Sound Solutions #3
“We’ve all been placed in situations with family members, friends, or coworkers where we’ve shared our experiences and given advice only to have it fall on deaf ears. From my personal and professional life, I’ve learned that most people don’t heed “sound advice.” As a matter of fact, they aren’t even looking for us to tell them something. They just want talk and be heard. Therefore, my role in this quarterly comes with the following caveat: you are the expert and the authority on your situation. I am a conduit to help YOU uncover the answers that you already possess. The goal here is to promote richer dialogue. So, I wouldn’t define my responses as advice per se, rather respectful curiosity to assist with the process of personal discovery and more informed decision-making.” ~NIKKI
How Soon Is Too Soon?
Raye recently solicited some advice about moving in with Dina, a new girlfriend who she’s dated monogamously for two months. They met on a socialnetworking site nearly six months ago. Raye’s lease was ending, so instead of continuing to overpay rent on an efficiency, she was strongly considering moving in with Dina. After acknowledging her reservations and concern about perpetuating the stereotype of a ‘U-haul lesbian,’ Raye and I approached the situation by working through five key points.
Point 1: Examining the Urge to Merge
First, Raye clearly dictated the pros and cons of cohabiting with Dina. Although she didn’t regard this move as a monumental life task, she was concerned about how cohabitation could shake up their budding relationship.
Point 2: Assess Compatibility
Of course, Raye is smitten for Dina. The prospect of seeing the woman she enjoys every morning and every night almost completely prevented her from assessing the situation rationally.
An initial stage of dating/relationships is infatuation. As one could imagine, at this stage in the development of the bond, compatibility and commitment are downplayed while strong physical and sexual attraction are explored. Initial but limited commitment follows infatuation. A core task for Raye was to judge whether she and Dina had a sense of connectedness and commitment, as well as some degree of trust, common goals, and cooperative problem solving.
Point 3: Picture Your Future
Focusing on the direction she would like to take, Raye constructed a realistic vision of her future with Dina. Taking into account only the present, Raye narrated the strengths and resources they each brought to the relationship and how these skills could be useful if problems arose.
Point 4: Back-Up Plan
No one wants to be in an unhappy relationship or stuck (living) with a person who makes them miserable. Raye understood that no situation or person is perfect, so she formed an escape plan. Raye articulated a pathway out the relationship if it were to deteriorate as a result of cohabitation.
Point 5: Limits and Degrees of Freedom
Even as cohabitation has certain positives or benefits, it also engenders more responsibility from each partner. Both Raye and Dina would have to make some incremental changes in order to maximize their potential of success. For example, Raye recognized that they would have different expectations of each other and some loss of autonomy or the privilege of singlehood.
After critically evaluating all the points, Raye still worried about how cohabitation could affect the quality of her relationship. Ultimately, she decided to move in with Dina. Although she took a chance, she felt it was a calculated risk and a good investment in the certainty and growth of their relationship. •
Nikki Jones is a therapist-in-training and second-year graduate student at the University of Louisville. She currently works with families, couples, and individuals at a community mental health agency.