All choices we make about how to live our lives have an effect on those around us. It matters to partners how we spend our time, where we put our energies, and what we value in terms of the amount of time we allocate to it.
Discussing our choices with partners is essential. Once we make a decision to begin a committed relationship we are also making the decision to become open to being questioned, challenged, or urged to grow in certain areas; many adjustments will need to be made in order for the other to find room in our lives. However, this does not equate to a takeover. Our partners do not have the right to tell us what to do and when and how to do it. But the questions are often valid and should be treated with respect. This is how we grow in our capacity for intimacy.
Time, energy, finances and holidays are all subjects for discussion. Our favourite place to holiday may not be the other’s choice. Where we may once have had complete control over what happens to our income, forming an emotional and physical partnership with another often requires give and take in the area of financial freedoms. Splitting everything down the middle may not be a fair choice if partners have different income levels, but then neither should it be assumed that the partner with the greatest income must bear all the burden of bills. Equal amounts of energy going into the partnership may seem like a good arrangement: for example, housework, managing finances, paying bills or buying birthday cards. But it is a given that different people have different levels of energy. This means that adjustments need to be made continually to allow for this. Illness and work constraints, relatives needing care – all these things require adaptability when it comes to dividing tasks.
Sometimes one or both of a couple are in the habit of making choices which deplete the partnership – destructive choices. These may be addictions such as gambling or pornography. They may come as an unwelcome discovery. Violence in the couple may also be an unwelcome discovery. A relationship may have developed on the understanding that a partner is gentle, loving and attentive but time may reveal aggressive behaviours which appear when a person is stressed or angry.
There are many unforseen circumstances in life, and all these impact the couple. Changes in health status, accidents or financial collapse can put enormous pressure on the capacity for intimacy.
Where to take up residence may be less easy to negotiate than it would appear. Being able to compromise is important, but only when the couple do not end up with too many lifestyle decisions which please neither. Collaboration works better as a tool for decision making because it opens the couple to the creativity inherent in working together to find solutions that may satisfy both parties.
Today’s financial and business world has built into it a number of challenges for couples. Many people find their finances have no secure basis because the particular work they do operates on a contract basis. Education for example, once a secure job, now offers employees contracts which have a built in constant anxiety about the future. Home ownership is far less certain, making living arrangements unsettled and vulnerable to unwelcome changes.
Couples have many challenges. Working through these together is a strong basis for intimacy.
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