Bringing ourselves back together  

General information:
Gender: Woman
Age: 26
Name: Tess



My boyfriend and I have been together for almost four years, we lived together for the first three and a half years of our relationship, never really dated the conventional way, just shared a house and fell in love fairly quickly. because of this we really had some issues with getting to know eachother, things we might have worked out while dating we were forced to face head on and in close proximity to eachother in order to maintain our realtionship. in alot of ways we may be stronger for this, but in many other ways we have developed a codependent relationship where we just sink into eachother, i often end up feeling bored by this way of living. in order to try a new approach and hopefully save our relatioship (we really do love eachother) we decided that i would get my own apartment and we would live apart but still maintain our relationship in every possible way. this is so far a very successful situation for both os us. we are each living our lives more fully outside of eachother and therefore our time together is more comfortable and happy. we are both feeling very positive about this choice that we made and will really give ourselves the necessry amount of time to find who we are as individuals before we live together again.



We would like very much to be able to bring these new understandings with us into a situation where we could live together again, even get married eventually. how can we be sure of not slipping into the co-dependent state of mind that really kept us in a rut for so long. we are very committed to eachother but need a few tools for maintaining this fresh perspective. i would hate to think that we would always be better off living apart!


Andy's answer:


Dear Tess,

            You pose great questions based on very astute observations about your behavior! What you're talking about is entropy: the tendency of a system to   deteriorate when no external forces are introduced. Experientially in a relationship, it can feel like being taken for granted or a lazy-making sense of codependence marked by predictability and   boredom. Discontent in the face of everything being all right is another red flag that the relationship needs vitalizing.


            When you find yourself in the rut of a codependent status quo, you need to introduce well-timed doses of newness, freshness, vitality, and the unfamiliar. How do kids keep seeing things new? They play! Cultivate that attitude with each other. Also try relationship-enhancing retreats and/or workshops. Surprises help. Don't wait for them to happen.


            Get honest. About your feelings. That's the most direct way to keep a relationship vital. Express your boredom when it shows up, and get on the same team about overthrowing your tendency to intermesh and get lazy with each other. Otherwise, you might fall into the trap of picking fights as a way to make some distance between you, and keep you from becoming psychological Siamese twins. It should be possible to maintain a healthy distance without having to fight. Or if you do feel like fighting, be determined to make room for those feelings and to get to the root of them together.

Foster independence .

            An older woman in a couple I counseled complained that her husband did things for her that she was very well able to do for herself, and she felt disempowered by that. So she spoke up, and made a clear request: "don't do things for me that I can do for myself, and trust that I'll ask you when I can't do it". She made sure to preface her request with: "I love knowing that you love me, and want to do things for me...." so her request went down smooth, and not harshly. I pass her gift on to you: the tool of direct requests .

            Other ways to foster independence include having your own friends, taking a class or pursuing a hobby that's just yours. Parallel play is an expression that describes how children of a certain age play together without actually engaging, thereby fostering individuality. They do it in the same room, but not together. Have parallel play time together in addition to time apart.


            Finally, make sure that each of your lives is self-defined as well as defined by the relationship. So that neither of you becomes over-identified with the other's job position, achievement, skill, or status. Make sure each of you is coming to the relationship with your cup predominantly already full.

            Anything less than that will easily be tagged by the lousy feeling of codependence you described. With your sensitivity and thoughtful questioning, I'm sure you'll find other resources to keep your relationship lively. What a great challenge! I think you're up to it.