Sunday, December 6, 2009
Independent Couples vs. Codependent Couples
Call me an overly analytical psychologist, but one of the things I find fascinating is seeing how many different kinds of couples there are. Couples have all different kinds of relationship dynamics, and you can often see them on the surface when you socialize with them.
One thing that has always struck me is watching how couples vary in terms of how much they socialize together and how much they socialize apart. You know some couples where you almost never see one without the other, while you can think of another couple where the opposite is true. Is there a 'right' level of independence couples should have? How much is too much time to spend together? What is an unhealthy level of independence in a couple?
Usually, any therapist will tell you there is no 'right' way to be about anything. In this case, I disagree somewhat. I think there is a bit of a right answer. While I acknowledge that there is a spectrum, I also acknowledge that people lose themselves (their interests, ambitions, and uniqueness) when they spend all their time with one person. You can't fuse with another and expect to remain a separate entity. You need to have some level of independence within a couple to be healthy. This does not include going to work! Yes, that is time apart, but not time by choice. Couples who eat together, sleep together, go to church together, do everything socially together, blah, blah, blah, make me nervous.
In my clinical work, I have found that couples who do everything together secretly feel claustrophobic in the relationship and wish they had a little more breathing room. The claustrophobic feelings later morph into other problems and the relationship starts going south. If you are in a relationship, why not use this opportunity to have a discussion with your partner and ask him or her about their thoughts on this issue? Sometimes opening up the discussion can help people feel more free to elaborate when the discussion topic gets a little uncomfortable.