grandiose promises.” She wrote:
It’s not that saying something like, ‘I would never hurt you,’ is inherently bad, but sometimes the people who dramatically promise they’ll never leave or wound you are precisely the ones who do.
In the end, every relationship is unique. However, applying knowledge from other people’s experiences and expertise goes a long way in preventing unnecessary headache. Watching out for these traits in a potential partner might be quite unnatural, and assertions made herein might not be entirely true for every instance but you’d be better off being vigilant of possible pointers instead of heading blindly into muddy waters.