The fallout from an addiction, for addicts and the people who love them, is devastating – the manipulations, the guilt, the destruction of relationships and the breakage of people. When addicts know they are loved by someone who is invested in them, they immediately have fuel for their addiction. Your love and your need to bring them safely through their addiction might see you giving money you can’t afford, saying yes when that yes will destroy you, lying to protect them, and having your body turn cold with fear from the midnight ring of the phone. You dread seeing them and you need to see them, all at once.
Relationships – the most rewarding, wonderful, excruciating and complicated of all our experiences. Here we look to psychology for new insights into how to make the most of being with our favourite, or not so favourite, others – lovers (or ex-lovers), children, family, friends.
Some people are intoxicating to be with. You know the ones. They have a way of making you feel important, noticed, and they linger in your thoughts for a while after they’re gone – not (necessarily) in a romantic, falling in love kind of way, or an obsessive, ‘let’s see what our mutual friends, Google or Facebook, say about you’ kind of way, but in the kind of way that leaves you feeling bigger, more energised and with the impression that they’re someone pretty wonderful.
Even if your heart tries to pull its broken self together to tell you it’s for the best, and your head – foggy and sad – tells you the pain will pass, the agony of a breakup can be relentless. When you’re recovering from a breakup, it’s important not to hurry things along – it’s your time to reset, recharge and draw wisdom from the experience – but what if your healing could be strong and complete … and quicker? Science may have just found the way.
Intimate relationships are a mirror, reflecting the best and the worst of all of us. They can inflame our struggles or soothe them. When they’re right, they can feel like magic. Even when they’re completely right, anxiety can steal the magic and loosen the connection between two people who belong together. All relationships require trust, tenderness, patience and vulnerability. People with anxiety often have these by the truckload and will give them generously to the relationship. The problem is that anxiety can sometimes just as quickly erode them.
Several studies have explored the trajectory of relationship satisfaction. Some have suggested that relationships follow a U-curve, with satisfaction decreasing in the earlier years and increasing later on. Others have been a bit more pessimistic, finding a continuous decrease over the years. According to others, satisfaction remains fairly stable.
It’s one thing to be dipped in venom by those you don’t really care about, but when it’s by the person who is meant to love you, hold you, and take the sharp edges off the world, while teaching you with love, wisdom and warmth how to do it for yourself, it changes you. There is a different kind of hurt that can only come from a toxic parent – someone who is meant to love you. Kind of like being broken from the inside out.
People are meant to be with people. It’s one of the particularly lovely design features of being human. When we love, we grow, we flourish, we fall, we learn. Relationships can bring out our best or bring out our worst. Sometimes they’ll do both before breakfast. The best people to be with are the ones who inspire us to explore the way we are with people and the world in a way that’s safe enough to own, experiment with and change if we want to.
Even if toxic people came with a warning tattooed on their skin, they might still be difficult to avoid. We can always decide who we allow close to us but it’s not always that easy to cut out the toxics from other parts of our lives. They might be colleagues, bosses, in-laws, step-someones, family, co-parents … and the list goes on.
Raising children is wonderful – and hard, really hard. All relationships will face their own unique challenges but for parents, some of those challenges are more predictable. New research has identified the risk factors that can put the relationship between parents under pressure to the point of breakage. By being aware of these risk factors, it’s possible to work towards building the relationship against them.
We’re all in this together, trying to flourish, get through, dodge the cave-ins and use the bumps in the road as a ramp to lift off. Wherever we’re at and whoever we’re with, there are some rules that are an unavoidable part of being human. They unite us, connect us and when we embrace them, are a way to feel less like we have to do any of this crazy, messy, beautiful, human thing on our own.