Are You Living Like Flatmates?

All beginnings are wonder we are told, and so it is with a new relationship.  Couples in love spend huge amounts of time getting to know each other by sharing intimate knowledge, plans, dreams and there recent history, and they feel that were somehow meant for each other and are connecting around common values and meanings. Usually at this time lust is at its peak. 

While some couples who have been together for decades can become quite detached from one another, others couples seem to drift apart not long after they have moved in together or gotten married.   One person may begin to retreat from activities that were nurturing the intimacy and security of the relationship.  They might do this by going to bed at different times, staying at work late, hanging out with friends more, focusing on hobbies, avoiding sexual intimacy and not sharing important personal information.  While we all might do this from time to time and then return to our partner in this instance the withdrawing characteristic have become a habit.

In his book “The Seven Principals For Making Marriage Work”  John Gottman Psychologist and marriage researcher of more than 25 years has used the term “masters and disasters” of relationships to describe how effective partners nurture their marriage.  He noted that the “masters” are turning towards rather than turning away from their partner.  He observed that in good marriages couples engage in lots of chitchat.  For example:  Husband looks out the window and says, “Wow, look at that boat,” and the wife peers over her magazine and say, “Yeah, it looks like the big schooner we saw last summer, remember?” and the husband nods.    In these brief exchanges the couple are connecting, and therefore filling up each other’s love bank.   This might seem odd as Hollywood movies have given us the idea that romance is all about the grand gestures, candle lit dinners and swooning as your lover kisses you.    Love and passion are kept alive by staying connected on a daily basis. 

Further traits that destroy intimacy in a relationship are:

  1. Refusal to talk about issues – no resolution or repair
  2. Not talking to your partner for hours or days after a fight or misunderstanding
  3. Frequently refusing sex because you are holding a grudge
  4. Only engage in sex as a physical act and not being emotionally present
  5. Walking out or leaving during an argument (this is different from having a time out)
  6. Habitual criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling
  7. Spending too much time on your phone, computer and games
  8. Controlling behaviours
  9. No fondness and admiration being routinely expressed
  10. Your partner can withhold affection towards you but be very focused on pleasing others and superficial connection with strangers.
  11. Fantasying about the one that got away

Psychologists Amir Levine & Rachel Heller in their book “Attached” have suggested some reasons why your partner might be like this.  

  1. They are fearful of rejection and judgement
  2. They prioritise their independence above the needs of the relationship
  3. They need to be in control and will not let people get close

Wendy & Larry Malts Therapists from the USA and authors of “The Porn Trap”  suggest a possible additional reason for distance in the relationship being due to a partner struggling with issues related to pornography and or sex addiction

What can we do?

If you feel that you are just living like flatmates and intimacy avoidance is running your relationship talk the issue over with your partner ask them how they feel about the relationship and give voice to your hopes for the future together as well as your current concerns, then it’s a good idea to talk to a trained marriage or relationship counsellor.  Talking to the right counsellor can assist you to make your relationship more vibrant and satisfying. 

David Nielsen Counselling Services in Canberra 0405 321 090.