You have the same twisted love of Monty Python movies, you like each other’s friends (even the weird ones), and the chemistry is palpable. Things are looking good.
Until you screw it up.
Maybe you cheated on her. Maybe you got drunk at his company picnic and threw up on the boss’s shoes. Maybe you completely wigged out, Glenn Close-in-Fatal Attraction-style, over a purported flirtation with an enthusiastic member of the wait staff. Or maybe what started out as an innocent tug-of-war over the movie listings blew up into a name-calling, plate-smashing, temper tantrum.
The result? The relationship that seemed so promising last week may not survive the weekend. Can your relationship ever recover? Or should you just throw in the towel?
In the early stages, most new relationships are usually so fragile that they can’t withstand a major upset. The three-to-five month mark is the most common time for breakups; that’s when the shine of new love starts to wear thin, and you frequently get a glimpse of your partner’s real personality, and not just their “date face.”
Here’s how it works: Around three months, you start to get attached, which makes you feel more vulnerable, which makes you more inclined to act like a nut, which makes you more likely to get dumped by the person to whom you are so attached. Welcome to the third circle of hell.
We’ve all done it. Fueled by alcohol, insecurity, or the ghosts of relationships past, we’ve done something jerkish that threatened a relationship we’d hoped to keep.
But once you’ve stepped over the line, can you fix it?
According to Karen Salmansohn, author of How to Be Happy, Dammit , the answer is yes.
According to Salmansohn the key is to “own it, and then disown it.” Which means you take full responsibility for what happened, and then explain why you’ve fixed the problem and it will never happen again. “They have to really believe you’ve gone into your internal programming and fixed the faulty wiring that made you do this stupid thing.”
Salmansohn suggests you link the episode to something that was happening at the time — “temporary insanity versus permanent insanity.” Maybe that was the week your uncle had a skiing accident, you got fired from your job, or your trusty ferret, Wilbur, went to the big pet store in the sky.
Salmansohn says, “In a world that’s all about diverting blame away from ourselves, you really get extra credit points when you say, ‘I messed up, I’m sorry’ — it’s refreshing.” She says, “If you let them know how much you like them and that the mistake was life changing (It made me realize how much I care about you!), or if you make it clear that you did it for a reason that is now gone. (i.e., a drinking problem now resolved)” they’re more likely to forgive you.
She says, “Explain why the issue wouldn’t happen again in a way that’s logical,” and that frequently the other person will tell you exactly what you need to do to get back in their good graces. “You have to slay some dragons for them.”
So you might end up having to call the boss, and offer to get her shoes cleaned and deodorized. Agree to a 24-hour “cooling-off period” before you bring up any tramps that end up on his lap. And very definitely, you’ll have to act like a sane person for a while.
And if you happen to be on the receiving end of a freak-fest, remember there are usually only two reasons why someone flips out early on in a relationship: They really like you, or they really are nuts. It’s up to you to figure out which.
I guess that’s why they call it crazy in love.
Dating Expert Lisa Daily is the author of Stop Getting Dumped!