In her novel, ‘You Should Have Known’, Jean Hanff Korelitz explores the idea that we deny problems in a relationship in order to maintain the belief of a great partnership. We ignore niggling anxieties because we feel so in love. Not allowing the doubts to surface we find ways to serve away from the warning signs. We deny differences and find ways to ‘unknow’. It can feel a betrayal to focus on the flaws and there can be an unconscious fear that naming the difficulties may be irreversibly destructive.
However, Coupleworks counsellors are experienced in exploring issues with a couple preparing for the delightful prospect of living together. Not to drench with an icy shower of pessimism, but a realistic look at how to effectively manage differences.
When everything seems rosy we can resist exposing negative fault-lines. We glory in feeling understood and revel in sharing the same values, so it can feel unnecessary to admit to the irritations, the contradictory perspectives, and the opposing points of view. But it is the successful navigation of these problem areas that indicate a harmonious loving relationship.
We have different family backgrounds and different life experiences and these shape us and create a unique pattern of personality traits and characteristics. Our specialness is exciting and enthralling to the other – but we also long for ‘sameness’. Differences can feel threatening to the security of the relationship.
What happens when our needs clash? For example, one can be extrovert and the other more introverted. One can have a need for savings and financial security while the other seems spendthrift. One can long for children while the other does not see it as part of life’s plan. One has a higher sex-drive than the other.
We can know these things and imagine that issues will sort themselves out in the fullness of time. Love will be enough. But, unfortunately, they can remain sources of conflict until they are accepted, spoken about openly and negotiated. Couple counselling really can help to avoid a difficult polarisation of opinions.