RELATIONSHIP BUILDER:

Fusion is NOT Unity!   1+1=1=Divorce…

Because One of You is Redundant in the Dance!

FUSION & THE DIVORCE VIRUS:  Developing the powerful force of unity and the mature ability to allow interdependence in couple life are signs of a healthy relationship.   Fusion is not that kind of powerful and healthy force in couple life.   Merging, or fusion, means someone is NOT REALLY THERE.   Fusion causes the important togetherness-separateness dance to come to a screeching halt.  

When we allow our life to simply melt into our partner’s life, that is the point the music stops.    Ballroom dance is a great metaphor here, as it requires unity and togetherness and commitment, yet also requires independence and a kind of holding one’s own in the dance frame.    Leaders and followers in ballroom dance have their own jobs in the dance; they do not simply copy each other during the dance.   If they learn to dance in unity with each other, responding to each other with confidence, never losing their own frame, the dance can go on forever.   But if one dancer’s frame collapses, it’s all over.

A collapsed personal frame could be translated to mean fusing into what our partner is doing, forgetting what really matters to us personally, neglecting to bring our uniqueness to the “dance” of our relationship with courage.    According The Infidelity Recovery Institute one of the leading causes of divorce is this fusion behavior in couples:

Couple FusionTHE LATEST FROM THE INFIDELITY RESEARCH INSTITUTE:   One of the most common and destructive fallacies about relationships and in particular, long term ones, is the idea that 2 individuals should merge to become one person. The main problem is that when you fuse with another person you lose your sense of self. Hence, 1 person + 1 person = 1 merged person =no person! This model of relationships implies that couples should have similar tastes, the same friends, change their habits and likes to fit in with their partner and generally start to „fuse‟ with their significant other and become similar in all aspects. There are significant problems with this model, as evidenced by the divorce rate in the general population, which is close to 50% and even higher for second marriages. A person merging with another to become one enmeshed person, signals potential disaster for the relationship and generally ends in separation to regain the lost sense of self.

What I encourage is not total independence or fusion, but rather inter-dependence. So that there are times when you lean on your partner and they lean on you. There are also times when you seek solace and alone time and you are open to and encouraging when your partner wants or needs to spend time apart from you.  (Joe Whitcomb,  The Top 9 Relationship Tips to Reboot Your Relationship,IRI)

 

 

The Solution is Differentiation:  1+1=?=Mutual Interdependence

Because You are Embracing

the Mystery of the Connection-Separation Dance Every Day!

THE DIVORCE VACCINE:  Unity and mutual interdependence are very different than Fusion.     The difference emerges when the couple learns the skills of differentiation.  The solution?   The skills of differentiation create the air couples breathe, developmentally speaking.   And each Enneagram Type has its own particular set of challenges that must be met, in order to build those skills.   



On the topic of differentiation in general, couple therapy experts, Dr. Ellyn Bader & Dr. Peter Pearson, put it this way:

When we work to help partners strengthen their differentiation, we enable them to be authentic and open with one another without compromising core values and beliefs. They learn to work effectively with their conflicts and differences, and to negotiate successfully. In this way, differentiation adds to the strengthening of the couple’s attachment, and a synergy develops in which the new developmental capacities support ongoing closeness and connection.Couple Fusion

Differentiation occurs interpersonally. Sadly, unfolding differentiation frightens many partners because it signals that “we are different”. I believe this can trigger primitive anxiety – fear of being left or cast out. In their attempts to calm this anxiety, partners often try to inhibit growth in one another. They may also expect a lot from the other and little from themselves. They may deceive themselves about their own role in the problem.  (Dr. Ellyn Bader, Attachment and Differentiation in Couples’ Therapy)

 

Bader and Pearson also stress that differentiation in couple life is not:

  • Avoiding the connection, living unattached  (This is an earlier developmental issue, one that needs to be resolved before couple bonding and the couple developmental growth path can even start!)
  • Pseudo-Autonomy, pretending to have no need for connection or commitment (Bader references the famous Gestalt Prayer here, with that faddish phrase:  “I do my thing and you do your thing…”    Essentially, there is no couple partnership holding the growth in this model.)
  • Individuation-unfolding of unique skills and talents which lead to increased self-esteem, capacities that are often developed away from the relationship in schools, community activities, and hobbies  (While these can be important to have in place, they are not the same as truly being present with our partner in honest differentiation of values, opinions, perspectives.)


THE COUPLES’ ENNEAGRAM:

Type Differences in the Differentiation Challenge



“DON’T MESS WITH ME”  TYPES (Opening to YOU Differentiating is a Stretch for Me!)

When Defending Gets in the Way of Differentiating:

Challengers:  How do I let down my guard enough to have this relationship, when you hold in your hand the power to harm me?  

(THE DIFFERENTIATED CHALLENGER:  I am able to let you differentiate in this relationship.    THE VULNERABILITY NECESSARY FOR GOOD RELATIONSHIPS OPENS TO & DOES NOT TRY TO INTERFERE WITH OTHERS BEING WHO THEY ARE, OR HAVING WHATEVER POWER THEY HAVE.    I am able to let myself differentiate in this relationship.  I AM THE ONE WHO HOLDS THE POWER OF THE DECISION REGARDING WHETHER OR NOT THIS PERSON HAS EARNED THAT KIND VULNERABILITY FROM ME.)

Peacemakers:   How do I plug in enough so we actually have a relationship, when so much of couple life is working through differences….Where’s the “off” button?

