Becoming Dreaded Roommates. To become acquainted with oneself can be a terrible shock. Emotionally committed relationships bring excitement and passion into our lives, especially when they are new. Over time, however, we come across roadblocks based on personal issues that can distance us from our partners. When we first enter into a committed relationship, we may think that we have found the answer to life’s problems, that we have a partner to share in daily turmoil, that we will never be alone again, that it will be smooth sailing from here on out. If we base relationships on these assumptions, however, we may be sorely disappointed when our partners fail to live up to these expectations.
There is a strong probability that if we look to another person to provide fulfillment, we will begin to focus on the failings of that person as the cause of our own disappointment. This pattern is the reason for a great deal of discord in committed relationships. Couples who come to see me for Marriage Counseling actually hope that the therapy will change their partner because they are convinced that their partner is the source of the problem. Continued arguments with poor conflict resolution skills and inappropriate acting out behavior make for poor prognosis for a happy future.
Over time many relationships enter a stage where the partners feel distance from each other. The initial passion, sexual freedom, intimacy, and feelings of connectedness with their partner fade. Either person may begin to feel that, although they love their partner, they are no longer “in love.” At the same time, both partners may feel that they have lost their “sense of self” in the relationship. They have given so much to the relationship in terms of their time, their energies, and their emotions that they have lost what made them feel unique as individuals. They have abandoned old friendships, hobbies, and activities that brought interest and excitement to their own lives in order to devote time and energy to the relationship. When this feeling of distance comes to define the relationship, resentment toward the partner may emerge. How does a relationship, which may have once shown such promise, end up in a place where the two partners feel distant and may not even like each other very much (even though they feel that love is still there)?
The answer lies in what I explain as the Individual has become too differentiated from their partner for some significant period of time where that Individual has shut down from being a “We” to becoming more a “Me.” Concentrating on Oneself during that significant period of time makes for a process where the person loses the feeling of being “in love” as they have consciously or unconsciously disconnected themselves from the relationship and has been operating as a “Me” for some period of time. Developing a Greater Sense of Self while in this process can change an “in love” feeling into a feeling of fondness and care but the intimacy needed to feel “in love” no longer exists. Sometimes this happens even when the person would like to move forward and redevelop that lost intimacy.
As a Marriage Counselor, I help my couples redevelop the intimacy that once flourished within. I explain two people who come together in an emotional commitment carry with them a legacy of their own fears, anxieties, and unresolved issues. It’s sometimes uncomfortable for us to come to terms with our own baggage. It is, in fact, so troublesome that we are unable to look within ourselves. When that happens, we tend to attribute the problem to our partners, a process called “projection.” Rather than accepting the fact that our partners are just being themselves and probably have the best of intentions, we define the source of our own anxiety as lying within the other person. When we feel uncomfortable about something our partners say or do, we may not realize that our discomfort may derive from a source that we have not yet examined within ourselves like our own control issues, our jealousy, our insecurity, or our fear of dependence or independence. Our partners may simply be triggering our own unresolved difficulties. The clue is to search within our own lives to see why we have difficulty with these issues. And this is no small task. To become acquainted with oneself is indeed a terrible shock.
In Marriage Counseling I teach a process in which each partner concentrates on their own selves without alienating the other. Learning to feel and get in contact with their own feelings rather than tell the other how to think and feel. Allowing autonomy to flourish between the two is healthy and makes for more differentiated individuals.
Can you relate to this article? What relationship turned into the dreaded roommate situation for you? I have to say my first marriage is the inspiration for this article. We are friends to this day, however, the intimacy needed to continue to fuel the romance died. What was “We” for 16 years ended up becoming two differentiated individuals wanting different things. It happens. What’s your story?
Often times I hear the phrase from either partner, “I feel like we’re just roommates and bad roommates at that.” For more information on keeping the intimacy and romance alive in your relationship call me at (858) 735-1139.