The Most Important Thing I Wish I'd Known About Relationships Before My Breakup

A lot of people think that once you get into a relationship the task of having a partner is easier than attaining one. Maintaining a relationship is hard work and is a skill-set that needs to be acquired in the same manner as getting them interested in the first place. Books and Hollywood love to focus on the first stage of relationships, the honeymoon phase, because it is love in its purest form.

What if I was to tell you that there are actually five stages of relationships?

1. Honeymoon stage

2. Power struggle stage

3. Stability phase

4. Commitment phase

5. Co-creation or bliss stage

I want to focus on what I believe is the most important phase of a relationship because this is where the majority fail, this is where my most recent failed. The power struggle phase ruins more relationships than any other stage, get passed this stage and there's a good chance that you'll both be hitched for a while.

So what is the power struggle phase? The power struggle phase occurs after the honeymoon phase is over (2-18 months). It's the phase where you start seeing your partner as their true self and all their imperfections. Your passionate lust is no longer enough to overlook things that bother you about the relationship or your partner. The things that you might have found cute may now feel infuriating.

You struggle to share your life with that person because you're so comfortable in your own ways. What you need to learn is that you have a problem and you need to address it because you cannot change things about your partner because the problem is not them, but actually you not being able to cope with the problem you are seeing. You can't always change the situation but you can change how you feel about it. Your partner wants a successful relationship as much as you do and so when they do certain actions that you don't agree with, it doesn't mean that your partner isn't trying to fix things, just simply doesn't know how because the communication is not there. By understanding that you're both two individuals that have decided to share your lives to better both of your lives, you'll be better at recognizing and dealing with problems in a way that fixes the relationship and not just patch things up or even make things worse.

I will use my own relationship as an example. Her biggest fear was feeling trapped and controlled in a relationship, she needed freedom to feel happy. Her only other boyfriend was very controlling and she was always afraid of getting into a similar situation. My biggest fear was us having a problem in the relationship that we couldn't fix. The biggest problem in our relationship was my girlfriend never felt the honeymoon phase as strongly as she expected to feel it for her ideal partner. Because it wasn't as intense as she's experienced in the past she was always unsure of her romantic feelings towards me. Everything else about me though checked off so she decided to give it a shot because she wanted it to work because she knew I could make her happy and that I was a good guy.

Next thing she knows she goes from being unsure, to being in a relationship, to dropping the "I love yous", to being together for a year. It all happened so fast and the longer it went on the harder it was for her to admit that an important part of the relationship for her was missing. She didn't want to hurt me because she wished she could fall in love with me, but it didn't happen. I on the other-hand experienced the honeymoon phase strongly and so I had become very loving towards her, something that made her a bit uncomfortable sometimes and she had expressed her issue but I never understood the full grasp of it. At the time I never asked the right questions and so I never knew the real answers. I never asked why it made her uncomfortable.

I know it seems dumb and hard to miss, but this has all been laid out to you so it seems much easier than it would be if you don't understand the power struggle phase. She tried reciprocating my feelings for her but there was only so much she could handle since she had to make pretend. This made her feel trapped in the relationship and her losing her freedom means she's unhappy. That was the core problem in our relationship and I wish I knew about the power struggle phase while with her so we could have addressed this issue and figure things out sooner.


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Most Helpful Girl

  • Thank you so much for this insight - it is very interesting and seems pretty accurate. I'm sure this analysis of your previous relationship will be invaluable in informing how you behave in your next one. A tough experience for you, but one you can learn from.

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    • Yea that's what I wanted to really get out of this failed relationship. I'm passed the point of looking for fun, this girl has made me realize that I'm ready to settle down and I want to learn as much as possible so I don't make the same
      mistakes. I really want my next relationship to be my last. I do think I've learned a lot and hopefully it pays off :).

Most Helpful Guy

  • I like your MyTake. I have myself been in a relationship for 6 years now, so I guess that would be stage 4 or 5. I think you said a lot of very true things here that many people on GaG unfortunately don't know or seem to forget easily. One of these is the fact that being in a relationship is actually quite a lot of work. Don't get me wrong - I love being in a relationship. I'm one of those guys who can't be single. I hate it and being single makes me completely miserable and depressed. But still, being in a relationship isn't all fun and games every day. Some days it's also exhausting. Despite being deeply in love with my girl, I think that just belongs to a relationship. Even after 30 or 40 years, you still need to work on it. The idea that once you've got a boyfriend/girlfriend you can just get comfortable and stretch out your feet is definitely not true.
    As for communication: I would say that communication is THE most important thing in a relationship. However, it's not the only important thing. Two other things I find quite important are generosity and humility. What this means is that sometimes, you also have to be willing to let things go. This too, is easier said than done. Making the first step towards your boyfriend/girlfriend after a big fight can be really difficult. You feel vulnerable and maybe you're still kinda pissed. But in order to make the relationship work, you need to learn to "jump over your own shadow" as we say in German and admit that perhaps you were in fact acting like an idiot.

