There are two important points in intimate partner relationships (in dating and marriage), both come in pair and we must always strike a balance between those two: closeness and separateness. Closeness or intimacy refers to the sensitivity and the resemblance of two people who are bound closely together, as if they’re fused. Separateness refers to how you sense your differences between yourself and your mate. Your personal thinking-feeling- needs.
The degree of closeness and separateness in a relationship will change over time as the relationship develops. At the beginning of relationships where a couple falls in love, the closeness degree is very high. As they build the relationship over time, the couple became like best friends, they share so much similarity. But when the relation has past its honeymoon phase, quarrel begins to emerge as the separateness increases. “Wow, it turns out we are different after all” emerges as an early awareness of separateness. Even so, there’s still a tremendous human need for being attached to other human, regardless his/her capability to maintain the bond.
Some people try to maintain their relationships by developing what is called a symbiotic relationship. What is it? Symbiosis is the unconscious assumption that his/her spouse also has the same thoughts, feelings, and conditions with themselves. ME = YOU.
When two people are in symbiosis, they are not able to maintain their personal individuality (separateness) while being a couple. When a couple is in symbiosis, they are not able to maintain certain boundaries while being attached a couple They think and act on the assumption that if they love each other, THEY MUST THINK, FEEL, BEHAVE SIMILARLY, ME = YOU, and YOU = ME. This type of symbiosis is dangerous. As a proof of love, dissimilarity let alone contradictory would only present threat. In a relationship, this is what we called a dysfunctional symbiosis. Symbiosis is the result of self-projection: I’m projecting myself in you, and you are an extension of myself.
You might find yourself thinking “Oh I’m not like that” or “There’s no way we are like that” while reading this. But the following signs might catch you off guard: Have you ever said this to your partner: “I know how you feel …” or “You must be feeling … (fill in according to your own feelings)”. Or said this after watching the movie, “That was the best movie WE have ever watched!”
Maybe you say “I am SURE YOU are thinking of …” Other signs are more easily observed or perceived by you: You get angry/upset when your partner could not READ your mind. “Why can’t you understand me at all?” or “You should know that I don’t like it when …” or “You should know it by now, I don’t need to say it” Are you having a relationship with Dedy Corbuzier or mind reader?? Even a well-trained psychologist can’t do that.
By being symbiotic, you are often disappointed when your partner is not doing the right thing, and you always find him/her making mistakes. It has to be this way, or the highway. You criticize your partner to be so much like you. You often start your sentence with the word “you should …” or “I told you so …” You exploited his/her guilt or shame that he/she agreed or did as you told. “If only you heard what I said ..” or “I told you, right ..” Another sign of symbiosis is you praise or say “We look alike, don’t we? We are surely soul mate.” when he/she is doing what you want, but scold him/her for being different.
The question now is how can we have a healthy and functional relationship? The answer is we must strike a balance between closeness and separateness in a relationship. In a healthy relationship, two people are gradually moving together, from two different orbits into two orbits that remain distinct but overlap. They still have their own friends, interests, and schedules. They still have their own thoughts-feelings-opinion, and still enjoy being together. A couple with healthy relationship will not be ‘me and you’ nor ‘me you make us’ but (in the terminology of Imago therapy) “ME- YOU”. ME-YOU mean I remain myself and you remain yourself, two different personalities connected and influenced one another other.
Fredrick Dermawan Purba
The writer is a lecturer at the Faculty of Psychology in Universitas Padjadjaran. He has personal and professional interests in the intimate relationship issues. You can reach him at the FAPSI campus in Universitas Padjadjaran, also at +628122318534 or firstname.lastname@example.org as well tweet him on his twitter account @ bangjeki.
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