In my work with couples, I see how outside influences affect their perceptions of each other. During the initial intense period of romance, these influences do not manifest themselves as they do later. When couples give each other the permission to share a bed, many former parental admonitions are set aside. In the freedom found in sexual and romantic expression, there is a delight in mutual personal discovery.
This energy is bound to ease and change over time, although some couples maintain it more readily than others. Gradually, many couples start to view each other as someone who can help them solve some long-standing problem or maintain a "life position", which can take many forms, such as "You and me against the world", or to be the parent that they wished they had in their family of origin. Such positions are a toxic recipe for misunderstanding, resentment or hostility, straining the relationship and sometimes breaking it up. Sometimes there is the decision to have children to solve a problem by providing a different emphasis for the couple's attention. This is unfair to children brought into such conditions and makes important decisions more difficult.
One of the most important conversations I have with couples is to invite them to think of themselves as Adam and Eve, with the opportunity to define themselves for themselves, without outside influence. This is especially important as couples grapple with the expectations of family and friends as to what is truly important for their relationship. Some couples are lucky to survive a wedding that was a showcase for the in-laws and the demands for grandchildren that follow.
Aside from time coming to know yourself and what you want from life, a loving relationship can be an effective springboard to realize each other's dreams, both individual and mutual. This can hardly be known if each member of the couple is trying to represent some ideal or expectation that has nothing to do with what they want for themselves and what they truly want for and from each other. The concept of Adam and Eve applies to all kinds of partnerships, heterosexual or otherwise.
There are important conversations that must be brought forward, with nothing left unspoken. That is the setting for psychotherapy, which should provide the open, accepting space where the noise from the "outside" is ratcheted down or eliminated. There is no loneliness more intense than being part of a relationship that has lost its way. The goal of psychotherapy in this case is clarity, a solid understanding that each member has of the other. Through this process, a couple can reestablish that warm feeling they used to know when the other is in their presence and take control of their lives.
Gilbert Bliss is a Psychotherapist in private practice in Towson, Maryland. His experience includes work with individuals, couples and families, and with children in bereavement. His web site can be found at www.gblisscounselor.com.