Momentum Shifts


Momentum is defined as:

“the strength or force that something has when it’s moving”

Looked at this way momentum is often thought of in terms of a physical object, but physical objects aren’t the only things that can have momentum.

Momentum is also found in the world of sports. Take basketball (since that’s what I know best):

Maybe a player hits a few shots, then makes a great defensive play. Next thing you know the game is coming easily and the player (or team) is “in a zone”, confidence builds and everything seems to be working. In this case momentum is more like a feeling or an energy; and this energy can be seen through body language. When things are going well players are loose, carefree, and seem to be having fun. It can’t really be quantified, but anyone who has felt it or even just witnessed it knows it real.

One thing about momentum though, you can’t always control it and it’s not always positive. Just as positive momentum can build, players or teams can go cold and the momentum can shift. Sometimes a team appears to have a game well in hand, and then something happens. Maybe they start missing a few shots, or have some defensive lapses. At first it’s not a big deal as they still have the lead. But as the game becomes closer the energy starts to shift, and instead of playing freely players start to tighten up. Doubt starts to creep in and they start to rush. The opponent senses the shift, as do the fans.

When this happens a coach will often call a timeout to give the team a bit of a pep talk and try to prevent the negative momentum from building any further. See, momentum in this sense comes down a lot to confidence and belief. It is a form of energy visible largely through body language.

Momentum in Relationships

Relationships also have momentum. The early days of a relationship are often generally marked by a sense of positive momentum. The couple may just be getting to know each other, but they are relaxed, comfortable with each other and having fun.

Unfortunately just as there is positive momentum, there can also be negative momentum. And when you find yourself getting caught in negative momentum you can feel powerless to stop it.

The problem with negative momentum in relationships is that there is no coach to call a timeout and try to get things under control. Instead, this negative momentum can feed off itself and build, potentially spiraling out of control.

The Downward Spiral

I recently read an article by couples therapists Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt talking about how negative energy impacts relationships.

The therapists were a couple themselves, and as their own marriage was struggling they made an interesting discovery. Their discovery was that this negative momentum makes it very difficult to get out because people start to guard themselves, misinterpret things and look for offense even where none is intended.

As a result, even when partners are making attempts to improve the relationship and “make things better”, it often doesn’t work. People can become unable to recognize genuine love.

Harville ticks off the ways we deflect what we secretly crave: by devaluing praise; by assuming the other person is insincere; by criticizing the sender of a positive message for not getting it right, not doing it on time, or not doing it often enough; by not listening; or by feeling embarrassed.

For instance, there was the wife who told her husband she needed him to express more affection—then resisted his kisses and kind words because, she said, they didn’t feel genuine. Another husband admitted that when his wife offered verbal support, he shut down and didn’t respond. And when a new father took time off from work to help his exhausted wife with their twins, she refused to let him do his share.

“The common wisdom,” they write, “is that romantic relationships would stay happy if people did a better job of giving to each other. But that’s not what we’ve discovered. We’ve found that many people need to do a better job of receiving the gifts their partners are already offering. It’s surprising how often the compliments, appreciation and encouragement of a well-intentioned partner make no dent in the armor of an unhappy partner.

Ulterior Motives

When we are unhappy, we start to put up barriers, perpetuating our unhappiness and making it difficult for things to improve. One of the big problems is when we start looking for ulterior motives. If you are looking for hidden meanings and slights, you will always be able to find them.

This causes people to discount genuine attempts at improving and strengthening the relationship. People take the approach of “oh, he/she is only doing this because they want something”.

Yeah, they probably do want something. They want to make the relationship better. They want to see their partner smile again. They want to experience a loving relationship the way they once had. They want to be happy again as a couple. “Wanting something” doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

So they do their best to try to make things better, but they don’t know how. And when all their attempts at improving things are ignored or looked at suspiciously eventually they will give up.

That is when relationships die.

Loss of Hope

I’ve said before that I don’t think it’s ever too late. Sure, there are some cases where it’s best for everyone if a relationship ends. Often when relationships end I think that both people do still love each other. But that love is buried under layers of hurt and resentment, and it has gotten to the point where they don’t believe they will ever be happy again.

Consider the following:


It’s kind of a morbid thought, but I think the same thing happens in relationships. I don’t think anyone “wants” a divorce (alright, maybe some do but those are probably exceptions). They just want to be happy again, and they have lost hope that they will be able to.

Frequently when long term relationships fail, one or both members wish they could have made it work. And often long after the relationship has ended, people hold out hope that they will somehow be able to reconcile.

A buddy of mine ended up divorced after his wife walked out on him, and even after the divorce he wore his ring for 6 months hoping that somehow they could figure things out. Eventually he gave up and moved on with his life (only to have her come back wanting to patch things up after it was too late). Reading other blogs and comments sections, for the person who was dumped/scorned/left there is often a wish that things could be different, and they could be back together.

The failure of a long term relationship is not an easy thing, and the only people who seem to be unfazed by it are people who have already started a new relationship prior to ending the old one. Incidentally, those affair relationships are almost always doomed to failure. Stats say that 40-50% of first marriages fail (pretty depressing), but when you look at numbers on the affair relationships that cause marriages to end, the stats jump to around 80%.

Changing Perspective

I think people give up on their relationships too easily. Long term love isn’t always easy – you need to build it, and keep building it every day of your life.

Negative momentum can threaten to tear things down, so we need to find ways to recognize when it is happening, stop it and turn it around when it occurs.

We need to start opening ourselves up to genuine gestures of love, and stop looking for problems and issues. You will always be able to find things to be unhappy about if you are looking for them.

