Couples who live together – stay together

Along my second life of counseling people in or out of relationships, I have encountered couples who no longer function as a couple, but stay together, because they live together.

The shining example was my meeting with a bright young woman who is a research biologist, conducting experiments with plants injected with human hormones. She has told me that she is looking forward to completing her master’s degree. She was quite passionate about her research and she was quite ecstatic to share results she collected with me, stressing that it is rare to meet people who care, moreover understand what she is talking about. To me that statement bore other questions, mainly in regards to her significant other she mentioned earlier in our conversation.

She has told me that her boyfriend has never been interested in her work, as soon as she ‘speaks science’ he tunes out. They are high school sweethearts, making it through life, living their own lives. After high school, she said, she pursued her passion of biology: went to university, got a research grant, while paying her way through. Her boyfriend got a job straight out of high school at a local grocery store, and has no interest in pursuing higher education.

Years later, in her academic pursuits, her social circle has transformed dramatically. Her interests have evolved beyond what she can communicate to her boyfriend. She has matured psychologically and her needs have changed. Her significant other has remained the same, as well as their relationship.

I realize that mental connection is only one of many levels of intimacy that a relationship fulfills. Intelligence difference between partners – does make a difference, nevertheless it can be worked with. Having separate interests and social circles, while having their ‘own world’ together as a couple is in fact functional, because it helps partners retain individuality and sense of self. Having relationship as a constant in life full of change, plays a role of a safety net as well. However, relationship has to be grown and cultivated proportionally to personal growth of both partners. Since when the outside individual life becomes more enticing than ‘in’ – the problem is born.

The best suggestion I have ever given to quarrelling couples was to remember what drew them in together in the first place. I ask them to remember the thoughts, feelings and sensations they first had about each other and try to rekindle the connection they once had but have gotten used to. To maintain a relationship both partners have to work together, because without the commitment from both sides the relationship will most likely fail. Relationship is a two-way street, where you get what you invest. Both partners have to work on a give and take flow – it is lifeblood of any relationship.

When is comes to a splintered relationship and living circumstances, staying together out of need rather than want is not only codependent, it usually births resentments. The person will only change when the suffering from present circumstances is greater than the pain they would incur from the actual change. I have learned that lesson hard way. This is the primary reason most people wait to hit the rock bottom before they actually act. Majority of people cannot bear to look in the mirror and admit they are unhappy, those few that do, usually don’t have the guts to do anything about it.

What is there to do when you realize that being single is better than being alone in a relationship. How do we take the leap and why take it?

The way I see it, in a relationship there are two people with needs and wants, plans and dreams, cumulative past and uncertain future. As functional adult, each person is responsible for taking care of themselves and fixing whatever is in their life that prevents them from being fully content.

The advice I gave to an old acquaintance once was: you deserve to have a relationship with someone who listens and understands you, who would love and respect you. You deserve those things because you are those things. There is much more that you can offer in a relationship and there is no reason for you to not get back the same.

Life is short, so why waste it creating the now with someone that you feel you have to be with? You have to stand by what you feel is right for you, even if it means calling your parents and asking to temporarily get your old room back.

© Tatyana Bondarenko

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