When You Feel Like You No Longer Know Your Partner
Most relationships reach a stage where each partner begins to see the other differently than they did in the beginning. As the glow of infatuation subsides (and it always, inevitably, does) so many things that were overlooked at first suddenly become apparent. Many relationships end at this point. We react as if our partners have turned into different people, and the love that was there seems to have been all an illusion.
I met my partner during a time when she was going through a heavy grieving process. I reached out and offered what support I could, and our friendship began to grow during that turbulent time. We each came to see the other as our best friend, in fact, and the romance that blossomed later seemed a natural outgrowth of that connection.
When our relationship settled more into regular day to day interaction, things changed. There were times when our communication didn’t flow as naturally as it once had. Many of our interests didn’t seem compatible. Above all, we never could really find a good joint vision of our future together.
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Looking back, I can see now that much of this confusion came about because of the way in which we got to know each other in the first place. Our initial connection had been based on my girlfriend’s pain and my efforts to try and be receptive to it. While this was hardly a comfortable situation, there was a certain drama and romantic air about it. As time passed, and her trauma was no longer such the central fact of her life, we were left in many ways wondering where the ties were that bound us together. We’d formed our relationship under circumstances that were no longer so prominent. In some ways, we didn’t know how to have easy and happy times together. We hadn’t gotten much experience in those areas in the beginning.
When we reach this kind of stage in our relationships – when the initial impetus for coming together is no longer there – we generally only have two choices. We can assume that our partner is not the one we thought we knew and chalk the whole relationship up as one big mistake. Or, we can search a little deeper and try to see whether or not the love might still be there but merely showing us a different face. Oftentimes this is the case; but unfortunately, partners might not realize it because they give up when the initial excitement wears off.
Every relationship starts off with a little bit of illusion – what psychologists call projection. Basically, we take what little we know about our significant other and then fill in the blanks with our own fantasies. Seeing through these projections is often painful, but this disillusionment doesn’t necessarily mean that we should simply give up. It can be healthy. It can wake us up to the fact that our expectations have been unrealistic. It can even provide us with an opportunity to find new reasons to appreciate our partners.
Of course, there are times when waking up to the illusion can make us realize that our partnership isn’t based in truth. There won’t be hope for the relationship, in this case, but there is an opportunity for us to learn from the experience. Why were we attracted to such a person? Why did we try and make them out to be someone who they weren’t? Our answers to these questions can help us to know ourselves better; and hopefully, because of this, we’ll be equipped to make better choices in the future.