“Similar to sports, the rules for being successful at singles tennis is different than the rules for being successful at doubles,” says Chambers. “When couples experience setbacks during that transition because they are trying to embrace an interdependent mindset, it is actually a sign of health.”
One way to manage this transition is to be intentional about making conjoint decisions. Metaphorically speaking, conjoint decision making is like having a shared lock that requires two keys to unlock it. Both parties need to participate in the unlocking, particularly when major decisions are being made.
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Another way to make the “we” shift is to merge finances.
“Money is the number one reason that couples get divorced, and it is not about how much money a couple has as much as it is about what money represents,” says Chambers. “One of the most important things that money represents is a sense of ‘us’ as it is the most tangible way to feel and see that we are a team.”
Fighting Over Social Media Interactions
Commenting on an ex’s photograph or “liking” a picture of an attractive stranger are just two examples of online interactions that can lead to an embittered spat. Neither party is inherently wrong or right, but it does mean that it’s time for a conversation.
“This couple’s challenge is to use that setback as an indicator that they need to work together to create relationship boundaries that help them feel both safe and independent,” says Dr. Solomon. “Different couples have different boundaries around this stuff so the only way to figure it out is by working together.”
Experiencing a Decrease in Sexual Desire
“Early months of a relationship are fueled by sexual desire that feels effortless and organic. One of the most destructive romantic myths in our culture is that if sexual chemistry changes for a couple, it means their relationship is bad, wrong or doomed,” warns Solomon. “It is normal and expected for sexual desire to slow and shift as a couple settles in to commitment and routine.”
She says that part of the work for sexually monogamous couples is to figure out ways to stoke an ongoing sexual connection, and to learn how to tolerate expected dry spells. If couples can approach this setback together, they can deepen their sexual enjoyment and closeness.
Feeling Like You’re Too Different for Each Other
Even though the “opposites attract” mantra is oft repeated, couples sometimes lose sight of just how exciting, and important, their differences are. “Decrease the urgency for sameness. Don’t try to get your partner be just like you,” urges Chambers. “The central task of any relationship is the management of differences; it is important to accept and embrace them.”
He says that an effective way to manage and embrace differences is to write down a list of all the traits that are different from you that you admire in your partner.
“It is also important to be humble when discussing differences with your partner. You may prefer doing something a certain way but that is all it is — a preference,” he says. “I like to have couples use the newspaper test, meaning if you put this argument on the front page of the [paper] you would find thousands of people who agree with partner A, thousands who agree with partner B, and thousands who disagree with both. Remembering that can help you approach your partner with more humility and avoid the ‘right and wrong’ argument.”