Over the years, I’ve worked with thousands of couples and a statement that I’ve heard over and over in my couples therapy office is when one partner turns to the other and says, “You are not the person I married.”
What should you do if you feel this way about your spouse?
And what should you do if you are on the receiving end of that statement, listening to your partner tell you that you are not the person they married?
If you find yourself either saying or hearing these words, it’s important to know that although this may make you feel horrible, it could actually be an important turning point and an amazing opportunity in your relationship.
In order to understand why this is, I am going to be taking the next few blogs to examine what is behind the complaint “You are not the person I married” and what you can do as a couple to overcome this problem.
Debunking the Myths Behind This Statement
It turns out that behind this statement are some myths about intimate relationships that need to be debunked if you are really interested in creating a fulfilling partnership and staying together for the long haul.
Myth #1: I should be experiencing my partner the same way now that we are far along in the relationship as I did when we were first dating.
This is of course untrue. In the beginning of a romantic relationship, your brain is on drugs, pumping out the perfect neuro-cocktail of dopamine, norepinephrine, oxytocin, and adrenaline. This is nature’s way of ensuring that humans are hopelessly attracted to one another, so that they can get together and mate.
During this early phase of relationship, you see your partner as a blissful fantasy, the person you wish they were rather than how they really are. You are in a state of one-mindedness with your partner, which means that you experience a sense of familiarity and sameness with them. You may feel like you have known each other forever. Think how exciting it is for a couple when they discover that they, “finish each other’s sentences.”
This is a really good example of an experience that you may have had in the very beginning of your relationship that makes you feel at one with your partner, like you are in a sense the same person.
Going From Sameness to Differentness Can Be Hard
Although sameness is a natural and healthy phase of relationship, it is still based on a fantasy of who you think the other person is. The truth is that you don’t actually know the other person very well yet.
As you and your partner progress into deeper stages of relationship, it’s important that you are able to make the transition from relating to the fantasy of each other to truly understanding the other person. This means that you need to begin to move from the experience of familiarity and oneness that occurs during the early stages of relationship, into a real appreciation of the other person for who they are and how they are different from you.
Of course the problem here is that many couples are unable to make that change into being able to recognize the other person in their own right. These couples remain stuck in a static perspective on each other and themselves, unable to progress to the deeper stages of relationship.
Remaining caught in a static perspective on who your partner is may give you a feeling of predictability and comfort in your relationship, but it is going to kill any sense of novelty, freshness, aliveness and spontaneity between the two of you. Couples need a certain level of unpredictability and differentness in order to make it work in the long haul.
Otherwise they tend to end up in dull, lifeless marriages.
Myth #2: I Can Fully Know My Partner
If you say that your partner is not the person you married, this of course implies that you knew them completely when you married them. But I submit that it is never possible to know another person completely.
That’s because fundamentally, people are a mystery. We are always in the process of growing and changing.
Take for example, your physical body: each day, 50 to 70 billion of your cells die and your body replaces these with new cells. And your inner self is no different: your dreams, feelings, your understanding of yourself and the world around you all go through many transformations as you move through the life cycle and mature.
Your nature as an individual is to be constantly developing in complexity.
And if you are in relationship, your nature is to be constantly developing in complexity as a couple as well.
Why Would You Assume That You Can Fully Know Another Person?
If you had a variety of painful experiences in your early relationships when you were little, this can make you especially wary of anything strange or different. Your brain is wired to protect you from danger above all else.
It’s easy to see how the unknown could feel scary or threatening if your early relationships were less than secure.
This aversion to novelty can cause you to see your partner as static.
Like many couples, you may find that after awhile of being together, the two of you fall into a more stable but fixed view of each other. You may fail to notice the depth of your partner and avoid anything that might lead to discovery or surprise between the two of you.
This can create a sense of boredom and meaninglessness in your relationship.
Mind-Sharing Builds Intimacy
All of the couples I see in my office who suffer from this lack of spontaneity and aliveness in their relationship have one thing in common: At least one if not both members of the couple do not trust the other partner with their mind. This means they believe that a part of their experience should be kept secret from the other partner.
Secrecy in relationship is a surefire way to kill any sense of excitement and closeness.
What builds intimacy is the exact opposite: The willingness to share your thoughts and feelings with each other, to rely on your partner to help you digest and organize your experience, and vice versa.
Being interested and available to each other as you hang out in the unknown and discover how you think and feel together is one of the most powerful ways to reestablish intimacy.
Discover the Freshness of Being a Couple
If you feel that your relationship is lacking in freshness, vitality and wonderment and are looking for a couples therapist to walk with you every step of the way so you can reinvigorate your relationship, let’s connect on the phone so I can help you meet your goals much faster.
You can contact me at the number below.
Or, you can set up a consultation so I can find out about your goals and how I can help.
I look forward to hearing from you soon!