New relationships follow a pattern that we all know, but often never think about. Do you recognise this? You meet someone new, feel intense attraction to them and after a few weeks (if the feelings are returned) you believe he/she is the greatest thing since sliced bread. They can do no wrong – OK, they’ve got a weird shaped nose or like that band you hate – but this is just part of their individuality. It doesn’t matter to you. Six months later you begin to think you can never listen to the band again and his/her nose is just TOO weird. Also, they don’t talk to you about their life and don’t get on with your mum/children/dog. But there are some compensations. He/she is kind and thoughtful and helps you with cooking/cleaning or work. Gradually, you adapt to the things you found difficult, and decide you can cope with the nose after all. Or you decided the problems over his/her lack of communication are too hard to deal with and split with him/her. Congratulations! You’ve just passed through the relationship roller coaster that leads to a continuing partnership (or an ending). This is common to most partnerships. You climb up towards ‘peak attraction’ and then head downwards to reassessing the whole relationship. In this phase you see your partner from both sides, and decide to accept his/her shortcomings and reach a plateau where you feel safe and secure, or realise that you cannot accept their differences and end the relationship.

This pattern can feel pretty confusing. Do I love the person I met initially, or the one he or she turns out to be? Is the person I thought I knew still there, or did I invent them? The truth is that if you want a secure partnership you need to know all the facets of his/her personality, rather than dismiss the bits you don’t like and pretend they are Mr. or Ms. Perfect. This is especially important if the relationship encounters a problem – illness, job loss, difficulties with children etc. You need to manage the problem with a real person, not an idealised fantasy. So the ‘love rollercoaster’ is crucial to all relationships, allowing you to truly know each other and feel secure. It’s also important if you decide to end the relationship because you will have made a decision informed by all aspects of his/her character rather than a sketchy idea of what they might or might not be.

Some people avoid reaching the downward slope, abandoning a relationship when the reality of the whole person begins to show. These people may be ‘love butterflies’, sipping the nectar of a new relationship before moving onto another person. If you meet someone like this, it can feel extremely frustrating. You want more, but they are evasive and eventually may ignore texts and calls. If you recognise yourself as someone like this, you may need to talk things over with a therapist because there will be some important reasons why you are avoiding a more realistic relationship.

So enjoy the ride, recognise it as the normal development of human partnerships and work at what love means to the two of you, and what needs talking about, if you both want to stay in the partnership.