Below is an excerpt from BU's recent post on her blog of reflections on Pekka Hämäläinen's book "A Good Relationship".
Originally Posted by BlackUnicorn
In the normal course of every relationship, there's a phase of individualization and independence, and a person going through that phase may experience strong feelings of hatred and bitterness towards their partner, whom they perceive as dull, clingy and needy, a hamper to their personal happiness and growth.
In the first phase of the relationship, the symbiosis phase, people find their partners fascinating beyond measure. Compared to the all-night-long philosophical discussions of the first year together, many people are sorely disappointed when their time together with their partners starts resembling two strangers hanging out in the same space at the same time, both safe from eye-contact behind their laptops. While going through the individualization phase, it can seem that you are sharing your life and bed with a complete stranger. Many at this point connect the dots and realize that in the initial NRE phase, they have chosen a partner who's incompatible. It's easy to forget that the getting-to-know-you -phase doesn't end with "I do" or moving in together; it continues throughout the relationship, and requires even more time and energy when the love hormones have evened out.
During the symbiosis stage, partners know the limits of their relationship - what it can take and what is a deal-breaker. When one partner then hits the individualization stage, it might seem to the partner left to observe from the sidewalk that they can count on absolutely nothing anymore. The understanding that was created in the beginning of the relationship is starting to show cracks, the cards have gone up in the air and there's no saying if the relationship will continue or not. Typical of this phase are infidelity crises, trial separations and counseling together and separately. The limits of the relationship are under intense re-evaluation and people start asking themselves; Can we make it through this? Even now? Wouldn't it be easier at this point just to break up already? Can our love ever be the same it was?
The partners may feel cheated. Their images of their partner do not correspond with reality. I have been deceived. I can no longer trust anything they say. Change is, however, an inbuilt feature of all people and relationships. Instead of running into rash conclusions about the future sustainability of the relationship, it might pay out to take a step back and wait what emerges after the dust has settled. If one chickens out of the hard getting-to-know-the-new-you -work at this point, they may never get to enjoy the perks of a relationship that has weathered the individualization crisis - stronger partnership and often even a new honeymoon phase.
This reminded me so very much of where Davis and I are in our relationship. The first time we dated, over the course of three years we passed through the symbiosis stage and into the individualization stage, complete with crisis and eventual breakup. Then, over the next four years while we were FWB's, we grew as people and deepened our friendship but didn't engage in the process of building our relationship together in the same way.
When we got back together, we dropped right back into the individualization stage! What a surprise that was to me, after such a long period of even-keeled friendship. All of a sudden we're fighting and I'm filled with uncertainty. This in particular --
"strong feelings of hatred and bitterness towards their partner, whom they perceive as dull, clingy and needy, a hamper to their personal happiness and growth"
-- struck a chord. I've had these feelings about Davis in the last four months since we started dating again and it's left me with a lot of cognitive dissonance because I didn't feel these things before we made our relationship official and, at the same time, I love him and can envision a life partnership with him.
The question now is, can we get through this and "enjoy the perks of a relationship that has weathered the individualization crisis - stronger partnership and often even a new honeymoon phase."
Time will tell!