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Riding The Ups and Downs of Love

Do you remember trying as a child trying to master the art of standing on the center of a teeter-totter? You may have started at one end and climbed up the plank, moving toward the fulcrum, increasingly feeling the risk that the other end would slam down, knocking you off. You might have tried it with the help of a friend who balanced the teeter-totter while you got to the center. Yet once at the center you still had to teach your legs how to make fine adjustments in balance so that you could maintain your position on the fulcrum, that essential, pivotal point capable of keeping both ends lifted up in the air.


In healthy relationships, love is the fulcrum upon which we attempt to live and be centered. 

I'm Just Mad About You! But Sometimes I'm Just Mad AT You!


Sometimes it’s a wild ride. Our spirits are lifted when we fall in love, feel the deliciousness of moments of closeness or shared understanding, and enjoy each other fully. These are the times we say, “I’m mad about you!”

But our hearts sink when there is conflict and disagreement, distance and misunderstanding. That’s when the sentiment is, “I’m mad at you!”


Whether we’re falling in love or fighting for love, soaring high or landing with a “thud!” we need to continually make adjustments and self-correct in order to ride the ups and downs of relationship and steady ourselves for the duration.  

What Makes You Feel Vulnerable?


What are the struggles that make you feel vulnerable to falling off the love fulcrum: financial or health issues, addiction or depression, or personal losses? These and similar vulnerabilities will definitely tip the balance point in a relationship making it difficult to feel at ease and able to hang on and adjust.  When you are at risk of being knocked off your center, it helps to look at what is riding on the outer ends of your relational teeter-totter. It might be an unmet relational need or an inner struggle.


Here are some examples:


Alicia’s husband is dealing with prostrate cancer. He is understandably both scared and preoccupied and copes by holing up in front of the television. Alicia has her own fears and is understandably frustrated and disappointed.  Her need for connectedness and contact is going unmet while he is independently struggling to cope and make decisions.

·      Connectedness------------------^-----------------------Independence


Rebecca’s work schedule has become unpredictable. She worries that this loss of control will create upset between her and her partner.

·      Flexibility------------------------^-------------------------------Control


Martha’s husband has lost his business. He has become depressed and vacillates between fatigue and outbursts of anger. She wants her compassion to have an impact and she needs to feel protected from emotional harm.

·      Be Influenced----------------------^------------------Have an Influence

·      Harmony/Self Regulation--------^---------------------Self Expression


Other needs in other circumstances that might have gotten out of whack:

·      Shared Experience/Sameness---^----------------------Be Seen as Unique

·      Approval---------------------------^-------------------------Self-Confidence

·      Comfort----------------------------^-------------------------------Stimulation

·      Security-----------------------------^---------------------------------------Risk


When things get wobbly in relationship

         1. Compassion and empathy are always the best starting point, for your partner and yourself.

         2. Identify the underlying needs that have weight for you.

         3. Ask for what you need, ask what your partner needs.

         4. If the need can’t be met, try playing around with your balance point. 

Unexpected Outcomes


I know a woman who grew emotionally flexible after losing her health; a woman who was so under the influence of alcohol that volunteering to be a sponsor and influencing others was the best way to stay in recovery; a woman who lost her life-long partner and became a world traveler; a woman who strove for the comfort of retirement only to creatively re-invent herself; a woman who ached for the security of a harmonious home who found her peace within. 

What a Ride!


There is no question that it is vulnerable standing on a love fulcrum. But it is the pivotal place at the center of our souls where the movement of life calls forth our courage, commitment, compassion, and creativity, changing and developing us in ways we can’t anticipate. What a ride! As a child, if you got knocked off the teeter-totter you would have gotten right back up and tried again. That was called play.


It’s never too late in life to play on the love fulcrum!