PLEASE NOTE: The following information does not constitute counselling or therapy or psychology advice in any way. Any names and circumstances provided are fictitious, and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, or to actual circumstances is purely coincidental. All content is the copyright of Family Mediation Brisbane and must not be in any way reproduced without prior written permission. All rights are reserved.
Why have we grown apart? My partner just does not seem to understand what I need from them
Do you feel that, over the time, perhaps so gradually, you did not even notice it happen, that you and your partner have simply grown apart? Perhaps you feel like you are like ships passing in the night. Perhaps you have raging arguments, or perhaps you just don’t have the energy to argue at all. If you have kids, perhaps you are finding that they are picking sides and are no longer as close to you as they once were. The important thing to remember throughout all of this is that all hope is not lost. If you have a genuine desire to work on the family relationship, even as friends and not as romantic partners, the following information might help you both meet your goals. What’s important to remember is that your goals may differ from others’; these strategies are designed to help you and your family to reach those goals, whether you have decided on separation or divorce, or not. Generally speaking, regardless of the problem, it usually begins with a breakdown in communication.
"Regardless of the problem, it usually begins with a breakdown in communication."
We just don’t seem to spend time together or talk like we used to
For example, Jill and Mark have been together for 15 years. When they met at university, they had everything in common; they went to theatre productions, and they were both environmentally active. It was not long before they fell in love. As the years went by, they got promotions at work, things got busy, and they had less free time to do the things they bonded over. Jill finds she has to do two full-time jobs: look after the home, and work in a busy law firm. Mark feels as though he has to work extra hours to keep the standard of living they are accustomed to. Mark and Jill begin to resent each other, but neither wants to openly discuss the matter, unless they hurt their partner, or worse, destroy their family. Yet things are getting worse each month, not better.
In this case the couple have failed to adapt to the changing dynamic in their relationship. Both people have separately begun to face new challenges in their life, but as a couple they have not communicated these changes nor discussed how they feel about their partner’s role in their evolving relationship. In family therapy, a therapist will often work on these communication issues, pointing out where the issues lie and how couples often misunderstand each other’s concerns, by incorrectly reading into their partner’s behaviour. This can end with resentment and only gets worse with fatigue and stress, which brings us to the next point.
"You may be facing new challenges, and it's important to communicate with your partner about them and how you feel."
My partner never makes the time for me or the kids
Like many couples, Jill and Mark decided to have children; they were financially secure and felt they had strong morals, which would be a great environment for the future generation. When the children were introduced to the family, however, Mark did not assume any of the responsibilities at home. Jill was now working part-time, as Mark made enough money for her to do so, but she feels she has been left with all the responsibility of the family and home, and Mark does not appreciate her efforts. Moreover, Jill misses her career, as it made her feel like she had a purpose. Mark feels that ever since the children have come along, Jill has become withdrawn. Mark works long hours to provide for them, and feels like no one appreciates his sacrifices. In this scenario, Mark has struggled to adapt to the introduction of a new family member, and both have failed to communicate their feelings. Fearing upsetting their child, or causing distress to the other, neither have openly discussed their frustrations, until one night, when they had the first of what will become a stream of ever-increasing arguments.
That night, Mark came home from work late and could see Jill looked tired. Mark asked Jill not to cook for him and instead to get an early night, as he felt she needed a break. Jill interpreted this action as Mark not wanting to spend the evening together eating, so she went straight to bed. Mark saw this as Jill refusing to talk to him for the evening and not appreciating his gesture. Both went to bed resentful, and hurt, yet neither understood what each other were trying to say. In seeing a therapist, the couple may be asked to act out one of these scenes, and analyse what they were thinking, why they were upset, and explain their thoughts and emotions to the other person. When children are involved, of course, these situations can become more complex.
"Open discussion with empathy resolves issues."
My partner spoils the kids, and now the kids resent me
A family therapist will talk about boundaries both between the couple and with their children. When there is a rigid boundary between the couple, it leads to a communication breakdown. But what happens when you have a porous boundary between children and parents? In this case, Jill pours her affection into Timmy, their child, in part because she feels empty with her relationship with Mark, and in part because she feels guilty that her and Mark may be separating. When Mark is home, he finds Jill caving into Timmy’s demands and going back on some of his rules that they both agreed on when Timmy was growing up. He finds that Timmy begins to resent him for being too strict, and disobeys him at every turn. In this situation, Timmy may begin to show behavioural problems as well (CLICK HERE TO READ MORE). Mark’s biggest issue, however, is if Jill and he separate, will he lose contact with Timmy? Will Timmy choose Jill over him?
When couples do not have a united front with their children, or when a child becomes part of the relationship problem, alliances can form between a child and one parent. In this case, a therapist will try to establish firmer boundaries between parents and children, by presenting a united front, not relying on the child for emotional support, or ally with them against the parent, and not exposing children to problems in the parents’ relationship. Generally speaking, an alliance can cause quite serious issues of anxiety for the child, as they may feel some responsibility for their parents’ happiness and marriage. Further, such alliances can cause serious damage to the relationship between the child and the parent not involved in the alliance. However, even if you find yourself in this situation, there is still plenty of scope for change.
"Parents should always work together in unison."
It can get better
Whether you are trying to keep the relationship going, or have fallen out of love and wish to be amicable after a separation and ensure that your child feels loved and cared for, some of these concepts can begin to help you reach those goals. If you chose to see a therapist, you are empowered, both as individuals and as a family to set your own goals, to ensure that you and your family feel positive about the future.
More Information on Counselling & Therapy Relating to Separation & Divorce
- Why have we grown apart? My partner just does not seem to understand what I need from them
- How will my children be affected by our separation? Solutions for children acting out or siding with one parent
- Is your extended family driving a wedge between you and your partner?
- Why do we always fight? Are you sure that you do?
- Separation and communication: Are you growing apart, but afraid to speak out?
- Adapting to children entering and leaving the family
- Can counselling help us move forward post-separation?
- Why does separation hurt so much? Why do I feel differently towards my partner?
- Domestic violence: What is it, what can we do about it, and how to get through it
- Infidelity: Why did my partner cheat? Can our relationship be saved?
- Contemplating separation? Will a trial separation help or hinder?
More Information on Mediation & Family Dispute Resolution
- Family Dispute Resolution
- Parenting Plans
- Financial Agreements
- Child-Inclusive Mediation
- Section 60I Certificates
- Child Support
- Child Support Calculator
- De Facto Relationships & Separation
- Divorce & Mediation
- Grandparents & Mediation for Grandchildren
- Parenting Plan & Draft Consent Orders for Children
- Property Settlement at Mediation
- Mediation & Domestic Violence
- Relocation & Overseas Travel with a Child
- Going to the Family Court versus Mediation
- Family Dispute Resolution & Mediation
- Child Support & Mediation
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DISCLAIMER: The information contained on this website is for general guidance only. No person should act or refrain from acting on the basis of this information. Professional counselling or therapy or psychology advice should be sought based upon your particular circumstances.