    One thing I would disagree with you on is the sentence that "the honeymoon phase is the phase of the purest love". In my opinion, the honeymoon phase is typical for a very obsessive and fiery but also superficial love. Personally, I feel like the love between my fiancé and myself has become much, much deeper over the years. I can now imagine what old couples in their 70s or 80s must feel like. You might not get horny for each other every single day anymore but your love is like hardened steel after it comes out of the oven: the colder it gets, the more resilient it becomes :-).

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What Girls Said 5

  • Great take!
    Only thing I have to disagree on is that the honeymoon phase being the purist love. To me this phase is actually the most superficial where your still trying to keep up the perfect appearance. The infatuation can certainly be intense but love comes after you find out all their flaws and they don't matter.
    Xo

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    • That is true, I should not have said that. I meant to say that it's the easiest love to spot/people know about (I know it's really only strong lust) and that's why it's always shown in books and movies. The purest love is definitely stage 5. Anything past 3 really, I see about the same since all the foundation is there from stage 2. I seriously wished I knew everything I know now so my relationship didn't fail. I tried winning her back, but it only made things worse. I was so deeply in love with her, but she wasn't with me. I just want to get past this and move on with my life, but I miss my other half so much and I've never felt more shit before and the only thing that helps is writting about it. She's the one that got away.

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    • Yea I'm starting to see that now. I just feel so at fault even though I really don't think I was. She said that it really was her and that I was the best boyfriend that she ever had and such an amazing and beautiful person who treated her better than she deserved. She said that I needed someone that could give me the love and affection that I deserved. She said that she saw me as her best friend that she wished she was in love with. I can't believe I got friend-zoned by my own girlfriend.

    • Maybe she had some of her own things going on, it kind of sounds like it based on what you've said. That she was trying to reassure you that it wasn't something you'd done xo

  • thanks for sharing

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  • Maybe the problem is you

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    • The whole point of this, the power struggle phase is understanding that it's not really anyone's fault, it's mutual. You pass the power struggle phase once you no longer think of your partner as being at fault or the enemy. You need to realize that you're both individuals that had different ideas for their own perfect relationship and that they're not always going to perfectly mesh with yours and when they don't it's not because your partner doesn't want them to, it's because your partner either doesn't know about it or doesn't know how to make things better. We were both at fault, even though we both didn't want to cause any problems, we did because we didn't communicate properly to find the problems and actually fix them down to their core and not just temporarily patch things up.

  • Great article. So true.

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  • I like the phases.

    I just don't think anything would've been different, except maybe you would've broken up sooner.

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    • I'm not sure if you think I'm your ex or not but I know that my ex never used it. My name starts with a P and hers with an L.

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    • I thought you thought that your ex or something wrote this. Honestly, I only saw that because I'm still grieving over the break up.

      That is true and I'm sure I wasn't right about everything, but I know that I could have handled things differently if I only knew the stages and how to deal with confrontations during stage 2. I could have shown her this and we could have worked on it together. It's too late now.

    • Aww... Clearly, as I don't see what would have suggested that.

      There'll be a next time, hopefully.

What Guys Said 4

  • I feel your point, at the beginning of your story. The whole aspect of communication is the key, in understanding. But seems like you where going with your feelings.

    I guess that's why I don't date much. Because from your experience, and mine sounds the same.

    Don't get me wrong, when I say, but it seems like woman aren't as open as they seem to be. For one, I've been cheated on. And the second, I felt used. In which truly is the hunnymoon faze I feel.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but you did state that you where doing most, but weren't getting the reciprocating action, because she didn't feel the same way.

    To be honest, I think you where more adult, than your ex was. Not to put her down. But thats how childish behavior works.

    I'm not sure, if I'm talking about myself, when I say, but woman don't see how they empact the mans feelings involved. Most of us, like myself fall quickly. Yo can call it the first stage. I call it, careing, i call it love, I call it being human.

    Problem is, most dont have the regard enough to look and and see the persons feelings, and actions towards them. Sorry to say, but thought woman see more clearly than us.

    Sometimes I feel like woman use there advantage, there good looks gets them what they want, for awhile. After they have used the guys nice ways. Taking them out for the first date, etc... Plus they don't have to pay for anything...

