The first danger zone is moving in together. When we decide to do this we are usually in love and we are thinking more of a good thing is better. However, once under the same roof, we have to negotiate and compromise about habits like dishes left on counters and stuff mysteriously moved; sharing of chores and the manner and timing in which they’re performed; and requirements for personal space and intimacy. This is made more difficult than it was with roommates in the past, because this relationship has more riding on it so our commitment issues will rise to the surface.
If you find yourself feeling smothered or abandoned or you’re muttering, “What did I get myself into?” your commitment issues are rising to the surface—right on schedule.
This is a period with two primary opportunities. You get to examine why you feel the way you’re feeling and reap the growth benefits of doing that and you get to hone your communication skills and learn how to ask directly for what you want, without attacking your partner. Nobody can teach you how to do that without the context of a relationship to practice with.
As for your feelings, ask yourself why, given your history and makeup, it is practically inevitable that you would be experiencing your partner’s behavior and attitudes in the way you are. It is, after all, your experience. If you ask your partner, s/he will surely put a different spin on this behavior.
So, for example, if your partner comes home and isolates, you may get triggered. But asking that question will help you realize the reason it’s a hot button for you. Maybe your Dad spent the evening behind the newspaper or in front of the television and never had time for you. Maybe your older siblings got home from school and then left to play with their friends and still didn’t want to play with you. Your task is to self soothe. To let the lonely part of yourself know that you are there for you. This requires exploring ways that you may be letting yourself down. Have you broken any promises to yourself? Do you hate to spend time alone with yourself? Instead of re-fashioning your partner into the “correct” form, consider upgrading your own self-treatment.
When you’ve identified the issue for you, it will be much easier to make a clear communication to your partner. In this example, you could say: “I realize that when you come in and go straight to your office and shut the door, I’m reliving the pain of having my Dad ignore me. Would you be willing to spend a few minutes hugging and kissing before you take your alone time?”
You get the idea. Stay tuned for more danger zones and please post your experiences with navigating the muddled waters of “moving in” !