NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Saturday, February 26, 2022

Relationships: Are You and Your Partner on the Same Page About Your Relationship?

It's not unusual for people to enter into a new relationship without discussing what they each want.  Instead, each of them assumes that what they want is what their partner wants.  As a result, a few weeks or months into the relationship they're surprised to discover that they both want a different type of relationship (see my article: Are You and Your Boyfriend on the Same Wavelength?).

Are You and Your Partner on the Same Page?

Differences Between You and Your Partner Can Be Complicated
When you think about all the possible differences between people--wants and needs, personalities, family histories, cultures and religions, experiences in prior relationships--you can see why there would be misunderstandings if the couple doesn't talk about what they want before they enter into the relationship.

One person might have come from a family where they observed their parents in a happy monogamous relationship and this is what they envision for themselves. The other person might have come from a single parent home where they didn't see their parent in a relationship at all.  Another person might have witnessed two parents that were emotionally estranged.

Similarly, someone from a traditional culture or religion might not have much experience dating or being in a relationship so they're unclear as to what they want.  They might not even be sure if they want to be in a relationship, while their partner, who has a lot of relationship experience, might be ready to be part of a committed relationship.

New Relationship Energy at the Beginning of a Relationship
New relationship energy (NRE) is a state of mind at the beginning of a relationship. 

When you first start seeing someone new that you really like, it's easy to get caught up in that heady NRE where you feel like you're on top of the world and nothing could possibly go wrong.  

Everything is new, the sexual chemistry is probably strong, and you have so many other things to talk about because you're getting to know each other.  

While NRE is usually thought of as being desirable at the start of a relationship, the heady feelings involved can also distort how you perceive your partner or the potential for a satisfying relationship with this person.

If, in addition to NRE, you also bypass the step where you have a discussion about what you each want, you and your partner can feel disappointed later on when you realize you're not on the same page and you want different things.

Alternatives to Monogamy
In addition to the ambiguity of a new relationship, there are so many alternatives to a monogamous relationship, which could include (but are not limited to):
  • Monogamish: A term coined by Dan Savage where the couple is mostly monogamous, but they allow for an occasional outside sex partner where there are no intended romantic feelings (although emotional attachments can develop even if both people don't intend for it to happen).
  • Open Relationship: There are variations in open relationships, but open relationships usually mean that the couple considers themselves to be the main partners, but they also see other people, often for sex with no intended emotional connection (although, once again, unintended emotional connections can develop).
  • Polyamorous: This is a form of consensual non-monogamy where each person sees other people outside the relationship and these other relationships might or might not be sexual and might or might not involve emotional attachment, depending upon what the couple has negotiated with each other. 
  • Friends with Benefits (FWB): This is another category that has variations depending upon what each person wants. Sometimes FWB can start between two people who are friends but who also have a sexual attraction to each other. FWB can be for a limited duration or it can be ongoing for years. Sometimes the two people go back to being friends after they stop being sexual or when one or both enter into a more committed relationship with someone else, and sometimes they end the friendship altogether (see my article: The Pros and Cons of Friends With Benefits).
  • Swinging: There is a lot of variety in this category which often brings to mind "wife swapping" and "key parties" from the 1970s. But the term actually covers a broad spectrum. Some couples who are swingers only engage in sexual activities together with a specific group of people and other couples each go off on their own individually to have sex with other people.  Swinging usually implies that there aren't intended emotional connections with other people outside the main relationship but, as in any type of relationship, emotional attachments can form.
You and Your Partner Need to Communicate
Misunderstandings and hurt feelings can develop if the two of you haven't defined your relationship from the start.

So, for instance, if you think you're in a monogamous relationship, but your partner assumes that the two of you are "monogamish," there can be serious consequences which lead to a breakup.

In upcoming articles, I'll discuss the signs that can alert you that you and your partner aren't on the same page and how to fix this problem (see my article: Telltale Signs You and Your Partner Aren't on the Same Page).

Getting Help in Therapy
Relationships are much more complicated these days than they were in your parents' time with many more choices.  It's not enough to love each other and just hope that your relationship will work out.

Knowing what you want and communicating it to your partner is important if you want to have a happy relationship. But this is often hard to do because people don't always know how to do it.

Whether you seek assistance individually or in couples therapy, you owe it to yourself and your partner to seek professional help if you're struggling with these issues.  

So, rather than struggling alone, get help from a licensed mental health practitioner so you can have a healthy relationship.

A skilled psychotherapist can help you to discover what you want and learn how to communicate effectively with your partner.  

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individuals and couples.

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

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 or email me.