There are so many ways to manage “closeness” in couples. The most important part of the equation is to be sure to love and respect each other at all times. Don’t be the kind of couple who stays together forever only because you are afraid to be alone. I know from personal experience, the loneliest I have ever felt was being in the wrong relationship or marriage.
Mike and I met at age 50. By that time both of us were pretty clear on who we were, and who we wanted to spend our time with. We found spending time together was easier than with anyone else we had ever met before, but we also had very different interests and approaches to life. He loves a good project that includes making and fixing things, especially electronic or motorized things. I enjoy the world of creativity with words, writing, editing, photography and publishing.
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In psychology, this is called “differentiation.” Differentiation is how susceptible your ‘self’ is to group pressure. The less susceptible to the pressure of others, the higher your differentiation level. A high level of differentiation means a strong sense of who you are, separate from others. The process of holding onto your sense of self in an intense emotional relationship is what develops your sense of differentiation. That is healthy togetherness.
Luckily, because Mike and I had each lived alone for years before we met, we had each developed a strong sense of self. We had little “fear of disappearing into a relationship.” That is not to say that we didn’t struggle at times with maintaining strong, separate selves.
I believe too much closeness or neediness for attention from others is a real buzz kill, especially early in a relationship. When one partner needs a lot more support than the other, the relationship is unbalanced. The needy partner needs to work on their codependency issues and develop a healthy sense of self by finding a good counselor. I found a counselor in my thirties who helped me love and accept myself wholeheartedly through re-parenting therapy. I know from experience that this will take some serious soul surgery, but it can always be done.
I don’t know where I first heard this saying, but it works for me when it comes to healthy self development:
First have the strength to meet self, then have the strength to let go of self.
Our psychological task as young people is to learn to appreciate who we are, separate from everyone else in this world. As adults, it can be quite beneficial to eventually learn how to let go of self or ego, no longer needing to impress others with who we are.
Self love and acceptance is the BEST GIFT you can give yourself!