The Relationship Code: Symbiosis

I am a couple voyeur. I like to watch couples. When I see couples who look as if they shouldn’t be together…together. I ask myself “So why are you two still together”. The obvious answer that comes back at me is “for the children” but for every couple that stay together for the sake of the children there is another that separate for the sake of the children. I am a firm believer that it is better to separate than to subject children to constant bickering and arguing. The first exposure we have as children to an intimate relationship is the one we see between our parents. They set the standards of what to expect from a relationship in the future. Two parents is the ideal. I am not going to argue with that. But it is better to be raised by one dedicated switched on parent than by two parents who are at each other’s throats all day long.

Many parents think that their sacrifice is worth it. But isn’t the case. I have listened to clients who have come from dysfunctional families and who have told me what it has done to them and how it has left them with control issues…has made them afraid of intimacy…distrustful of people who show them any kindness…given them low self-esteem issues and generally feeling that relationships are a pile of shit.

Why do couples stay together after the love has gone? We are all searching for meaning in our lives. Surely the meaning of life isn’t to come to the planet to have problems with a nearest and dearest. Life is hard enough but it must be hell on earth to wake up each day to a face you rather not see. And surely there must be more to life than to stay in a relationship that isn’t working for the sake of the house…the flat screen TV or the nice display of china in the cabinet.

So let’s have an intelligent conversation here. Let’s look for a reason beyond creature comforts and obligations around children. We know that couples come together for lots of reasons. When I looked into it, humans have seldom hooked up for love. It was always by design. It was either by arrangement for political, economic or territorial gain. It was the Victorians that introduced the notion of romance and love. Apparently Queen Victoria was head over heels in love with Albert and she didn’t mind telling everyone. So the Victorians being the Victorians…copied. Overnight every guys was expected to act like Darcy or Heathcliff. Love was Downton Abbey.

Yet we know that love is not like that. Relationships are not absolute. They are not static. The heady days of the first throes of love and the honeymoon period soon wears off. Then the relationship takes on a life of its own. One minute you are enjoying a meal and the minute you are in a war zone with all sorts of verbal ammunition being hurled your way.

I know a couple who talk about each other, to you as if the other person isn’t there. Just so that you can get your head around this… imagine you are with this couple and one says “he never helps around the house and the other says “she always tells me what to do” Awkward or what!

I know a guy that if you were to meet him on his own you would say he was talkative and friendly. If you were to meet this guy with his partner. You wouldn’t believe it was the same person. You would think the guy had had a frontal lobotomy. Clearly it is not allowed for him to know or speak to the opposite sex.

Introducing symbiosis

The word symbiosis comes from the Greek and it simply means ‘living together’ There are lots of examples of symbiosis in nature. For example the oxpecker lives on the back of the hippo. The plankton that feeds off the whale. These animals co-exist and it is a matter of convenience for them both. There is no way the hippo can get to scratch its own back and so it relies on the henpecker to do it. You’ve probably heard the phrase “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”…There are some symbiotic relationships in nature that are not healthy. Some are parasitic and there are those that are predatory were one poor sod winds up dead.

In psychology the term symbiosis is used to define a phenomenon were two people behave as though between they are one person. They fuse and become joined at the hip. They finish each other’s sentences. They take in terms of ‘we’ rather than ‘I’. This can be comforting for a lot of couples because it makes them feel close and gives the impression that the relationship is stable.

Unhealthy symbiotic relationship

By definition in order to be in an unhealthy symbiotic relationship you cannot wholly be yourself. You have to fit within the boundaries of the symbiosis. In an unhealthy symbiotic relationship there are dependency issues…neediness issues…control issues…who does what issues…freedom issues….self-esteem issues. In an unhealthy symbiosis at some point one or both partners will give up on their passions… hobbies and friends because the brief pleasure they may get from following their pursuits just isn’t worth the guilt trip, questioning, arguing and the silent treatment.

I know a couple and the woman says often “I used to dance a lot before the relationship” and he says “I used to love fishing”. When you ask them why they do their thing now. They shrug their shoulders. On a conscious level they don’t know the reason. But symbiosis works subconsciously and feeds a greater need.

If you investigated a little deeper you might find that he hated dancing and she decided to hate fishing because he hated dancing. Actually he doesn’t hate dancing. They met whilst dancing. What he really hated was other guys dancing with his woman. His real issue is his jealousy.

Healthy symbiosis relationship

-In a healthy relationship both partners co-exist for the benefit of themselves and each other. The benefits are mutual and conceptual.

-In a healthy relationship each partner is encouraged to pursue their passions… do their thing and take a little ‘me’ time. The idea behind this is that the more there is of the partner then the more of the partner there is to love.

-Each partner knows that if the partner feels good then they are the benefactor, it is good for them… and good for the relationship.

– When a couple can be themselves in a relationship it creates synergy. This means the sum of the whole is greater than the individual parts. A couple that is good together can achieve amazing things.

I’ve got way more to say on relationships
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