Over the years of my dating life, I have slowly learned to not take things personally. In the past, I have thought that the way in which people behave towards me was a direct reflection of my behavior or my worth as a person. That is simply untrue. People behave in ways that are sometimes unpredictable. In fact, even they themselves may not understand their behavior. While I consider myself to be introspective and to live an examined life, I sometimes have no idea why I do certain things. For example, I unintentionally twist my hair around my finger when I think (even though I know it damages my hair). The point here is, though, that we don’t always know why we do certain things, and we can’t always understand. We simply have to be equipped with the right toolset to be able to let things go. I have, quite honestly out of necessity, developed a “toolbox” of sorts for how to comedown from and be prepared to deal with both positive and negative aspects of romantic relationships. There are three primary tools to effectively manage emotions towards romantic relationships: (1) emotional regulation, (2) pace monitoring, and (3) personal agency.
Tool 1: Learn to regulate your emotions
Emotional Regulation involves closely monitoring feelings and reducing knee-jerk reactions to others’ behavior. Personally, I have a tendency to perceive things and people as either “all good” or “all bad”, as if there were no continuum. This can lead to experiencing unreasonably intense feelings for romantic partners. To break out of this cycle, I’ve learned to monitor my emotions and to challenge my feelings for others. Whenever I meet someone new, it’s important for me to identify both their positive and negative qualities. For example, a new friend may be charming, sociable, and kind, but that same friend may also be rigid and inflexible in her world views.
In addition, I try to be attentive to my feelings, particularly regarding my response and interpretation of a person’s behavior. Notice that I said interpretation. Although a partner may verbally convey her intention, we still evaluate the behavior and make our own judgements about it. There may be different perceptions from each side. For example, I dislike spending my free time cooking any individual meal. So if I spend time cooking for someone because I think that that person will enjoy it, that’s meaningful. Alternatively, if someone loves cooking and would do it anyway, cooking for a partner isn’t all that special. It’s not something to get overly excited about. In any case, mania or any exaggerated response can be dangerous. When your highs are too high, it makes coming down all the more painful. This is why it’s so important to regularly check in with yourself. No one person should be the sole source of your happiness, your ups, or your downs. Only you should be able to dictate your mood.
Tool 2: Monitor Your Pace With New Relationships
Another tool to comedown properly from the highs of a relationship is pace monitoring. This simply means to avoid getting too involved too quickly. Although cliché, one must first build a strong foundation to avoid utter destruction in the long run. In other words, if you move things too quickly and form only a shallow perception of an individual, there is a high likelihood that the comedown will be less than graceful. Imagine, for example, a house of cards built with a sturdy foundation. If one card falls off from the top, it may not impact much of the remaining house. Repair will be fairly simple. However, if said house of cards is built sloppily, with poor foundation, hastily, and without much care, one card falling (e.g., one problem) may result in catastrophic failure. Take your time building your relationships to make sure that any comedown or minor mishap does not leave the relationship in ruins — a complete loss.
Tool 3: A Superpower — Develop Personal Agency
Lastly, and most importantly, is personal agency. I want to emphasize this tool in particular. This is the most important of the three, as with this tool alone, any comedown will be more graceful. Personal agency involves knowing that you are solely responsible for yourself. This includes your emotions, feelings, and the decisions that you make to elicit those emotions and feelings. When you begin to internalize that, it helps to make more controlled, measured decisions about to what and to whom you give your limited time and attention — arguably your most valuable resources. What’s more is that you will begin to take responsibility for your mood. There will be no blaming of another person for the way that You feel and interact with the world. Cognitive behavioral therapy centers on the idea that the way in which we interpret events largely determines our mood, not the event itself nor the person who was involved with the event. If we can learn to positively reframe seemingly negative events, then, it could soften the blow of an otherwise devastating comedown.
Well, how do we strengthen this personal agency superpower? We have to constantly remind ourselves that we are in control and that we are capable. Practice small tasks that lead to small victories to build self-efficacy. Moreover, find the things that truly bring you joy and make you happy to be you. What is something that you intrinsically love about yourself, that no one else can take from you? If you don’t have at least one of those things, I challenge you to be brave enough to go out and to discover it. If you already have that thing, I encourage you to forever cherish it and to hone in on your superpower. In any case, keep in mind that learning to apply these tools is a process. You won’t immediately perfect each skill.
A Swiss Army Knife — If nothing else, remember to stay mindful
However, equipped with even just the basics of this toolset of emotion regulation, pace monitoring, and personal agency, you can begin mastering healthy relationships and forming healthy attachments. If nothing else, always remember to stay mindful, and may this in itself allow you to learn to comedown with grace.
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