The fight in this familiarisation phase is for power, individuality and boundaries which clearly define unacceptable behaviour. As expectation plays such a huge part in the relationship, this is the stage where all the differences and disillusion prompt you both to start adjusting individual expectations to make your union real. Unfortunately, it is not that easy to do because disillusion and frustration lead to a tendency to blame and past events now become significant in the ensuing power struggle. Many people also marry expecting the relationship to meet all those childhood, personal, unspoken needs, but it can’t. One person just cannot do it all. We need another life as well. That is why when one partner is stuck at home, they are desperate to chat when the spouse comes home, but that’s when he/she just wishes to be silent and to chill out.
So, when problems occur in the marriage, one partner is invariably blamed. It’s always his fault or she deserves to be hurt. This is accompanied by short memories of good times with long memories of the bad, as well as the urge to destroy what you’ve had since courtship. As each person changes from day to day, it is often difficult to acclimatise to differences. According to Dr Susan Campbell, going deaf is a power struggle syndrome, “…as the tightening of the jaw in anger actually impairs 80 per cent of our hearing ability”. No wonder there are constant accusations of partners misinterpreting, not listening to, or not hearing what is being said. There is obviously some truth in that.
This stage of conflict actually reflects our personal ‘baggage’ because each person is the product of his/her past history. Along the way, the individual learns by trial and error how to get his needs and desires fulfilled: following an entirely individual path to the present point in his life. Our personal happiness is our state of being, dictated by our thoughts and actions at any given moment. The expectation of getting happiness from a partner is thus a selfish one which removes the responsibility from us and places it squarely on the shoulders of another.
For this reason, we cannot expect another person’s means of expression and action to be identical to our own because he/she would have gone through a different ‘school of life’ or set of experiences. We can make our relationship needs known to our partner through polite requests, but the exact method the partner uses to show her love and care is completely her choice. It will also be based upon her individual life experiences, one which will be often at odds with your own. While no person is independent enough to survive without the care or input of others, total reliance on partners not only leaves us feeling inadequate but also burdens the people we care most with unrealistic expectations about and makes the relationship oppressive.
Learning How to Discuss and Disagree
The key to greater harmony is learning about the new person, her/his positive and negative ways; learning how to discuss, disagree or to argue a point and still be able to love, and feel loved, with mutual respect. This is a most vulnerable stage, especially for the person who most desires the relationship to succeed. As you gradually discover what is important to you, it becomes necessary to reclaim yourself as a whole individual, instead of as an extension of someone else, otherwise you are likely to die inside with frustration, or end up despising your partner. Some people devise coping mechanisms for success at this important time, such as not encouraging discussions which might get out of hand, but this does not encourage openness and actually breeds more resentment. Others might still remain in the ‘besotment’ stage and play to expectations. A few might not argue, or they avoid going to sleep on an argument, making up soon afterwards to prevent any animosity being carried over into the next day.
In this domestic power struggle the focus tends to be on the present, with much embellishment from the past. There is also a nervousness about the future, even with some anxious questioning as to whether there will be a future. Trying to find a common bond can be exhausting, and sexual desires may become less intense. During these periods, you may need to take a break from each other or seek to discuss personal anxieties relating to what is going wrong and where you are both going. Some relationships, particularly those of younger couples, never survive to this point because the parties lack the maturity, communication and ‘stickability’ to deal with the negative aspects, those invisible forces that emerge in their partners.
Many young couples are surprised that they could get so vicious toward each other. As no one told them this would happen, they are often shocked at the developments and, in this confused state, they are likely to decide that the relationship is over. This key stage is one where, if the couple is married, divorce is likely to occur or couples are likely to seek counselling. Focusing positively on what you both can do to improve the relationship should sort out some thorny issues and take you to the next critical stage of alignment.