Does US mean no more ME? Relationship strain.


By David Joel Miller

Can your relationship survive?

Unhappy Family

Unhappy Family.
Photo courtesy of Flickr (coffeehistorian).

The client comes for counseling, sometimes it is a couple, sometimes they have already spit or divorced and the client comes alone. The complaints are remarkably similar.

In the beginning, this relationship was so perfect. We spent a lot of time together, couldn’t wait to be together and then things started to change.

Starting a new relationship sets off a series of changes in everyone’s life. Some of these changes are enjoyable, falling in love is better than most drugs. But that new relationship also sets off stress. Those seeds of change planted at the start of the relationship become the weeds of disappointment later on.

In the process of creating an US the couple finds themselves distancing from people who have been in their life before the relationship. Most of us have full lives, even when we say that there is something missing, like love, still to make room for the new partner something has to go.

The picture I get of this person entering a new relationship is sort of like my desk. It is full. No matter how much I clean it off more stuff appears and fills it up. So anytime I add a new thing, a book I want to read, something else I planned to look at gets covered up or if I push that new book onto the desk something falls off the other side.

Is your relationship overly full like that?

So to make room for that new love, you see less of old friends. Maybe your new partner doesn’t like some of your friends, so you stop seeing them. There may be conflicts between your partner’s interests and expectations and what your family expects. So you change a little and then your relationships with family and friends, those relationships change in response.

As the relationship progresses all sorts of conflicts arise. Where do you spend holidays? Do you go to activates with your friends and family or your partners?  As your new love takes you away from your established relationship your family and friends may push back.

You may be expected for a holiday meal with one part of the extended family and another part is angry because they expected you. You can see how the conflicts mount up.

You may decide to adopt the customs of one person or the other or you may compromise. Either way life activities outside the relationship will change. You have to stop doing some things to make way for others.

Creating an US in your relationship.

At this stage, couples come to counseling for help in creating space for an US. They need help in setting boundaries with people outside the relationship. They may also need help setting boundaries within the relationship.

The resentments may accumulate. You have given up a lot to make this relationship work and now you wonder what happened to ME since we became US?

Not losing ME in your relationship.

He came home from work after a hard day and she wasn’t there, out with her girlfriends again. She used to call him about every little decision now she calls her mother and tells him what her mom said she should do.

He used to want to be with her all the time. Now he spends Friday night out with the guys. Soon Friday turns into 3 or 4 nights a week. He starts going to the gym or running every day.

The time they used to spend together each now wants time apart. Often one or the other partner thinks the other is having an affair, sometimes they are, but most of the time they just decide to go back to doing the things they did before they got into this relationship before WE and US started to obliterate the “ME.”

Rarely does a couple both start the US to Me change at the same time.

So as the process of reestablishing ME begins to take shape, The relationship undergoes a new strain, creating separateness within togetherness.

Relationship counselors have looked a lot at the progression of relationships. We are seeing that relationships and people in them go through a series of changes. If one partner’s changes are out of step with the others then there can be problems in the relationship.

Sometimes that first embrace gets too tight and one person may push the other away.

This is a time to look at how the relationship is progressing not to think you picked the wrong person. Healthy relationships change over time.

There can be ME’s for both partners within the US. It takes time, understanding and effort to create that space within the loving relationship.

Frequently the two of you become three or more and then the relationship stress mounts. Do you have to give up being that loving couple to be a family? Can there still be a ME and US and an ALL OF US?

Making it a Family.

Family can and do make these transitions. It helps if you know they are coming. If these inevitable relationship strains and changes are making you wonder if you made the right choice in the first place, consider relationship or family counseling.

All relationships continue to change and starting over with a new partner means going through these relationship changes all over again. Couples who are willing to work at navigating the changes that always come, end up navigating those changes together.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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