In order to successfully move from stage one (symbiosis) to stage two (differentiation) of the love relationship, one must successfully achieve his or her personal psycho-social development process of individuation. Individuation is the process of forming and becoming your true self; owning your uniqueness and being able to stand as a fully integrated and separate individual. It is the process of psychological integration with the goal of solidifying your personality. Basically, coming into your own. As Erick Erickson’s psycho-social developmental model suggests, the capacity to form intimate love relationships requires one to have come to know themselves and be free to share themselves fully. This is where most couples call it quits before real love can blossom.
After the delicious experience of being in the romantic bubble, we begin to show more of our real self. The allure of the love drug (oxytocin) has faded as our brain begins to stop freely releasing it and we are no longer motivated to continue to put our best foot forward. The spell of the love drug necessary for imperfect human beings to form a love bond typically lasts up to eighteen months provided there aren’t any major crises, excessive stress, or disillusionment. After this time the real you naturally unfolds. You return to your natural energy state, emotional and behavioral patterns, and drift back into your familiar routine and comfortable status quo.
What occurs relationally is that you and your love object begin to perceive each other through your own personal filters and with seeming crystal clarity notice differences that mysteriously were not visible in the romantic bubble. But, trust me when I say they were there. Perhaps in milder forms, but you were not being conscious and likely not practicing information gathering or dating around like I suggest. Therefore you were even more susceptible to the effects of the love drug. And now that it has faded away, you think to yourself, How could I have been so blind? Who is this person? And often, you begin to shout out loud, Why are you doing this to me?
The dance of real love is set in motion and it takes two to tango. You both have the opportunity to show up and grow up for love. Standing firm in your individuated self, you are open to receive the individuated self of the one you said you love. If you have not individuated, this is your time to separate from your family and environmental influences. Cut the cord and find and reclaim your true self.
At this part in the dance, most people magnify or minimize each other’s conflicts or lose themselves and merge with the other in service of becoming one for the relationship. But what is happening beneath the surface is resentment grows in love’s place. Simultaneously, one or both of you actively or passively attempt to do whatever it takes to hold on to the illusion of love you initially experienced in the romantic bubble and influence the other to change. We blame, seduce, and manipulate the other. Our need to control the other to be more of something and less of something else festers, so we can feel at ease in the relationship again.
The growth opportunity is to embrace, accept, and love each other’s differences (uniqueness). Love the blossoming individuality. Allow space within the relationship for the personal and spiritual evolution of the other to emerge. Celebrate the differences for what they are … reflections of aspects of you needing to be pruned for your full bloom to appear. Inspire each other to greatness versus sameness.
In conclusion, here are the milestones to be achieved as a couple during this transition from stage one to stage two:
- Achieve individuation
- Develop empathy
- Learning how to fight. That’s right, fights are healthy and normal in a relationship. How you fight is often where the problem occurs.
- Create safety and communicate for closeness.