Relationships don’t just fall apart overnight. There are warning signs that we need to be aware of long before the relationship fails. Many of us ignore these signs because we just don’t think they are important and we don’t realize the long term consequences.
Relationship expert, Dr. Barbara DeAngelis, has coined a phrase that identifies the four stages of deterioration of intimacy, The Four R’s. These are not the four environmental R’s of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rebuy. These are four stages of increasing tension that build up between you and your partner that can eventually destroy marriages and relationships. They are Resistance, Resentment, Rejection and Repression.
Take a look at your own relationship to see what stage you are in – if any. Or if you are not in a relationship, reflect on your past relationship(s) to see where these relate to you.
Stage #1: Resistance – Signs of minor tension is a natural part of any relationship. You experience annoyance over certain habits or character traits: How do you handle your irritation? Do you communicate or do you suppress it and tell yourself, “Don’t get so upset, it’s nothing”. The longer you push those feelings inside, the sooner you move into the second “R”.
Stage #2: Resentment – When annoyance builds to a boiling point and turns into resentment, frustration and anger set in, you are less loving and distant and begin to silently criticise your partner. Your sex life starts to suffer; intimacy becomes a challenge. Unresolved resentment kills passion and leads to the next “R”: Rejection.
Stage #3: Rejection – You feel separated; you have closed your heart and begin to fantasize about leaving the relationship. You may still be living together and at times seem close but you are rejecting each other at the heart level and intimacy is now impossible. Fighting and criticism become a regular part of your relationship. Many people in this situation find themselves living more of a separate life, in this stage some couples rarely see each other and may deny there is anything wrong, while some other couples move into emotional and verbal abuse. Many couples do not survive this stage, they separate or divorce before the next “R” – Repression sets in.
Stage #4: Repression – If the relationship does survive, it moves into the most dangerous of all the stages. You give up in order to be comfortable. You have numbed yourself out so much that nothing fazes you anymore. You convince yourself that everything is fine. You start to look for proof that other couples aren’t so happy either and that’s just the way it is. Your relationship goes on without passion and you look to other areas of your life to create satisfaction. Couples at this stage may stop fighting or criticizing because they just don’t care anymore. Onlookers may think you look so happy together, until the day that you separate and surprise everyone. Inevitably your relationship is over.
The ability to recognize the 4 R’s in your relationship will make it easier to keep love alive. The following are helpful steps to manage conflict and maintain passion:
If it is true love, it will conquer all. However, honesty, vulnerability, understanding and trust are required to keep it flowing and growing.