Through theories like Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and experiments like psychologist Harry Harlow’s infamous attachment study, scholars have demonstrated that individuals have an innate need for love, belonging, and relationships. Individuals often experience challenges getting these needs fulfilled however when they are faced with conflict while navigating their relationships. One of the most prominent causes of conflict during the developing stages of a relationship is a lack of understanding of one another’s expectations, values, experiences (e.g., developmental history), and perspective.
The intense emotions individuals can experience during the “honeymoon stage,” or onset of a relationship, can cause them to act on urges that interfere with their desire to experience intimacy. Individuals may find themselves feeling so passionately for someone that they make an important decision within their relationship (e.g., engage in sexual activity, introduce a partner to family, etc.), prior to taking the time to become acquainted with their partner and/or assess their compatibility. As a result, individuals can find that their expectations for the relationship, interests, and beliefs do not align with their partners, which can be extremely distressing. In order to avoid making hasty ineffective decisions while navigating the dating realm, stop, in the name of love, and be sure to use your skills!
As previously mentioned, during the onset of a relationship, emotions often take the front seat, ultimately driving individuals’ experiences (e.g., influencing our behaviors). Think about how you are normally at the beginning of a relationship. Are you frequently filled with warm thoughts and emotions about your dating relationship? Do intense feelings towards your dating prospect cause you to ignore their red flags? Do you spend time asking your dating prospect questions about their values, beliefs, and experiences?
Now determine whether your behavior is effective in allowing you to achieve the goal you have for the relationship. Ask yourself, is this behavior or emotion serving me? Will this behavior help me reach my short- and long-term goals? By doing this, you are using your Wise Mind or inner wisdom. When practicing Wise Mind, individuals consider the facts involved within a situation and their own internal emotional experiences to make decisions aligned with their goals. To help you access your Wise Mind, feel free to explore the guided wise mind practices below.
Wise Mind Practices
Check the Facts
In addition to using your wise mind, you can also check the facts of your relationship in order to determine whether your emotions are justified and in turn avoid engaging in behaviors that may strain or terminate it. When feeling intense emotions or deciding how to navigate within a relationship, it is critical that you check the facts. When checking the facts, consider first, the emotion you are experiencing and its intensity, on a 0 to 100 scale. Next, consider the things that you have observed, using your senses, within your relationship thus far. Have you had intimate conversations with your partner? Has your partner been inconsistent with communication? Has your partner expressed that they have similar expectations as you within the relationship? While doing this, notice the thoughts or interpretations that you are experiencing. Are you having thoughts that you will be in a relationship with this person? Or maybe this person is the love of your life. Notice the impact these thoughts have on your emotions. Now, taking solely the facts into consideration, determine whether the emotion you are feeling and its intensity is justified. In other words, does your emotion and its intensity fit the facts of the situation?
If you find that the emotions that you are feeling don’t fit the facts or are ineffective, practice opposite action to engage in more effective behaviors and change your emotions. Opposite Action can be done by refraining from acting on ineffective urges by doing the exact opposite. For example, if you determine that feelings of love you have for your partner are not justified because you have not taken time to get to know them; instead of acting on an urge to buy your partner an expensive watch, don’t and refrain from doing acts of love like doing their laundry or cooking them dinner. Instead, replace these behaviors with engaging in purposeful and mindful conversations that allow you to deepen your understanding of your partner. By doing this, you are increasing your pool of information about your partner that will aide you in managing and assessing your feelings of love towards this person; this newly found information may increase or decrease your feelings of love and connection with this person.