2. Ask Yourself the Mirror Question.
It tends to be far easier to identify what our partner is doing to create tension or difficulty in the relationship, so make it a practice to ask yourself this question, “What is it like to be with me right now?”
This question invites you to hold up a mirror and look at the impact your words, behaviors, and moods have on the relational climate in your home.
Look at your relationship as a system. Each of you keys off of the other, creating cycles of connection or conflict. The more you can “own” your part of the cycle, the more you invite your partner to own theirs (Davis, Lebow, & Sprenkle, 2012). From this place of accountability rather than blame, we make our relationship safe enough to apologize and forgive.
JoAnn connected her tendency to criticize Andrea with the dynamics in her family growing up. She felt invisible when she was little, which puts her at risk of holding rigidly to her perspective for fear of being run over. Her willingness to connect with and share about this younger part of herself helped Andrea respond with empathy rather than defensiveness.
Looking at the origin stories for our core wounds is enlightening, but also scary. Make sure you meet your insights with self-compassion and love.
3. Focus on the Good.
Moving in together stirs up understandable fears: Will our relationship succeed? Am I going to lose myself? Is our sex life going to crash and burn?
When fear is in the driver’s seat, it is easy to become hyper-focused on the bumps and miss out on the blessings. This can especially be the case if you grew up in a home where criticism flowed more easily than gratitude.
Make it a practice to notice and savor what your partner is doing well—moments of thoughtfulness, generosity, and patience. Gratitude improves relationship quality (Kubacka, Finkenauer, Rusbult, & Keijsers, 2011). Let yourselves enjoy the inside jokes and silly nicknames. Create rituals. Even a simple walk around the block each morning is a meaningful way to let each other know that your relationship is a priority and a worthwhile investment.
When you repair a moment of friction instead of escalating into yelling or icy silence, celebrate your relational savvy together. As Andrea, JoAnn, and I processed their flare-up, we focused on how quickly they moved from prickly to apologetic and remembered together how, in the past, a fight like this would have cost them days of tension.
Cohabitation can bring with it new opportunities for intimacy and growth in your relationship and usher in an exciting time for exploration of yourselves and each other.
Healthy intimate relationships take practice. Remember to trust that you can be imperfect and lovable, practice relational self-awareness, and celebrate what’s good and bountiful in your relationship.
10 Questions To Help You Create A Shared Vision
1. If you lived with someone prior, what went wrong the last time you lived with someone? What role did you play in that? What did you learn from it? What do you want to do differently this time? What do you know about yourself that does not make you the easiest person to live with?
2. What does moving in together mean to each of you?
3. What are your hopes and your concerns about moving in together?
4. How do you want to handle differing needs for closeness and togetherness? How might living together affect your boundaries individually and as a couple?
5. What does the idea of being “alone together” mean to you? How do you feel about it?