Movies often romanticize emotional rollercoasters in relationships. In these portrayals, arguing intensely leads to equally intense moments of passion and intimacy. While it can make for solid entertainment, this kind of relationship is unhealthy and unsustainable in the real world.
An emotional rollercoaster relationship is one characterized by frequent emotional highs and lows, similar to a rollercoaster ride. This can be highly exciting in the beginning, but the constant drama can quickly feel overwhelming and cause significant levels of distress.
Intense emotional relationships can lead to a lot of insecurity. You may feel close one minute, but your partner may pull away or be angry the next. You’re never sure if your partner will be there for you tomorrow, leaving you with doubts as to whether they truly care about you.
Let’s take a look at how to deal with this kind of relationship and turn things around for good.
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Emotional rollercoaster relationships can happen for many reasons. It’s helpful to spend time reflecting on which ones may be at play in your relationship.
If one or both partners have an insecure attachment style, this can lead to an unstable development of the relationship. Attachment styles1 are first formed during childhood based on our relationship with our parents. Psychologists believe they impact the relationships in our adult lives, as well.
Those with anxious attachment styles may have low self-esteem and feel uncertain about their relationships. As a result, they may come across as clingy or needy while trying to make sure their partner is not looking to abandon them.
On the other hand, if someone has an avoidant attachment style, they may fear intimacy or rejection. In response, they may distance themselves and avoid confrontation to deal with these fears. Naturally, if people with each of these styles end up together, a rollercoaster relationship is almost a guarantee.
This kind of relationship can also develop if one partner is emotionally unstable. This can stem from past trauma, mental illness, or a lack of proper coping mechanisms.
An unstable person may have problematic characteristics, such as getting easily upset, taking their frustration out on the other person, or quickly switching between emotional states. This cause may be the most difficult to fix, but with therapy and the right tools, it’s still very possible.
If either partner is currently going through something that’s provoking significant levels of stress or anxiety, this can also have a negative impact on the relationship. Fortunately, this is often temporary.
Sometimes a rollercoaster relationship has great potential and just needs some TLC. That said, there are also cases where it may not make sense to work on it and continue hurting both sides.
You need to also ask yourself, “do I actually see a future with this person, or am I blinded by my intense emotions?” It’s easy to become deeply infatuated with someone who isn’t right for you.
Those emotional highs don’t mean that they’re the ideal partner for you. If you can’t identify any desirable qualities in that person beyond the passion and excitement you feel, it may be better to say goodbye.
Additionally, sometimes a relationship is simply beyond repair. You need to determine whether you truly feel it’s possible to make things work with this person and whether you even want to.
Are your goals, values, and expectations for the relationship compatible with your partner’s? Do you even know what their goals are?
If these don’t line up, it can lead to confusion, resentment, and constant drama. To create meaningful change, you both need to be willing to do the work towards the same end goal.
Have an honest conversation so you can get on the same page. Once you have a better understanding of each other’s respective needs, wants, and goals you can work together as a team to tackle the issues in the relationship.
Poor communication is one of the most common reasons relationships fail. If you aren’t communicating your needs in an effective way, then it’s difficult for your partner to meet them.
When you express your concerns, make clear and specific requests of your partner. Offering potential solutions can often lead to a more ideal outcome than venting. Otherwise, you’re just talking in circles, which can eventually cause resentment.
However, make sure that these are truly requests and not demands or ultimatums. These can make the situation worse.
Effective communication2 involves much more than talking. In a healthy relationship, the goal should always be to get a better understanding of each other’s respective needs and how to support them.
This means that active listening techniques are just as important as how you express yourself. Be open-minded and listen without judgment. Don’t interrupt. Make sure you are focused on what they are saying instead of mentally preparing for how you will respond.
Don’t shy away from conversations that make you uncomfortable. You don’t always have to agree. The goal is to get a fuller understanding of the other person.
Change doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient with yourself, your partner, and your progress as a couple. Stay committed to the end goal and remember that this process will be worth it.
Set clear expectations with your partner so you’re on the same page. Understand that setbacks will happen, but it’s important to keep working towards your shared goals.
The issues in a relationship are rarely completely one-sided. Take a step back to see how you may be contributing to the dysfunction.
Even if it seems like your partner is the one starting arguments, pay attention to how you are reacting. Are you diffusing the situation or making it worse? We often create defense mechanisms3 without even realizing it.
Likewise, are you speaking up when something is not okay? Whether your partner is easily upset or more likely to become distant, holding in your frustration is not productive. On the opposite, your attempt to pacify could be enabling the behavior.
This also means taking accountability in working towards a solution. You should never try to “fix” the other person. Instead, you should be trying to heal the relationship by working together as a team.
Learning how to manage intense emotions in a healthy way is an important skill. It’s important not to take these emotions out on your partner, and to express them more appropriately.
Common tools include art, exercise, and mindfulness practices. These techniques can act as both an outlet for emotions and a way to calm you down.
It’s also important to work through past upsets and let them go. Holding grudges makes it difficult to have the kind of relationship you want. Either move on or talk about the issues until you can forgive.
All couples fight, even in a healthy, normal relationship. Yet, arguing intensely can be extremely tiring. It’s also not productive at all. It’s important to learn how to argue in an effective and respectful way.