    Anyway, it looks like I'm bashing on the opposite sex, or have said anything to differ from your story. Truth is, I see the small parts of your story, and wounder when all these games woman, and men will stop doing. Communcate! Both, men, and woman, have a hard time with that. It helps :)

    Lastly to be honest, I think woman need to communcate more. Guys are very action involved. When we start putting a lot of energy, taking you out more. I'd say, 90% out of the time, he likes you! But most woman it seems, like they care about how good guy looks, and how much they can get, until the next guy, that looks better.

    I just love the first stage... All about the woman!

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    • I hate to admit it but I have to agree with you on certain things (not all of it). She never worked on it as hard as I did, it was important for me to talk about our problems and understand the core issue. We couldn't do this properly because she hated disputes and if they happened she'd instantly close off. Her ex also didn't help at. Her ex was super controlling and she was always paranoid that I'd do the same. So even when something was a real issue and the large majority would raise the concern, she'd get all hissy and be like you can't tell me that I'll do whatever I want, basically super defensive.
      I put so much work and effort into the relationship and after all the memories and wonderful times I can't believe she just quit like it was nothing, it was so cold. Especially her doing it 3 weeks before my finals which I'm now guaranteed to fail since I've been grieving for almost a week now. She told me after our breakup that no one can ever make her happy and that she loves the

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    • we're jealous and they'd widh thry could find a guy like me or wish their boyfriends acted more like me. I can't believe after all those happy times together she broke it off without even really trying to work on it.

    • and you're right, she was inconsiderate for so many things and selfish a lot of times, she always wanted her cake and to eat it too. The worst part is that I let her and rewarded her behavior, obviously I wasn't doing it on purpose.

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    • Thank you for sharing these and I wish I had seen these before too. I thought our relationship was perfect when it clearly wasn't and we had major problems that we didn't work on properly, the biggest being we didn't respect each other enough. I now realize that I stopped respecting myself in the relationship and let my life revolve around her and not me. I realize that because of this I become too attached and when there was a problem I would fixate on it and try to tackle it from all angles because I wanted to be done with it because I was so afraid of losing her. I see now how most of the problems were due to making things bigger in my head than they actually were. Instead of feeding love I fed hate and although I tried to cover it up I'm guessing my partner could see that in me. I was confrontational and she wasn't so we were on two different spectrum's when it came to dealing with issues. I was too afraid of hurting her and so I didn't communicate as effectively as I could have.

    • It sucks knowing that your partner broke up with you because even though you did your best and you did really love her, you pushed her away and turned her against yourself. I can't believe I stopped loving myself and respecting myself to the point that I thought I didn't deserve her or all the love felt.

  • So if you had known about this, what would you have done differently?

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    • I would have been able to spot the flags sooner and handled them properly. The truth is that we shouldn't have gotten into a relationship to begin with because she was not ready for one. Thr signs were there, I just ignored them because I liked her so much. Before we were dating she was going through a hoe phase, she would tell me that she always preferred being single (these things came out in random happy conversations we would have), she would tell me that she wanted to just do herself for the new years. All those were signs that she didn't want a real grown up relationship. However, I pushed it (not realizing I was) too fast and it was too intense and it scared her. She even told me that it scared her multiple times and I never asked why? If I asked why she would have told me how she hates feeling trapped or pressured, that her sense of freedom is the most important thing to her. If I knew that, I would have taken a step back and not have smoothered her with love and attention

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    • in a manner that's best for the relationship and not necessarily best for just one person. Don't lose yourself and don't let your life revolve around that person because if it does than your happiness is directly linked to the happiness of your relationship/partner. When that happens you're more likely to do things that make her happy but not you. When you do this, resentment starts building up and it's so obvious when it's there but usually both are too aftaid to mention it. So yea, my biggest advice is to speak up when you have a problem and ask her when you think she has a problem. You should know what the problem is, why it's a problem, and how it makes your partner feel. If you have all that info you can correctly address the problem in a way that's best for the both of you. Let me know if you need any more advice.

    • Also, something really important to know is what your partner's biggest fear is when it comes to relationships. People are sometimes so afraid of their own worst fears that they look for signs of it and see things that aren't there. It's almost like a self fulfilling prophecy. If you know what her biggest fear is, you'll better understand her logic and how to deal with it in the right way, basically pull it out of its roots.

  • There's nothing you could have done in this situation so don't beat yourself up over it. If any relationship ever hits the "power stage" then it's all over. My late wife and I skipped right over the power stage and that's why we had a great marriage.

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