Psychology

Do I stay or do I go?

An article about couples by Audrey Buhagiar. M.A. Gestalt Psychotherapy, B.A. (Psy.)

Being single or going into a relationship is truly a personal choice. We can still fulfil a satisfying life both ways, depending on our priorities at that time. One can say that many people opt to be in a relationship for various reasons, but mainly to seek romance, company and security.  When people enter relationships, they carry along with them their expectations, dreams, wishes, as well as their fears, unresolved past issues and experiences. One can argue that a couple is made up of two different individuals who meet at each other’s boundary carrying two separate baggage. 

Each person has his/her own boundary, mainly his/her beliefs, thoughts, fears, knowledge as well as needs. When two persons with two separate boundaries, become a couple, another boundary is formed, the couple boundary with its own needs. Most individuals confuse their own needs with the couple’s needs especially when these needs clash. It is important that the individual remains as an individual, loyal to his/her needs, however, he/she needs also to be careful not to compromise the couples’ needs. 

The honeymoon phase is associated with the phase of falling in love with what the individual projects onto the other: in simple terms, what he/she wants to see in the other person. When the honeymoon phase is over, the couple will then enter a different phase. This phase is more related to unpacking each other’s baggage. This is quite challenging in general. Some couples find it more challenging than others. This is usually when some couples split up or else start experiencing each other’s ‘shadows’, basically the dark sides of their partner. Some couples realise that they had different expectations for the relationship. 

The couples who succeed are those who, although they experience difficulties and hardships, they try to understand their differences and help each other to unpack in a supportive way. 

Unpacking requires a lot of hard work. It is very easy to point fingers at our partners and find millions of defects and imperfections of why and how the relationship is not working anymore. However, are we ready to become aware of our own imperfections and notice how we are co creating issues in the relationship? Are we ready to listen to each other and try to understand the other person? Couples are encouraged to invest time in communicating with each other, in spending time getting to know really what the person is experiencing, in listening without getting defensive. When partners are seen and heard, they feel supported and loved. In this way, they can understand more each other and try to accommodate to each other and to the needs of the relationship. 

It is important to pay attention that enmeshment does not occur. Enmeshment is when two individuals are only acting as ‘one unit’ all the time without giving each other space to grow as a human being. It is important to keep in mind that the individual remains as an individual loyal to his/her needs, however, he/she needs also to be careful not to compromise the couples’ needs. There need to be moments when two individuals are one unit and for this, we need to invest and find the time. No couple will exist without such moments. 

Suggestions:

  1. Listen to each other without getting defensive. Try to find common ground and compromise.
  1. Give some couple time every day (at least 30 minutes) and more quality time during the weekend.
  1. Plan together, such as vacations, and be excited about it
  1. Attend couple therapy if needed. Therapy is a safe place where you can explore possibilities, listen and understand each other more. 

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