Relationships are funny things. Is there anything else in life that can give such highs and lows? The right person can make us feel like we’re soaring, like we have our own personal sun that radiates its warmth just for us. Conversely the wrong person can make us feel small, neglected and pointless. While of course there are worse things than a broken heart, it doesn’t seem like that when you feel like your world has been shattered and plans for the future are like dust. It’s a paradox that the same person, at different times, can be both the right and the wrong person.

Why does this happen?

Relationships are usually at their most golden at the start. It’s true that all relationships change as time passes; the earliest stage being the ‘honeymoon’ period. During this time everything is wonderful, neither party can do anything wrong and both are making exceptional efforts to please each other, you are the best versions of yourselves.

What does the research say about this stage?

Studies conducted using functional MRI revealed that when deeply in love the reward centres of the brain are particularly active; even showing a picture of the object of desire causes an increase in stress buffering hormones. Another study found increased levels of a protein that helps the functioning and development of neurons in the brain. These findings show that intense feelings of love are a very positive thing for our psychological well-being. Unfortunately for most, it does not last.

12 to 24 months

Research found that after 12 to 24 months the intense feelings of love disappear, as does the corresponding release of positive hormones. Most people agree that once this period is over it’s not the same, and while wistful for the lost feelings, can become cynical about the present. This change can lead to fluctuating levels of satisfaction in relationships, and when people are less satisfied they are more likely to have eyes for an alternative mate.

Does this have to happen?

While it’s highly likely that your relationship will change its nature over time, it helps to understand why. Put simply, when something is new it is more exciting to us, it stimulates us more. As time passes we become acclimatised and therefore the stimuli affects us less. Not only do people stop making the same efforts they made at the start of a relationship, they can often take advantage treating their partner more like an inanimate object than a person. The phrase familiarity breeds contempt is appropriate.

How do I know if I’m worth it?

In short, you’ll feel it because your partner will continue to actively do things for you, not for his or her personal gain, but for yours. It’s important to recognise that your partner also wants to feel worth it as well. If their efforts for you have stopped ask yourself why, did you show appreciation for them or take them for granted, did you stop trying? Now, here’s the crux… for someone to appreciate you, you need to be sure that the efforts you make are meaningful to them, and vice versa. By this I mean that most people give what they want to receive; while this is understandable it could mean that you are both wasting your energy, and both feeling unhappy.

So what can I do?

  • Figure out is what matters to your partner, what you can do that makes them happy, and help them understand what makes you happy

  • Don’t make assumptions, they’re almost always wrong, instead work hard to have a constructive conversation

  • Don’t make them feel guilty, using guilt is a terrible way to motivate someone

  • Be patient, your partner may not understand what is happening and be fearful about engaging with the conversation

  • Ask them for their patience, you may be just a fearful

  • Be open and honest about what you miss and need, inspire them to want to make the effort

  • Let them know you want to make the effort for them as well

It’s crucial to think of your relationship as a living thing, it needs sustenance to survive and love to be happy and healthy. If you want to feel worth it, then encourage their efforts by showing appreciation, and consistently give as much effort as you’d like to receive. If you need something else to motivate you, although I can’t imagine why this wouldn’t be enough, remember the psychological benefits you’ll get as well.