You get out of life what you put into it. It can be hard when you are unhappy, but you need to start focusing on the positive, and appreciating the things that are good. I’m sure there is a lot of good, but it can be hard to see when you are caught in negative momentum.

No matter what state your relationship is in, things can always get better. Things can always improve. But you need to open yourself up and allow love back in.

For any readers out there who have “been through the fires”, I would love to hear from you. What are some things that you have used to hold on and maintain your love when times were tough? Feel free to comment below or email me at

20 thoughts on “Momentum Shifts

  1. Reblogged this on My Life is a Soap Opera and commented:
    This is completely for my husband whom I stated often was in his negativity box. I suppose I had a bit of time in the box as well. His affair destroyed our marriage and me. We are both learning to be present for each other now. My husband said he didn’t know what marriage really meant until now. That is difficult to hear and accept. At least we are both trying to help each other and acknowledge our love. That is a start I suppose.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on your whole world can change in a minute and commented:
    Damn… this really hit home. This is what happened in my relationship. My partner could only see negatives and this caused her to shut down, lose all feelings of “being in love” only to find out months later that she did indeed love me but they were so overcome with resentment and hurt she couldn’t recognize anything else. Great read!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sadly, your story is all too common. I hear about this all the time, and maybe I’m stupid but I really don’t get it.

      When we commit to someone because you love them, how do we let things get in the way? How do we let hurt and resentment build to the point that love breaks down.

      It truly saddens me. I think it comes down to communication. For some reason communication is so hard, but it shouldn’t be. When someone is trying to tell us what they need/want/feel, why don’t we listen? Maybe we don’t know how.

      Our partners should be the most important things in our life, but in long term relationships we start to take them for granted. They want/need something, and we are so caught up in trivial things that we end up alienating the people that are most important to us.

      Thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dang, you hit it right on the head. our communication, especially her LACK of, hindered all this. She never spoke up, avoided any conflict but in term created drama instead. I wasn’t the best listener either and just like you said, we took each other for granted after 11 years. It truly is sad but we live and learn from all our mistakes, even those that rip our hearts out. Thanks so much for your post!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Avoidance is one of the biggest killers of relationships. We are all somewhere on the avoidance spectrum, and I am/have been slightly avoidant myself.

        I have realized how much damage it does, and now I try to ensure that I don’t leave anything unsaid. I’m careful in how I say things, but nothing is more unfair than being penalized for something you never knew about, and were never able to try to make better.


      • Yes, you are so right!! Sometime we feel like running alone on fire, we forget to notice others too running with us!! This is true everyone are different but, the feelings and pain are the same.
        This post is a great one telling all about the truth.
        Thank you for sharing with us 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • Common sense goes out the window? Yeah, isn’t that the truth.

      The hard part is recognizing when things are spiraling, and stopping it from getting worse.

      One thing I’ve seen is that usually one person recognizes what is happening before the other, and it is usually up to them to turn things around by leading by example, and treating their partner the way they wish things were even though a part of them may want to retaliate and cause things to escalate further. Someone has to diffuse things, and that can be VERY hard – especially in the emotion of the moment.

      I try to think of things long term instead of just worrying about the here and now.


  3. As usual, very well done. I found myself nodding in agreement over and over as I read. If I had a dime for every time I told my soon to be ex that our communication really needed some help (and tried to get her to go to a professional with me that could help us), I would be a rich guy.

    However, in our case, it wouldn’t have made a difference, at least not right now. I do believe in the future she will look back and wish she would have done some things differently. For now, the momentum is far too great and our marriage will be over soon (just waiting on the signatures). I continue to struggle with it in some ways, but I have accepted it.

    Keep up the good work my friend.


    • I’ve been away from a computer the last 2 weeks so I haven’t kept up with how things are going for you. But I know you were at the courts, and I hope you are well.

      I know it’s hard to see now, but somehow in some way things will get better.

      Take care of yourself

      Liked by 1 person

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  7. Thanks for this post. Your paragraph on ‘ulterior motives’ helps me understand the downward spiral that my husband went through (six months prior to leaving me) and the way he turned on me towards the end. That is, the twisting of everything I tried to do for him or us into some ulterior motive that seemed to only give him further justification that ‘things were not right’ rather than taking my actions with the love and care intended. Nearly four years later, some of those words he threw at me in that period still ring in my head and I still sometimes find myself thinking ‘what could I have done to prevent this’? It is comforting to know and understand that the answer to that question is ‘nothing’. It was simply a sign of the new path he had already chosen which was to exit the relationship and by that stage nothing that I could have done or said could have stopped that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sorry to hear that you went through that. It’s so hard, and so hurtful.

      Psychologists say that often anger is really guilt turned outwards.

      I think people know when they are treating the other person badly, and when they are in the wrong. So the mind plays this cruel game, perhaps subconsciously.

      The other person focuses on the negative, and looks for all the reasons they can find to “justify” what they are doing.

      And the other person is left stunned. Nothing they can do matters. Nothing helps. Even the best intentioned actions get warped and twisted into something that they weren’t.

      In breakups, this appears pretty consistent behavior. Someone decides they want out for whatever reason, and when they do there is little you can do. You can try to continue and show love – hoping to influence them positively and remind them of the good. But as you get treated increasingly poorly, that gets harder and harder. Everyone has a breaking point, and when your marriage becomes a war zone (or perhaps a passive aggressive cold war zone), then it’s all but over.

      Very sad. Intellectually I get it, but I’m not wired that way. Respect and integrity and a big thing for me. If it’s time to walk away, walk away. But there’s no excuse for the treatment I see some couples put each other through.


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