Relationship Ups and Downs | A Survivor's Guide

As we grow up, we become accustomed to the theme of relationships from a very naive lens. As children, we can’t possibly understand the dynamics in relationships or the relationship ups and downs and certainly not how to navigate through them.

A Prince charming climbing towers to help a princess in distress, or even a sleeping princess who can only awake from the tender kiss of her savior. Nonetheless, we don’t learn about the realities behind these relationships and the relationship ups and downs: after all, perhaps the sleeping beauty was completely comfortable napping all these years.

 Martin Ward | July 13, 2021

woman put off by partner and experiencing relationship ups and downs

A Therapist’s Perspective on relationship ups and downs.

If you’re human, you’ve experienced relationship ups and downs. Human relationships, including romantic and intimate relationships, inevitably include downs as well as ups. Whether our relationship rolls with the flow is linked to our expectations around relationships.

As a Therapist, I see clients suffering because they hold the false belief that relationships are only successful when they fit the fairly-tale mold. 

In this blog, we learn about the 5-stages of relationships, as well as how we can sort through the differences between relationship challenges and relationship toxicity. There’s plenty here to help you consider your own relationship expectations, so you are better equipped to navigate the ups and downs of your own relationships. 

Claire Law

“Love does not die easily. It is a living thing. it thrives in the face of all life’s hazards, save one – neglect.”

~ James D. Bryden


Table of Contents

Surviving Relationship Ups and Downs

This is all simply to say that relationships have their ups and downs. Marriages, partnerships, romantic relationships, etc., etc., aren’t fairytales, nor do they always end up being fantastic and fulfilling.

Sometimes, it’s time to throw in the towel and learn from the mistakes we have made, or those others have made that have crossed our boundaries.

This learning process is what we are discussing throughout this article: relationship ups and downs, and finally, when a ‘down’ isn’t really one but instead is a worrying red flag hinting at toxicity within your relationship.

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The Five Stages of a Relationship

Like anything else that is long-lasting in life, relationships do not always end up running the way we want them to.

And although we may be thinking, “my partner and I’s relationship is different from everyone else!” it’s rare, as most relationships will go through the same five stages.

Romance Stage

First, you have the romance stage: we all know that once quite well! All is well; you are completely infatuated and can’t seem to keep your hands off your partner. They are quite literally the best person you have ever met.

Power Struggle Stage

And then, you reach the power struggle stage: you start realizing that perhaps this person isn’t truly the best person you’ve ever met, but instead, they do have some downsides.

You become blinded– you only see these and may feel anger and resentment while trying to revert this person back to the one you remember being with. And yet, it’s not possible.

Make or Break Stage

This is where a relationship can reach the make-or-break factor: either you compromise and learn to love this person for who they are, or the relationship hits its end date.

If you do make it, you then reach the stage of stability, where you feel comfortable and connected again.

Commitment Stage

Then, at the commitment stage, you both, well, commit to one another in the long run!

Bliss Stage

And finally, you have the co-creation or bliss stage, which is where you create a life together and live like one, so to speak. Of course, you are still your own person, but your life becomes shared.

Then, of all the relationship ups and downs you could be experiencing, you mostly live the ups.

woman discovering partners affair on cellphone

“Lovers are fools, but Nature makes them so.”
Elbert Hubbard


Signs Your Relationship Is in Trouble

How can you know that you have reached the power struggle stage and that your relationship is in trouble? Of course, one of the main signs is that there is a lack of intimacy.

Similarly, if you feel resentment or hatred, you may be reaching the ultimate point where you can’t go any further.

You may be dealing with more frequent and more heated arguments, and you may prefer having some distance from your partner.

Similarly, this distance may translate into full-on avoidance of the partner, preferring to hang out with others instead. You may have different goals and beliefs which clearly don’t align with each other. Finally, unhealthy interactions are a clear sign of trouble.

However, if you find yourself irritated by just about everything your partner does, or if their simple breathing is enough to make you go insane, the relationship may be beyond saving.

If you are constantly finding faults with one another, or if you both walk on eggshells whenever you are together, you may want to think about the state of your relationship and whether this is salvageable.

In the end, I cannot tell you whether your relationship is worth saving, but I am a firm believer that we just know when things have come to an end.

When the efforts you made to save your relationships do not work anymore, whether this is working on yourselves first, fighting without raising your voice or using abusive language, expressing more gratitude to each other, or attempting to re-install intimacy, it is time to do some introspective work to see if it’s time to move on.

Relationship ups and downs should be this– a balance! Not primarily low points.

woman waving off man in a toxic relationship

Challenges – Not to Be Mistaken with Toxicity!

Although relationship ups and downs can be a struggle and bring on their fair share of challenges, there are sure signs that shouldn’t be mistaken for “challenges” if they are, in fact, signs of a toxic relationship.

For example, although some lack of support can be problematic in a relationship, dealing with a partner who constantly puts you down or ridicules your ideas is a significant red flag.

Similarly, jealousy, although sometimes cute in the beginning, quickly becomes toxic if it is never-ending and ends up stopping you from hanging out with certain friends or taking part in particular activities.

Manipulative behavior is naturally also a sign of toxicity, especially if it entails gaslighting, whereby your partner makes you doubt your perception of reality.

If fights make you wonder whether you are exaggerating or as though you imagined things because your partner makes you feel this way, red flag.

In a similar fashion, if you are constantly the one apologizing, be attentive to the other signs of a toxic relationship.

If your partner does not respect your boundaries even though you have made them clear, that’s another red flag.

Final Thought.

At the end of the day, if you have a gut feeling making you think that something about your relationship just isn’t right, ask around about your friend’s perspectives of your relationship and trust your intuition. It’s there for a reason.

Indeed, we all experience relationship ups and downs!

But understanding why particular challenges emerge is critical and knowing when it’s time to think about yourself first is even more crucial.

So, think about your relationship, spot the challenges and sources of these struggles, and you can start figuring things out, even if that means putting an end to it.

Martin Ward

Marty Ward is the creator and publisher of the 1-Vibrant-Life blog. Marty has over 35 years of sales and marketing experience along with a fair amount of success as a musician. However, at the age of 26, Marty sustained a traumatic brain injury in a car accident while living in Chicago. This injury and its long-term recovery were catalysts in a quest for personal development and self-discovery, learning how to overcome repetitive negative thinking through the practice of CBT… Learn more on the 1-vibrant-life about us page.

Claire Law is a UK-based Counsellor and Psychotherapist from Preston, Northern England. Claire became a therapist after a career of almost two decades of High School teaching experience. She’s also worked extensively in the Social Care and Charity Sectors, and as a Mental Health Advisor in Higher Education. Claire combines her current Psychotherapy practice with freelance writing on Mental Health, well-being, and Psychology topics. She has a passion for Social Justice and environmental causes.

Claire holds a degree from Nottingham University, a Post Graduate Certificate in Education from Leeds Trinity University College, and a Post Graduate Diploma in Integrative Psychotherapy from the University of Central Lancashire. She’s completed a wide range of extensive training and certifications in Domestic Abuse, Survivors of Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence, Suicide and Self-Harm, Expressive Arts Therapy, Gender Variance, Online and Telephone Counselling and Polyvagal Regulation developed by Stephen Porges, a professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina and “Distinguished University Scientist” at Indiana University.