Couples

Walls Are Closing In

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“In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two.”
– Erich Fromm

Being in a romantic relationship is walking a tightrope between dependence and independence, between togetherness and separateness, between becoming a community and remaining individuals.

If you feel like the walls are closing in, that your freedom is being compromised, your individuality limited, you might just be right. This is because many people enter into a romantic relationship, into all relationships actually, with the unconscious desire to lose themselves, to become a part of something bigger in order to gain relief from painful feelings of existential anxiety. The psychoanalytic term for this type of life orientation is masochism, and the problem is that it places all the emphasis on becoming one. Someone with this type of life orientation will try to make you feel like wanting to maintain your individuality is unhealthy while what is actually unhealthy is the compulsive need to surrender individuality completely.

On the other hand, if you feel like the walls are closing in, that your freedom is being compromised, your individuality limited, you might just be wrong. This is because many people enter into a romantic relationship, all relationships actually, with an unconscious fear of losing themselves, a fear of merging with the other, of opening themselves up emotionally and psychologically. For these people the prospect of surrendering individuality creates a lot of painful feelings of existential anxiety. We call this type of life orientation detached personality, and the problem is that it places all the emphasis on remaining separate. Someone with this type of life orientation will try to make you feel like wanting to merge is unhealthy while what is actually unhealthy is the compulsive need to maintain individuality completely.

Learning how to become one while remaining two is the hallmark of a loving relationship. It’s being able to walk that tightrope, to be a community while at the same time respecting the rights of the other to self-actualize in their own unique way. Becoming one while neglecting to remain two leads to problems just like remaining two while neglecting to become one leads to problems. Each of these attitudes is focusing exclusively on one side of the equation while ignoring the other.

Greetings I'm Michael, the owner of Evolution Counseling and the author of all the articles on this site. I got my master's degree from Seattle University in community mental heath counseling and have committed myself to advancing my knowledge of psychology and to evolving my own philosophical system ever since. In addition to the content on this site I offer online coaching using Skype. If you'd like to learn more about it click on the online coaching tab or if you think you'd like to set up a session send me an email at evolve@evolutioncounseling.com.

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