(THE DIFFERENTIATED PEACEMAKER:  I am able to let you differentiate in this relationship.  THE ENGAGEMENT NECESSARY FOR GOOD RELATIONSHIPS OPENS TO & DOES NOT TRY TO INTERFERE WITH OTHERS BEING WHO THEY ARE, OR HAVING WHATEVER PROTESTS THEY HAVE.    I am able to let myself differentiate in this relationship.  I AM THE ONE WHO HOLDS THE POWER OF THE DECISION REGARDING WHETHER OR NOT THIS PERSON HAS EARNED THAT KIND OF ENGAGEMENT FROM ME.)

Reformers:   How do I relax enough to keep investing in the relationship whenever your version of what’s right isn’t my version of what’s right?  

(THE DIFFERENTIATED REFORMER:  I am able to let you differentiate in this relationship.  THE SERENITY NECESSARY FOR GOOD RELATIONSHIPS OPENS TO & DOES NOT TRY TO INTERFERE WITH OTHERS BEING WHO THEY ARE, OR HAVING WHATEVER VALUE SYSTEM THEY HAVE.    I am able to let myself differentiate in this relationship.  I AM THE ONE WHO HOLDS THE POWER OF THE DECISION REGARDING WHETHER OR NOT THIS PERSON HAS EARNED THAT KIND OF SERENITY FROM ME.)


“SEE ME THE WAY I WANT TO BE SEEN” TYPES (Accepting MYSELF Differentiating is a Stretch for Me!)

When Promoting Gets in the Way of Differentiating:

Helpers:  How do I trust the relationship when you don’t see me as the good person I want to be seen as?  

(THE DIFFERENTIATED HELPER:  I am able to let myself differentiate in this relationship.  THE HUMILITY NECESSARY FOR GOOD RELATIONSHIPS HELPS ME ACCEPT MYSELF, WITH WHATEVER LIMITS I HAVE.   I am able to let you differentiate in this relationship.  THE OTHER HOLDS THE FREEDOM OF THE PERCEPTION REGARDING WHETHER OR NOT WHO I ACTUALLY AM, WITH MY ACTUAL LIMITS, IS WHO THEY SEE WHEN IN RELATIONSHIP WITH ME.)

Achievers:  How do I stay in the dance with you when you don’t reflect back to me that I am a winner, whenever I get hungry for that mirroring?

(THE DIFFERENTIATED  ACHIEVER:  I am able to let myself differentiate in this relationship.  THE AUTHENTICITY NECESSARY FOR GOOD RELATIONSHIPS HELPS ME ACCEPT MYSELF, WITH WHATEVER INTERESTS I HAVE.   I am able to let you differentiate in this relationship.   THE OTHER HOLDS THE FREEDOM OF THE PERCEPTION REGARDING WHETHER OR NOT WHO I ACTUALLY AM, WITH MY ACTUAL GOALS & DESIRES, IS WHO THEY SEE WHEN IN RELATIONSHIP WITH ME.)

Individualists:  How can I risk continued closeness with you when you don’t understand me fully, all the time?  

(THE DIFFERENTIATED INDIVIDUALIST:  I am able to let myself differentiate in this relationship.  THE EMOTIONAL EQUILIBRIUM NECESSARY FOR GOOD RELATIONSHIPS HELPS ME ACCEPT  MYSELF, WITH WHATEVER  LIFE I HAVE.   I am able to let you differentiate in this relationship.   THE OTHER HOLDS THE FREEDOM OF THE PERCEPTION REGARDING WHETHER OR NOT WHO I ACTUALLY AM, WITH MY ACTUAL IDENTITY, IS WHO THEY SEE WHEN IN RELATIONSHIP WITH ME.)


“WHO OR WHAT CAN I TRUST?” TYPES (Staying Curious about how WE BOTH Differentiate is a Stretch for Me!)

When Fearing Gets in the Way of Differentiating:

Investigators:   How do I show up for and have confidence in “us” when I don’t know every single thing that will be required of me in any given interaction?

(THE DIFFERENTIATED INVESTIGATOR:  I am able to let us both differentiate in this relationship.  THE DETACHMENT  NECESSARY FOR GOOD RELATIONSHIPS HELPS ME STAY CURIOUS ABOUT WHO OTHERS REALLY ARE, & WHATEVER FEELINGS THEY REALLY HAVE.  AND IT HELPS ME STAY CURIOUS ABOUT WHO I REALLY AM & THE FEELINGS I REALLY HAVE.)

Loyalists:  How do I trust who you are enough to stay with the moment, when that flood of inner doubt can get triggered by something you do or say?

(THE DIFFERENTIATED LOYALIST:  I am able to let us both differentiate in this relationship.  THE COURAGE  NECESSARY FOR GOOD RELATIONSHIPS HELPS ME STAY CURIOUS ABOUT WHO OTHERS REALLY ARE, & WHATEVER BELIEFS THEY REALLY HAVE.  AND IT HELPS ME STAY CURIOUS ABOUT WHO I REALLY AM & THE BELIEFS I REALLY HAVE.)

Enthusiasts:  How do I not keep building escape hatches from the connection, when I know you could introduce me to some discomfort or pain at any moment?

(THE DIFFERENTIATED ENTHUSIAST:  I am able to let us both differentiate in this relationship.  THE  SOBRIETY NECESSARY FOR GOOD RELATIONSHIPS HELPS ME STAY CURIOUS ABOUT WHO OTHERS REALLY ARE, & WHATEVER PAIN & NEEDS THEY REALLY HAVE.  AND IT HELPS ME STAY CURIOUS ABOUT WHO I REALLY AM & THE PAIN & NEEDS I REALLY HAVE.)







….How?   We do personality development work – the work of getting comfortable with reality, with truth, with our partner’s differences.     And then we have lift off!

 

 

Until Next Time, Builders,

Lead, Follow, or Just Free-style Your Heart Out…..You’ve Got Soul!  You’re Really There in Your Relationships!

Dr. Ronna

2 thoughts on “1+1=1=Fusion=Divorce!

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