Coping with the highs and lows of a rollercoaster relationship

16 June 2020

When your relationship is an ‘emotional rollercoaster’, it tends to have lots of highs and lows – often in rapid succession.

One day you’re arguing intensely, the next you’re feeling really happy and close.

You may find it hard to predict what things are going to be like on any given day, or when they might swing from one state to another. People sometimes describe relationships like this as being full of ‘drama’ or characterised by lots of ‘passion’.

How does this kind of relationship develop?

The most common reason for this kind of relationship developing is one or both partners finding it difficult to manage their emotions and how they express them to their partner. They may get easily upset, or veer rapidly between different emotional states.

The reasons behind this can be complex, but sometimes have their roots in how the person learned to relate to other people when growing up.

They may, for instance, have had an unstable relationship with their parents and, as a result, find themselves attempting to recreate this environment as an adult because it’s what they’re most used to. Although it sounds counter-intuitive, familiarity is a significant principle in emotional relationships – even in situations where the familiarity isn’t necessarily productive or easy to bear. In fact, research has shown that often we are attracted to what is familiar to us, and being exposed to certain types of people can even increase our attraction to them. This is essentially subconscious and, as such, we’re unlikely to be aware it.

How will the rollercoaster affect you?

It requires significant levels of energy to maintain this type of relationship – to the extent where it can be difficult to concentrate on other areas of your life properly. Dealing with negative emotions is challenging, and switching between highs and lows in rapid succession can be exhausting. It can produce a sense of uncertainty derived from not knowing where you stand on any given day. People in this kind of relationship often describe themselves as ‘consumed’ by it – saying that it becomes the centre of their life.

Sometimes, one of the most problematic characteristics of rollercoaster relationships is that they can be habitual. While they are extremely tiring and sometimes traumatic, they can also be highly exciting, fun and engaging. The word ‘passion’ tends to crop up a lot when we work with couples in this kind of relationship. Although partners may feel there are many positives in their relationship, the sense of constant drama can also feel overwhelming and confusing.

How to deal with it

An ideal outcome for someone in a rollercoaster relationship may be for them to retain a lot of the ‘passion’ while finding a way to regulate the characteristic highs and the lows.

Better understanding is usually the first step towards meaningful change. Finding out how you fit together emotionally, what your respective needs are, and what changes you would like to make are key to ensuring that each partner can be heard within the relationship.

This often means asking yourself, and each other, really honest and occasionally challenging questions. Listening to each other, perhaps with the help of a counsellor, can often mean that each partner gets a fuller understanding of how their patterns of communication may be affecting their partner.

By becoming more aware of these relationships patterns, you can understand how the attraction between you really works. Developing more awareness about things like this will, in turn, help to develop new patterns that are helpful to both partners.

If you’d like to talk with one of our counsellors about all this, either individually or as a couple, give our friendly appointments team a call on 01234 356350.


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