‘GETTING TO KNOW YOU’ Stages (Part 3)

getting to know you

the one person who understands me

PREVIOUS: Experimenting, Intensifying

♥ ACTS OF AFFILIATION ♥ (cont) Types of Communication

4. INTEGRATING  (Short-term)
a. Normal: This is when 2 people become a couple or close friends, emphasizing to themselves & others how similar they are. They depend on each other for confirmation & acceptance of self-concepts. Verbal statements change to indicate exclusivity & separation from others.
• They feel unique, taking on each others thinking, style & mannerisms. The ‘we’ increase to ‘us’, with shared Intimacy Trophies (the key, leaving clothes & toiletries, favorite CDs…) For some dyads, it’s the stage when sexual activity may begin, & a deepening of self-disclosure.

“…it feels like we’re one person!” <> “Yeah, we’re soul-mates!”  •  “I feel so much a part of you” <> “I know, like we have the same mind!”
Friends from both sides are brought together & if they’re couplea couple, they’re treated as a unit, receiving one invitation, one gift, one email account…..
• While they may seem to fuse together, it should not mean losing one’s individuality! This is crucial for a healthy relationship
• It’s also possible for people to love each other, be friends, partners or a romantic couple – for a while, but not make it permanent. They can remain friends & benefit from the time they spent together

b. ACoAs: For those of us who get to this stage –
Re. Staying
• some of us are able to maintain friends & lovers, but often with extreme ups & downs, huge fights, occasional separations….
• because ACoAs have so many unrealistic expectations of relationships, we may become disillusioned & depressed, spending a lot of time being critical, suspicious, feeling unloved & generally dissatisfied, while not focusing on the benefits we get from being with this person
• OR, because of denial, we are willing to just go along endlessly, putting up with & participate in unhealthy patterns with our partner, rather than outgrowing them

Re. Leaving
• we may still think it will last forever.  If it doesn’t continue, we are deeply shocked & devastated. We are rarely prepared for yet another loss, not willing to notice the signs, not willing to let gochained together
• by this time we may feel so enmeshed & trapped that we can’t get out even if we feel we want to (like not being able to leave our family, psychologically)

• we may be quietly or openly desperate to leave, but won’t because of
— our co-dependence, not wanting to hurt the other person, especially if they beg us not leave (altho they may secretly want out too)
— our FoA, believing that the misery of staying isn’t really so bad, compared to the unbearable pain of separation

• if we’re determined to break up, but can’t do it directly, we may:
— start an affair with someone, so we don’t have to go thru an ‘alone time’, then anxiously wait to get caught
— create such a ruckus in the relationship – fighting, verbal attacks, withdrawal, the silent treatment, getting 3rd parties involved… so that our partner will do the breaking up for us, secretly being the winner, but acting like the victim!

5. BONDING  (Long-term)
a. Normal:  The formalizing of the connection by a public ritual (a contract) whether by an engagement, a ‘moving-in-together’ party, a marriage., signing a lease, going into business together…..
“I think you’re wonderful.  I can see myself growing old with you.”  <> “Me too. Let’s move in together. We can talk marriage later”  •  “We’re in this together for the long haul” <> “I really want this to work!”

• The written or verbal contract is a framework for how the 2 want & should proceed. In most cases this stage indicates a desire, need or willing to gain social & institutional support — so couple can rely on law, policy or precedent, when necessary
• By this time the 2 people enjoy each others’ company, feel a deeper trust, comfortability, committedunderstanding & appreciation. Age is not a factor. It implies a genuine commitment to a common future & thus makes it harder to walk away from.
On the other hand, this level sometimes changes the nature of the relationship & can cause it to disintegrate, especially if long-term spoken or unspoken expectations are not met.

• Key points to maintaining a relationship from this stage onward, include sharing power equally, emphasizing positive and constructive communication patterns, and making frequent connections with one another. Successful long-term relationships also use ongoing ‘Navigation Communication’ to prevent problems, repair breaches, deal with the ups & downs of life & manage unpleasant surprises. People are willing to adjust, accommodate & compromise (not a dirty word) in order to maintain their unity

• INTIMACY includes a private world of rules & rituals, shared understanding & meanings, synchronous patterns of actions, similar ways of interpreting their world & agreeing on what makes their relationship work.

b. ACoAs: many have long-term, formalized bonding, but even when there are good reasons to stay together, the relationships is often built on shaky foundations:
• reciprocal damage, where 2 wounded people fit each others WIC ‘needs’ – one pays the child, the other partner the mother or father role; one is controlling, the other passive; one is always angry, the other always fearful…

• even if only one person does healing work on themselves, they may be able to keep the dyad together, because of things they value in the relationship AND because they’re not so reactive or wounded by the other person’s damage.  Also as they change, the old ‘games’ won’t work & the dynamic interactions will shift – often for the betterpersonal development
ideally, both people are willing to do Recovery work.  This may or may not save the relationship, but will of course greatly improve the  individual’s life.  If there’s enough commonality between the partners (when the damage is lessened), the relationship can be re-built on a healthier foundation & grow into something precious!

NEXT: “Trying to Leave You”

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