WE’RE NOT the SAME, ANYMORE –
What’s happening to ‘us’?
PREVIOUS: “Getting to know you” (Part 3)
Communication Indicators of DISSOLUTION
These breaking up stages are the ‘normal’ process of separating. The amount of time varies based on individual personalities, the length of the association & the type of relationship.
• The stages are listed ‘backwards’, from most intimate to most distant: #5 = Differentiation, 4 = Limiting, 3 = Stagnating, 2 = Avoiding, 1 = Terminating. The process applies to all types of relationships, not just romantic.
ENDINGS can be made by one or both parties:
▶ When it’s mutual ….
a. …but not openly acknowledged: both people become less & less interested & there’s a gradual fading of interactions. There may be several attempt to -sort of- talk about it & at least one try at fixing it. Can take a long time to actually end (approach more likely to be used by people with anxiety)
b. …and more direct: the couple are likely to have argument or fights, each blaming the other OR separation is negotiated & agreed on (less likely to try a ‘fix’)
▶ When it’s one-sided ….
a. …if the end is in sight, & the person’s reaction is indirect – they’ll withdraw, avoid contact or get more annoying to be around, drop hints, try to be friends, manipulate
b. …if it’s more direct – the person has conversations about what has gone wrong in the relationship, is able to clearly say “It’s over”, accepts the reality
FOR ACoAs: Most of the time the ending of any relationship is painful & traumatic – from a job, an old friend, family member, sponsor, therapist… & even if it was with someone we met recently or with someone we barely like!
• OVERALL COMMENTS will be at the end of the next post.
▼ ACTS OF DISTANCING ▼
Normal: Two people begin to notice a gap in their togetherness, less ‘we’, more ‘me’ statements. “Working together’ is gradually replaced by separate activities. “I don’t see how you can like that group!” >> “Well, I guess we’re not on the same page about that!” , “Why don’t we go dancing any more?” >> “You know I’m too busy” . Temporary separation is sometimes tried. The situation is uncomfortable & can lead to subtle disagreements or open fights, more time apart….
This stage can occur when:
• the relationship is still new-ish but the first idealized ‘bloom’ has worn off
• they’ve been together longer & one or both are disappointed in who the other turned out to be
• something they first found macho, adorable, attractive… in the other person, now drives them crazy
• for longer-term couples, their personal interests may have caused them to grow apart
• with too much one-ness, togetherness – one person misses a sense of individuality, feels resentful, held down, maybe suffocated
4. LIMITING (Circumscribing)
Normal: This stage more usually to committed relationships, but not exclusively. There’s a shift in the focus from each others’ differences to constricting & limiting their communication, which decreases in amount & topics they talk about. It’s superficial, kept to ‘safe topics’ they know they can agree on & to avoiding controversial subjects, in order to prevent fights. “Who was that on the phone?” >> “What are we having for dinner?” This inevitably leads to less & less real sharing.
• There’s a definite sense of not understanding each other any more, & their concern is with protecting themselves emotionally.
• While still projecting a good public face as a couple, they’ve mostly stopped telling each other anything personal. This stage has been called the ‘slow fade’. “Do you like the food?” >> “It’s OK.”
• Sexual intimacy disappears, & if there is fighting, it’s about not being heard, understood, seen. They’re living like roommates.
Normal: They’re still together, but with a feeling of being stuck & not knowing how to make it better or how to get out. There’s not enough meaning or nourishment to keep it alive, but being in a long-term or committed relationship makes it harder to consider leaving. They feel disconnected & depressed but stay together to avoid the pain of separation
• Some kind of talk is needed but if either hints at starting an unpleasant conversation, they’ll find a way of preventing it so they don’t have to invest any feelings
• They have little to say to each other, are bored with the same old stories, don’t want any confrontation & won’t talk about the relationship because it feels pointless. “Do you want to watch that program?” >> “No, but you go ahead” , “I don’t want to hear that again” >> “I know, you’re not interested in what I have to say!”
• One or both may be experiencing personal problems & possibly blame the other, rather than facing their own issues. But when people are no longer getting their needs met from their partner, they will shut down the lines of communication & turn elsewhere.
• People can start punishing each other for their own disappointment & loneliness: “Well, she/he hasn’t helped me in a long time, so I’m not doing this for her/him” – may be the kind of thinking behind further withdrawal.
NEXT: Part 2: Terminating; ACoAs Leaving