One of the first goals I often hear when couples start counseling is: I want it to be like it was before. When we fell in love. We were like one person. All we wanted to do was be together. I don’t want her to go out by herself. She should want to be only with me.
But the inevitable process of both individual and couples development is to move forward. Just as a child grows from infancy to adulthood, with tasks to master and inner strength to be acquired, couples must follow a similar path. They must move from the warm and tight security of infatuation to slowly separate into individuals again. “In love” must evolve toward “love” and maturity as a couple.
The major task here is for each to them to learn to enjoy activities and friendships outside the relationship. They should each admire and encourage the interests of the other. They should be there with love and open arms when their partner comes home again. This is a healthy, vibrant and stimulating relationship. But the unfortunate problem is that sometimes the individuals do not simultaneously move forward.
When that happens the partner who wants to move backward comes into conflict or estrangement from the partner who wants to move ahead.
This can be painful because change involves a sense of loss and, often, insecurity. But to avoid it brings either boredom or conflict within the relationship. The one feels like she has an anchor on her feet. The other feels like he’s lost his anchor.
Understanding the problem and developing empathy for each other is the best step toward toward a healthy relationship. With understanding, validation and kindness on both sides, couples development will occur and they will fall in love again. Not with the person they enjoyed the infatuation phase with, but with the person the loved one has grown into.