In this five-part series we're examining when is long enough long enough? And, how do you know when you've given your relationship all the chances it deserves? In the previous three installments we looked at how long to give a relationship, some reasons to immediately terminate a relationship, and the mystery of chemistry.

Idea Number Four

If you or the other person has strong ambivalent feelings about each other, I would make every effort to maximize the positive side of the ambivalence. If this doesn't work in a few months, that is, if the ambivalence continues, a long-term pattern seems to be established.

I know some couples who like each other a lot at certain times, but at other times they don't like each other much at all. There are certain qualities of the one person that are very attractive to the other person, and there are certain qualities about them that are very unattractive. Sometimes they are so positive toward the other person and sometimes they are so negative. They are what we call "Ambi Valent." That is, they have two valences toward that other person.

They have two sets of feelings. Do those marriages work? Not very well. There's too much stormy time. If you get too many storms going in a relationship, you've got a lot of trouble on your hands. You can flood out the relationship during the bad times. Can you try to build your relationship so that those bad times don't exist? Yeah, that's an idea, but most of the time, in a marriage, you live so much of your life together that both of those situations get involved and it's very, very hard to ignore the possibility that the negativity and the second side of that ambivalent nature is going to come up in the relationship.

We can reduce the negativity in the ambivalence. Let's see if we can increase the positive side in the ambivalence and make that ambivalence into a minor secondary concern.

Let's say, for instance, that you are currently dating someone who is so exciting to you that when everything is right you just love being around them. I mean, you just laugh and your brain is going a million miles an hour because they have such stimulating thoughts and all the rest.

But sometimes things get kind of negative between the two of you and sometimes that very exciting quality in the other person turns into kind of a harassing quality. They just stir you up so much and you just find yourself with such indignation and anger toward them.

Sometimes it's just wonderfully positive and sometimes it's so intensely negative. Well, then what we would like to try to do is find out how we can increase the positive part of that and decrease the negative part.

If you were coming to me, I'd ask you to tell me all the ways that you find yourselves being very positive in relation to each other and I would put them down on a piece of paper and list them all. Can you make a life out of those ways?

I would then ask you to tell me about all the things that you get to talking about that cause a negative reaction. If the negative concerns spiritual things and politics and kids, and you start telling me that they are areas that are central to your life, I'm going to get worried about that.

Ambivalent relationships can be very, very difficult. They can create such a sense of desperation in you. It's hard to give up one of these ambivalent relationships because, on the positive side, you just like so much of what you see. It's hard to walk away from that in order to get rid of the negative side, but often times you have to do it. I say to you, if things don't change over a six-month period of time, you probably have a pattern going-a pattern that will never change.


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