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Monday, October 1, 2018

Relationships: You're In Love But Not Compatible With Your Partner

It's so easy to get caught up in the passion of a relationship, especially when you're in love and things are new and exciting.  But, as many couples find out, being in love and being compatible aren't the same things. They discover that the relationship isn't going to work out--despite the fact that you're both in love with each other (see my article: All You Need is More Than Love).

Relationships: You're In Love But Not Compatible With Your Partner
Of course, when we're talking about compatibility, it matters whether we're referring to relatively minor issues where there can be negotiation and compromise or if we're discussing core values that are non-negotiable with each person.

When the incompatibility involves core values, many couples, who love each other, keep hoping for the best because they don't want to lose each other.  But if they remain together, get married and have children, it can be even more heartbreaking to have ongoing conflict, tension in the home and, possibly, an eventual breakup.

Fictional Clinical Vignette: In Love But Not Compatible
The following fictional vignette, which is representative of many actual cases, illustrates the problems  involved when two people in a relationship are in love but not compatible:

Alan and Jennifer
Alan and Jennifer met at a local dance club in Manhattan when they were both in their 20s.  Instantly attracted to one another, they began dating regularly and, after several months, they were both in love with each other, sex was amazing, and they decided to remain monogamous.

After dating for a couple of years, they talked about the possibility of moving in together and eventually getting married.  Neither of them had ever felt so in love and committed to a relationship before.

The problem was that when they talked about getting married, Jennifer said she wanted to have at least two children, and Alan said he didn't want to have children at all.  Although Jennifer was concerned about this, she didn't want to breakup with Alan.  So, she decided to move in with him and wait to see if he changed his mind.

Two years after they moved in together, each of them was even more committed to the relationship than before.  But the question about children remained an issue.  Alan still maintained that he didn't want children, and Jennifer wanted children more than ever.

At the same time, Jennifer was concerned about her "biological clock" and, if she was going to have children, she wanted to start trying to get pregnant within the next year or two.  They talked about this issue many times, but they couldn't come to an agreement, and they were both feeling increasingly anxious about what this meant for their relationship.

Soon after that, they decided to come for couple therapy to see if they could work out this issue.  As Jennifer explained it, she felt like she was caught in a dilemma:  She didn't want to be with anyone else, except Alan, but she didn't want to regret not having children later or feel resentful towards Alan about it.

Alan explained to the couple therapist that he also felt like he was in a dilemma:  He loved Jennifer and he wanted to marry her, but he felt he would be unhappy having children.  He said he thought about going along with Jennifer about having children, but he was also afraid that he would resent her eventually if he acquiesced to her and he was unhappy later on.

Jennifer expressed her deep sorrow and frustration.  She had been raised to believe that if two people love each other, they could work anything out.  She thought "love conquers all," but their problem seemed intractable.

Furthermore, from a practical point of view, she feared that, even if she was willing to leave Alan, which she didn't want to do, there was no guarantee that she would meet someone else that she would fall in love with and who wanted children.  She didn't want to give Alan up, and Alan also didn't want to break up.

Fortunately for this couple, they began to spend a lot more time with Jennifer's sister, Ann, who just had a baby.  Jennifer adored her niece, and Alan was very surprised that he also loved being with the baby.  He said he began to enjoy imagining himself being a father and raising a child.

After that, Alan told Jennifer that he changed his mind--he would like to have at least one child, and this allowed them to take the next step to get engaged.

They remained in couple therapy until after their first child was one years old. In their couple therapy sessions, they talked about how challenging it was to have a new baby and how tired they often were. Having a child turned out to be a lot more work than either of them had imagined. But both Alan and Jennifer were happy that they decided to have a child.  Since everything else in their marriage was going fairly well, they ended couple therapy at that time.

Occasionally, over the years, they returned to couple therapy whenever issues came up.  But, overall, they were getting along very well and their child was thriving.

Conclusion
In this particular scenario, the problem worked out because circumstances changed and they both ended up on the same page about having children.

Unfortunately, for many couples, whether the issue is having children or some other core issue, things don't always work out so well.

If Alan and Jennifer had not come to an agreement about children, like many couples, they would have had to decide whether to stay together or not.  This is a big dilemma to have to face and, obviously, there's no right or wrong answer.

In addition, so many of us were raised with the idea that "love conquers all."   It can be so disappointing and disillusioning when you and your partner are in love, but you disagree about important issues, and it seems like your relationship isn't going to work out, despite how much you love each other.

Getting Help in Couple Therapy
Being in conflict about a core value can put a very big strain on your relationship, especially if you're both procrastinating about dealing with it--whether it's about having children or any other important issues.

Sometimes, couples can come to an agreement--whether it's to stay together or break up--with the help of couple therapy.  It can be a relief to make a decision even if it's a very difficult one (see my article: What is Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT)?

Your problems probably won't go away on their own, so it's better to face them together with the help of a couple therapist.

If you've been putting off dealing with core issues in your relationship, whatever they might be, you could benefit from working with an experienced couple therapist.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, Somatic Experiencing and EFT couple therapist (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me.













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