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Posted on 10/02/2017

Are We Roommates or Soulmates?

Are We Roommates or Soulmates?

Karl and Sarah are on the couch opposite me. Married for nine years with three children, Karl had called saying they were in a crisis. They’ve spent the last twenty minutes trading accusations but now sit quietly. Sarah cries quietly while Karl struggles to avoid a similar show of emotion. They’re mourning is over lost love and is filled with hurt, sadness, and anger. It is Karl who breaks the silence. In a barely audible voice, he says “we’re roommates, that’s the reality – pure and simple – we’re just roommates. I don’t know where the love went.”

Like many couples, Karl and Sarah had started off their marriage feeling like soul mates… best friends and passionate lovers. And like many couples today they had lost that “in love feeling” and desperately wanted it back. The first step forward was understanding why this happened to them.

Through marriage counseling, Karl and Sarah came to see that they no longer felt “in love” because they mishandled their angry feelings. Anger itself is not bad. It becomes toxic when it is allowed to pile up between partners. Accumulated anger kills love and passion. Without love and passion partners become disconnected roommates.

Sarah grew up in a family where anger was not allowed. In fact, all feelings were pushed down and unexpressed. She learned to hide her anger, avoid conflict and often said “yes” when she really meant “no.”

She saw how she became a “grievance collector” and nursed her anger for long periods of time. Consequently, Karl felt he was always in the “penalty box.”

Karl grew up in a family where nothing was hidden; they argued loudly and often. Karl shoots from the hip, he vents his anger and in the process often says hurtful, demeaning things. Then, two hours later, he drops it and is ready to move on as if nothing happened. Sarah meanwhile felt emotionally beaten up.

When Karl saw that having no filter on his anger was pushing Sarah away emotionally and sexually he became determined to change. In sessions, he learned to “care-front” his anger by softening negative feelings with a caring tone and a real concern for their effect on Sarah.

Sarah too was committed to no longer stuffing her feelings. Karl gave her “permission” to be angry, saying it was ok with him and together they would work it out. Sarah also learned to let go of little annoyances that she used to hold onto.

Having learned to better handle their anger so that no new anger was building up between them Karl and Sarah soon started to feel like friends again. They started to plan fun things to do and their “in love” soul mate feelings, previously buried under old anger, came back strongly.

All information is disguised in several ways for maximum confidentiality.  Submitted by Dr. Paul Moschetta, a New York City marriage counselor.

[updated 6/29/2017] Originally published 5/30/2012

If your once passionate relationship now feels more like you’re roommates, all counselors listed on Marriage Friendly Therapists have the experience and specialized training to help you regain that intimacy. Begin the search for expert guidance in your area.

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