The Dark Night of the Relationship is an important stage in any long-standing, committed relationship. This is a stage that no one tells us about, neither would we have believed it could happen to us as we stood doe-eyed awaiting the celebratory nuptials. The Dark Night of the Relationship is real, it is necessary and when committed and aware, some relationships will survive it. Some will not. The progression into the Dark Night looks like this:
1) We meet someone and fall in love. We see the other party and the relationship through the eyes of idealization. One or both parties are still carrying around with them the unhealed wounds of their past and are probably looking for the other party to be their source of fulfillment and satisfaction. Often, we are looking for someone to complete us.
2) One or both parties begin to feel restless and the blinders of the early stage of the relationship begin to fall away. We begin to see each others’ wounds, strange behaviors, etc. We enter into a stage of disillusionment, frustration maybe even anger. In the early stages of our relationships, we either confront these issues, or we sweep them under the rug. If swept under the rug, these issues build and fester eventually leading (usually somewhere around midlife when the hormonal blend shifts from childbearing to birthing ourselves) to the Dark Night of the Relationship.
3) The Dark Night of the Relationship is when we feel as if the bottom has fallen out. Often, a catalyst has happened (an emotional or physical affair), and the couple feels as if they are at a crossroads. Emotions are high and tensions are great. The possibility of divorce is considered if not talked about.
Dark Night of the Relationship process
Addressing the Dark Night of the Relationship when it arises, requires more than traditional relationship counseling usually provides, acknowledging that even the best communication skills cannot guarantee the success of a relationship. Truly successful relationships are built by two healthy, self-aware and self-actualized individuals who also know how to communicate.
The challenge is that most marriages entered into during our youth were not built upon this foundation. As such, the focus of the Dark Night work is the emotional, psychological and spiritual development of the individuals, which then leads to working on the relationship itself. For the relationship, the Dark Night work begins with unraveling the illusions upon which the relationship was initially built while supporting the possibility of renegotiating a new relationship built upon the foundations of individual emotional maturity and lived out through shared responsibility, mutual respect and interdependence (instead of co-dependence). The Dark Night of the Relationship process includes, but is not limited to:
- Uncovering and healing the unhealed wounds from our childhood and early adulthood, along with their resulting compulsive behaviors which may have contributed to early and continuing relationship issues.
- Examining the things we had hoped to “get” from our partner and learning how to cultivate these qualities in ourselves.
- Exploring the unique temperaments, communication styles, learning styles, love languages, etc. that may have contributed to early and continuing relationship issues.
- Learning how to appreciate and value each other for our unique gifts and differences, and learning how to communicate within these differing temperaments.
- Identifying who you want to be in relationship.
- Identifying the traits you are looking for in a partner.
- Communicating this between partners.
- Discerning if these desires meet.
Depending on the results of the Discernment stage, this stage will take one of two forms:
- Rebuilding the relationship based on new information.
- Negotiating a separation/divorce.
The result of Dark Night work is not always reconciliation and rebuilding, but the end result, for couples that have the courage to do this work, is a better relationship than you ever thought possible or the ability to walk away with the knowledge of what you do want in an intimate relationship and tools to help you to accomplish this, along with the proper perspective and self-knowledge to move through separation and divorce in as peaceful way as is possible.
For support in your quest for a healthy and mutually fulfilling love relationship, check out Lauri Ann Lumby’s online course: Happily Ever After – the Transformational Journey to Beloved Partnership.