Pause before you speak. Make sure you’re not going to regret what you’re about to say. Talk slowly so you can stay in control of your emotions.
Use “I” statements to express how you feel without blaming or accusing the other person. Make sure you’re both actively listening to each other and getting a fuller understanding of where the other person is coming from.
If things are getting too heated, take a break to cool down. Revisit the conversation later from a calmer place. It’s more important to talk about things in an appropriate way than to talk about them right away.
We talked about communicating your needs, but sometimes you may not even be fully aware of what they are. Spending some time to reflect and work on yourself can make them more clear.
Start to focus more on your interests, hobbies, and friends outside of the relationship. It's unhealthy to invest too much of ourselves into a relationship. It's key to maintaining a separate sense of self. Otherwise, we’re more likely to get overly emotional, defensive, or combative.
It’s also important to work on any problematic characteristics that may be affecting the relationship. Develop stronger boundaries, work through trust issues, and build your self-esteem.
Sometimes, it may be helpful to take a break from the relationship. This way you can completely focus on your personal development. A break can also help you get a fresh perspective on the relationship.
In addition to personal development, self-care is vital when dealing with a difficult relationship. An unstable relationship can negatively impact your well-being. When your mental health suffers, your relationship suffers.
Self-care4 can include mindfulness activities, meditation, and exercise. It can also be something as simple as taking some time to yourself to relax and recharge when you need it. Other self-care ideas include talking to friends, journaling, and practicing gratitude.
Recommit to your partner and to this process on a regular basis. When things start to feel overwhelming, take a step back and remind yourself of the love you share. A gratitude journal can be a helpful way to keep track of all the things you love about your partner.
Also, be patient and compassionate with your partner. Remember, we’re all just doing the best that we can. If you’re both trying and making an effort, then that’s all that matters.
You should never compromise your values, boundaries, or well-being, but healthy compromises are helpful in fixing the relationship.
Compromising shows that you value the relationship more than you value being right or having things your way. Evaluate the situation. How much is this compromise really going to affect you in the long run?
All too often, our past experiences shape what we know of relationships in a negative way. If our parents had an unhealthy relationship, we may perceive that as normal. We may even unconsciously seek it out in future romantic relationships.
Therefore, it’s beneficial to seek out models of healthy relationships so you can work towards the kind of relationship you want and build new patterns. Look for examples in your life of couples who demonstrate healthy communication, respect, and love.
Just because you’re looking for healthy models of relationships doesn’t mean you should be comparing your relationship to others. Remember that every relationship moves at its own pace and has its own dynamics.
When you unfairly compare, you often end up taking your frustrations out on your partner. This further fuels the rollercoaster of emotions as they end up feeling attacked and unappreciated.
Sometimes, to see a meaningful change, you need to seek help from a mental health professional. Continuing to have the same conversations with your partner isn’t productive. While it can be a scary step to take, getting outside help often leads to the most ideal outcome.
Seeing a therapist can have many positives. They can provide an unbiased outside view into your relationship’s patterns. They can also give you new tools that can help you to develop healthier behaviors. Finally, a therapist can be beneficial by providing an outlet where you can both safely express yourselves without judgment.
Therapy may not be an option for all couples, due to lack of availability or financial concerns. In this case, coaches, religious figures, mentors, or even open-minded friends can offer an alternative outlet.
Sometimes, no matter what you do, the relationship isn’t meant to be. Maybe you’re simply not compatible. Maybe your partner isn’t willing to work on the relationship. Maybe you’ve both been putting the work in for a while now and you just can’t seem to make the relationship work.
You also need to keep an eye on your own mental health so you can judge when it’s time to call it quits. A toxic relationship is not worth your self-esteem and well-being. It can be difficult to say goodbye, especially when there are many positives in the relationship. Ultimately, only you know what’s best for yourself.
Dating can be an emotional rollercoaster when highs of passion and connection are interspersed with the extreme lows of toxic fighting or avoidance. This often happens when one or both partners are not communicating in a healthy way or properly managing negative emotions. Fortunately, it can be fixed.
In order to fix emotional draining in a relationship, both partners have to be ready and willing to make changes. Learn healthier ways of communicating, managing negative emotions, and arguing fairly. It’s often useful to talk to a mental health professional, who can help you both build new patterns.
It’s common to feel emotionally drained in a relationship when it’s full of drama and toxic miscommunication. Frequent fighting can be extremely tiring. It’s also common to feel insecure and like you’re “walking on eggshells” when you’re not sure how your partner is going to react at any given moment.
Having an emotionally unstable partner doesn’t mean you have to break up. However, in order to protect your own well-being and the health of the relationship, it’s often recommended to involve a mental health professional. This person can help with emotional regulation and healthy communication for both partners.
Intense emotional relationships can last, but only if both partners are willing to put the work in. While intense passion can be normal and highly exciting in the beginning, intense fighting and insecurity are never part of a sustainable relationship. The couple needs to work on improving their communication.
If you feel stuck in a rollercoaster relationship, there is hope. Following the steps above could help you get to a happier place. I hope you found this article helpful. Let me know what you think about this topic in the comments and remember to share with friends!