Nødvendig nærhet

Almost every couple goes through bad times. In order to achieve the necessary closeness, one cannot see each other as opponents in a conflict, but as a team with common tasks.

Illustrasjon av to personer som glir fra hverandre
(Illustrasjon: Illustratørene v/ Elisabeth Moseng)

It is quite common that problems arise in a relationship, and it is in the actual relationship that rubs occur. It is important to have a greater awareness of this, writes the Swedish psychologists Maria Burman, Anna-Karin Norlander, Per Carlbring and Gerhard Andersson in the book "Closer to each other."

Parallelle liv

Frequently, conflicts in a couple are noisy and visible, and the parties argue loudly. But conflicts can also lie beneath the surface, and the people can slide apart. Altogether it feels like they are living parallel lives and only have practical things in common. The authors of the book have long experience with party therapy, and write:

- Many people we have met describe an emotional distance to the partner as they do not know how to move. It is not uncommon for the communication between two people who have been a couple for a long time to be more about practical things such as who is to trade, fetch and deliver children, for example, than more emotional issues. For some, it's about fear of intimacy or uncertainty by getting close to someone and showing their vulnerability. For others, this may have been the case as a result of everyday life having to go up, and one has not been aware that the daily talk has been reduced to something that is not so engaging.

Some feel lonely in the relationship as a result of this, and think a lot about whether the relationship is life law. Maybe one puts up a mine that keeps others away?

An example in the book is about Agneta and Krister, who have been married for twenty years. Krister works very much, and Agneta has long felt neglected. Before, she thought it was because they spent most of the time on the kids, but after the kids moved out, they can no longer blame it. They have lots of time together, but experience not reaching each other. Krister felt that it was his fault, but took out the frustration of jaw. Agneta became increasingly convinced he was leaving her.

"What they were not aware of was that the lack of closeness in the relationship actually tied in a fear of being hurt, and to show weakness for each other," the authors wrote. One criticized and the other pulled away, and the distance between them increased. Sexual life was detrimental, it made emotional proximity almost impossible.

Vil forandre den andre

In the phase of infatuation, where one considers the other to be almost perfect, one might agree that it is completely wrong to attempt to change a partner. But as the years go by, and one faces major external challenges, it is quite common to try to change the partner's behavior. When it does not go, the frustration is blown out. Mind, disappointment and frustration do not make the relationship better.

The authors point out that it is not good to emit anger, but anger tends to grow that way.

Akseptere mer

Could it be the setting you have for your partner that increases your mind? Can you try to accept his or her peculiarities? The book shows how both have easy to see themselves as victims in the relationship. Neither party comes to meet the other. When this becomes extreme, the authors call it a polarization process.

A man in the book is called Peter, and he feels outside and overlooked by his wife, because she has such a large social network and is so much fun. He sits in the armchair and becomes more and more silent, the more she tells about all the festive she has experienced.

Another couple, Eva and Katrin, struggle with the fact that Eva has a new and exciting boss job, while Katrin right now is out of work. It leads to jealousy, disagreement over how expensive journeys one should put on, and there is an ever-worse mood between them. Until they have to think about: What was it really they had been attracted to by the other? Yes, it was for Eva that Katrin had a carefree view of life, while Katrin had liked Eva's determination.

«Den ene kritiserte og den andre trakk seg unna, og avstanden mellom dem økte.»

Trekker seg unna

Nils og Anna havner stadig vekk i krangel fordi hun vil planlegge hva de skal gjøre i helgene, mens han vil improvisere og se hva som dukker opp. Anna blir redd for at han ikke bryr seg om henne. Han har mange prosjekter som ikke inkluderer henne, og trenger mye tid alene. Nils vet ikke at hun blir redd, han orker bare ikke all kranglingen. Han stryker på dør når det blir høylytt kjefting.

– Polariseringsprosessen kjennetegnes av at jo mer nærhet Anna etterspør, jo mer trekker Nils seg unna, skriver forfatterne. Paradokset er at mens Anna prøver å komme nær Nils på sin måte, fører hennes metode til at hun støter ham bort. Og jo mer Nils avviser Annas krav, jo flere krav får han.

Bevisstgjøring

For å bryte det negative mønsteret, får paret først i oppgave å kartlegge hva som skjer. Som oftest er vår atferd i parforhold ganske ubevisst. Man bør øve seg ved å tenke over hva som er styrkene ved forholdet, hva man kan gjøre mindre av for sin partners skyld, og tenke over hva som er konsekvensene av det man ikke gjør for sin partner.

«Närmare varandra» kan brukes av alle par, men for noen er det ikke nok – de trenger familierådgiving eller parterapi. Men de fleste vil ha nytte av å tenke over at jo mer du for­søker å endre din partner, jo større distanse blir det mellom dere.

Hvis du derimot klarer å akseptere og tolerere den andre, uten at det går på bekostning av deg selv, er det større sjanse for at dere igjen finner nærheten dere trenger. •

Kilde: Närmare varandra. 9 veckor till en starkare parrelation. Forlaget Natur & Kultur, 2018. Alle eksemplene er hentet fra boka.