Swiss cheese effect

Have you ever been in a relationship that was missing something, or some things? Maybe your partner didn’t communicate well enough or maybe there weren’t enough times your partner made you feel special. Maybe your partner became complacent and you just didn’t feel wanted anymore. Maybe your partner was too self-absorbed to be a good listener. Maybe your partner’s physical appearance changed and you were not as attracted to them as you once were.

When these situations occur, it’s not uncommon for someone else to come along that meets those previously unmet needs. It’s easy in those situations to see that new person as a breath of fresh air, and to believe that perhaps they are just the perfect fit for you. So, you decide to leave your current partner to be with this new wonderful person who makes you finally feel the way you’ve wanted to feel in your current relationship. If the new person feels like such a perfect fit, why then do these new relationships almost always fail? The two main reasons are an inherent lack of trust, and what I call the Swiss cheese effect.

The trust issue is obvious: if you fall for someone while with someone, you have shown yourself to be capable of betraying your partner’s trust. Committed relationships come with an understood contract that you will have eyes, and feelings, only for your partner. How can your new partner trust you when they know you were lying to your former partner in order to develop your new relationship? The trust issues created by these situations are very difficult to overcome, and could alone be enough to sabotage the new relationship. But if not, rest assured that the Swiss cheese effect will do the job.

In order to understand the Swiss cheese effect, you must think of your current relationship as a slice of Swiss cheese. A slice of Swiss cheese is held together in a solid form but has holes in it just like many relationships. And when a new person comes along that fills the holes, it can feel as if that new person can provide all that is necessary for a whole relationship. However, once the Swiss cheese is gone, all you have left is the filled holes, and this presents a major problem. You will be left with only pieces of a relationship and not enough to hold the relationship together. Many who fall for the holes find themselves longing for the cheese they have left behind.

So, rather than leaving your current relationship because there are holes and someone comes along who seems to provide what you think you are missing, take a minute to evaluate your relationship as a complex combination of many factors. Decide whether the holes in your relationship are things that can be improved through communication, and whether this new person really offers all that you think they do. I’m not saying you should stay in a bad relationship, but I am saying watch out for the Swiss cheese effect! Seriously consider whether it’s worth leaving your current relationship for one that is doomed to fail.

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