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Chapter 1 The QUESTION and the ANSWER

"For one human being to love another; that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.” Rainer Maria Rilke

 

The Question: Why do good relationships go bad?

 

OK, everyone thinks they know the answer to this one, and they probably do. But I’m going to state it now succinctly at least for the things that crater relationships pretty early on.

 

The Answer: When a couple is first getting together, three things are going on at a very high level for each person:

1.   They are extremely motivated to make themselves as attractive and irresistible to the other person as possible.

2.   They want to have a lot of sex for three reasons.

2.1.   It’s relatively exciting with a new person. (Duh)

2.2.   It feels good. (Duh)

2.3.   It’s a means to increase their attractiveness to each other.

3.   Love blinds people. So they see perfection in the other person, which is never quite real and often far from real.

 

Above almost all else, people want to love and be loved. That’s really important, so let me repeat that:

 

Above almost all else, people want to love and be loved.

 

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After a couple first gets together, three things will happen to varying degrees and at varying rates in most relationships to make them go badly or end pretty quickly even though they started with such promise:

1.   Once both partners are highly attracted to each other, what often happens is that one or both of them ease off from trying to be so attractive and irresistible to the other. Gradually they return, at least to some degree, to paying more attention to fulfilling their own needs and neglecting their personal attractiveness. This focusing back onto themselves, although basically a healthy response, often results in behavior that is incompatible with an ongoing good relationship.

2.   The exciting part of sex with a new partner can wear off, making it less satisfying, at least on an emotional level. It might still be good on a physical level. For people whose enjoyment of or motivation for sex is mostly based on the excitement of the newness of the relationship or on the need for continual sexual conquests, their relationship is about to go into a death spiral.

3.   The more time they spend together the more they may notice just how annoying some of their partner’s habits and shortcomings are. That’s the “realizing that your partner isn’t perfect after all” part. Should that still come as a surprise?

 

That’s the gist of why good love goes bad in the early stages:

1.   People work really hard to make a relationship happen and not as hard to keep it going.

2.   Initially great, exciting sex can turn into much less satisfying sex just because of familiarity over time, or one or both  partners’ need for continual sexual conquests.

3.   As partners get to know each other better, it becomes clear to each that the other is less than perfect.

 

For why good love goes bad in general, not just in the beginning, we’ll look to the Laws of Relationships. These Laws are described in detail in the following chapters. They deal with the three big causes of good love going bad early in a relationship mentioned above, as well as the things that people do to ruin their relationships after they’ve settled into them.

Not understanding this can cause people to get caught up in a cycle of good relationships gone bad without really understanding why. Usually a partner’s bad behavior is blamed for the disintegration of the relationship. While this is sometimes true, generally both partners share the responsibility. This book will help people understand just what part they play in ruining potentially good relationships. It contains suggestions for alternate behaviors and expectations that could give their good relationship a chance to stay good. Additionally, they’ll learn how to choose a partner with great long-term relationship potential.

In the chapters that follow, I have specific suggestions to make relationships better, but it involves self-awareness, partner-awareness, compromise, keeping oneself healthy and nurtured, and hard work by BOTH relationship partners.

Changing modes of behavior is extremely difficult. In fact it’s one of the hardest things to do and doesn’t happen overnight. Just think of it as one of those: “Even the longest journey begins with the first step” kind of things. So let’s get going, and come up with some positive, concrete suggestions for changing behavior that will contribute to a healthier relationship – and maybe even, (dare I say it?), a healthy one.

 

   “The art of love is largely the art of persistence.” Albert Ellis

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