Becoming Dreaded Roommates

Becoming Dreaded Roommates.  Emotionally committed relationships bring excitement and passion to our lives, especially when they are new.  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 the daily turmoil, that we will never be alone again, and 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.

couple feels like roommates

In couples counseling, I often hear this phrase,

“I feel like we’re just roommates, and bad roommates at that.”  Over time, it is natural to confront some roadblocks, rooted in our own personal issues, that may distance us from our partners.

There is a strong probability that if we depend on another person to completely fulfill us, we will soon be disappointed, and start seeing that person as the cause of our disappointment. This pattern of behavior is responsible 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 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 distant from each other. The initial passion, sexual freedom, intimacy, and feelings of connectedness fade. They still love their partner, but, they are no longer “in love.”  At the same time, both partners may feel they have lost their “sense of self” in the relationship. They have given so much to the relationship in terms of time, energy, and emotion that they have lost sight of themselves and the things that made them feel unique and happy as individuals. They have abandoned old friendships, hobbies, and activities that brought interest and excitement to their lives in order to devote time and energy to the relationship. When this emotional distance begins to define the relationship, resentment between partners may emerge. How does a once-promising relationship arrive at a place where the those involved feel miles apart and begin to question whether or not they even like each other (even though they still feel love for each other)?

The answer lies in what I explain during couples counseling as a differentiation between partners.  One or both Individuals have become too differentiated from each other for a significant period of time, changing their couple dynamic from a “We” to becoming a “Me.” Sacrificing the We to concentrating on Oneself for a significant period of time, while healthy when not extreme, can result in a conscious or unconscious disconnect from the relationship.  Developing a Greater Sense of Self to the exclusion of We can turn “in love” feelings into platonic feelings of fondness and care that are devoid of intimacy.  This emotional disconnect can sometimes occur when one person in the relationship wants to make the effort to rediscover that lost intimacy, and the other does not.
As a Marriage Counselor, I help couples redevelop the intimacy that once flourished. I explain that two people who come together in an emotional commitment carry with them the legacy of their own fears, anxieties, and unresolved issues. It can be very uncomfortable for us to come to terms with our own baggage; so troublesome, in fact, that few of us are ever able to look at ourselves with full objectivity.  Instead of looking within, we attribute our problems to our partners, a process called “projection.” Rather than seeing and accepting our partners for who they are and assuming they have the best intentions, we see them as the reason behind our own anxiety.  When we feel uncomfortable about something our partners say or do, our discomfort may actually come from a source within us that we have not yet fully examined, such as control issues, jealousy, insecurity, fear, or dependence. Our partners trigger these unresolved difficulties within us; they don’t cause them.  The key is to search within our own lives to see why we struggle with these emotions, which is no small task. To become truly acquainted with oneself can sometimes be a terrible shock.

In Marriage Counseling I teach each partner to concentrate on themselves without alienating each other.  This helps them get in touch with their own feelings without telling each other how to think and feel.  Allowing autonomy to flourish within the We produces partners with a healthy dose of differentiation while still remaining deeply – and intimately – committed to each other.

My first marriage was the inspiration for this article. Our 16 years of We devolved into two completed differentiated individuals wanting different things.  While he and I are still friends our paths have long since diverged.  It happens.

Can you relate to this article?  Are you currently involved in a dreaded roommate relationship?

For more information on keeping intimacy and romance alive call me at (858) 735-1139.