A Passionate vs. Predictable Relationship:
The Problem with Emotional Fusion

“Pan Extasy” by Mimi Stuart ©

Do you feel threatened when your partner doesn’t agree with you or behave the way you want?

If so, you may be seeking a type of unity that is both unattainable and undesirable. Although many people in a relationship feel alienated from one another, emotional fusion is more often the problem than insufficient attachment. Emotional fusion occurs when people do not function independently, but are emotionally reactive by being overly acquiescent or rebellious.

Couples use silence, withdrawal, and facial expressions of disapproval to pressure each other to express agreement or approval. These subtle forms of manipulation usually causes people become defensive or to repress feelings and thoughts that are incompatible with those of their partner.

If partners can’t handle having differences of opinion, they miss the opportunity to have energized discussions as two separate individuals. Eventually passion in the relationship disappears, because it can only persist between two separate individuals. While it may seem nice to be in agreement, too much unison usually causes mystery, growth, and passion to fade away and be replaced by predictability and boredom, and/or anger and resentment.

Origin of emotional fusion

Emotional fusion with one’s family of origin often leads to a tendency to fuse with people later in life. When excessive energy is bound in a parent/child relationship, the child becomes emotionally fused to the parent and is unable to function autonomously. Over-attachment, where the child stays substantially merged with the parent, encourages emotional reactivity in the guise of accommodation or provocation. The child thinks, feels, and acts with the parents’ and later the spouse’s potential reactions and feelings in mind.

The child may become a “good boy” or “good girl”, doing and saying exactly what’s wanted, while repressing parts of him or herself that would provoke the parent. Or, the child may become rebellious, often saying and doing precisely the opposite of what the parent desires, in order to try to stake out a sense of individuality.

Often the child alternates between the two extremes rather than developing an organic sense of self based on reflections and experience, not simply one that accommodates or reacts against those on whom the child is dependent.
What’s lacking is an ability to reasonably express thoughts and choose actions without an intention to acquiesce or to rebel against family members.

Both over-accommodation and excessive rebelliousness result from fusion. Emotional fusion replaces adequate separation and real intimacy with a sense of suffocation and/or isolation. If your parent cares about you and gives you adequate space to have your own feelings, thoughts, and some appropriate decision-making power, there’s not much to rebel against. Nor is there an urgent sense to please the parent at any cost.

Repression

The pressured partner may accommodate her partner, while repressing her own conflicting feelings and thoughts. However, ongoing avoidance of discomfort, disapproval, and criticism leads to partners drifting apart, because they are hesitant to share incompatible or new parts of themselves. Soon they no longer have anything to talk about.

Repressed parts of the personality then gather energy in the unconscious, and ultimately seep out in the form of depression, sickness, or secret affairs. Repressed feelings and thoughts can also erupt unexpectedly in anger, violence, and even unexpected divorce.

Anger

Control, anger, and violence can arise from the inability to calmly and firmly withstand the pressure to merge with another person, or from the inability to tolerate another person’s disagreement or disapproval.

Arguing is often a manifestation of the unconscious attempting to balance togetherness and separateness. Focusing on the other through argument provides emotional contact, while anger and resistance to one’s partner’s wishes promote separateness.

Once one becomes emotionally separate, anger is no longer necessary to resist pressures to merge with the other. You can accept the fact that your partner is disappointed or disagrees with you. You can express disagreement or make requests without being angry or scared. Uncomfortable, yes; but angry, no.

Example of Fused Couple: Paul states he does not want Sally to visit her sister. Sally doesn’t go, but is angry for hours or days. Or Sally says she’s going anyway, and Paul stays angry for days.

Example of Differentiated Couple: Paul says he wishes he could go on a trip with her and is sad that she’ll be going without him. Sally says she’s sorry he’ll be lonely, but it’s really important for her to spend some time alone with her sister. Or Sally says that he’s welcome to join her if he can get away.

Partners are equally fused

Partners who stay together for a long time, say a year or more, are generally equally emotionally fused, although they may not think they are. They just express it differently.

For example, it’s not accidental, although it may be unconscious, that a man who seeks his own space chooses a woman who yearns for connection. If she didn’t seek connection, there wouldn’t be any. If he didn’t seek space, there wouldn’t be any. They both need the other to find some sort of balance. Yet, the man may believe that the problem is all hers—she is simply too needy. The woman believes that the problem is all his—he fears intimacy. They’ve both selected the ideal person either to learn from or to blame.

Problems with fusion:

1. No sense of identity

Increased emotional fusion paradoxically creates a greater feeling of both a need for more togetherness in one person and an urge to flee in the other person. Sometimes one person experiences both. Feelings of being trapped, controlled, and smothered, or isolated, unsupported, and unloved infuse the relationship.

The problem is that neither partner can maintain his or her sense of identity in the presence of the other. When one disagrees or neglects the other, the other takes it personally and becomes reactive by withdrawing coldly or picking a fight. Alternatively, partners may quickly accommodate each other, repressing their own feelings and thoughts, which eventually leads to resentment or a diminished sense of self.

2. Needing emotional validation

Most relationship difficulties result from attempting to avoid anxiety. Often, when we’re anxious, we seek validation from others. Others then feel obliged to give us validation, because they feel uncomfortable with our anxiety. Validation is an attempt to soothe the other’s anxiety in order to soothe our own. Such validation differs from compassion and appreciation, which are freely-given expressions of kindness, enjoyment and gratitude toward the other, rather than attempts to mitigate distress.

3. Diminishing boundaries

With increased fusion, boundaries between people dissolve, and anxiety becomes increasingly infectious. “As boundaries dissolve, there is increased pressure on people to think, feel, and act in ways that will enhance one another’s emotional well-being” (Kerr and Bowen, p. 77). Well-being cannot be provided by another person without diminishing that person’s selfhood and independence. So, the expectation of providing for someone’s well-being ironically increases pressure, anxiety, and disappointment.

4. Controlling behavior

If your sense of identity or well-being depends on what your partner thinks, it’s natural to try to control your partner. Above all, it becomes critical to minimize anxiety and to continue securely in the emotional attachment. Controlling behavior, however, stifles all spontaneity and freshness in a relationship.

For example, people who complain of sexual boredom often feel threatened by the display of new sexual behavior by their partners and therefore ridicule or reject such attempts, which are ways of trying to control a person. Or they may hesitate to try something new themselves for fear of their partners’ disapproval.

Differentiation

To resolve the anguish of emotional fusion, individuals need to become more highly-differentiated, that is, emotionally separate, and therefore, less reactive. Differentiation will (a) permit a person to get intensely involved without becoming infected with the other person’s anxiety, and (b) eliminate the need to withdraw or control the partner to modulate a person’s own emotional well-being. Even if only one person becomes less reactive, the relationship will improve.

Ironically, emotional objectivity and separateness allow us to be more intimate and passionate. Someone who is differentiated doesn’t fear intimacy or solitude. While we want to be considerate of others in our interactions, we don’t want to negate ourselves by endowing others with too much power. When we are not excessively worried about another’s reactions, we can be truly intimate, that is, we can express ourselves, our thoughts, and our emotions more freely and deeply. When we are more confident in ourselves and less hindered by our partner’s anxiety, we can grow emotionally, sexually, and intellectually, often enticing our partners to do the same. When someone is confident with a positive attitude, rather than cautious, fearful of rejection, or controlling, that person becomes more attractive and is able to ignite passion more easily.

When we take care of and are responsible for our own emotions, we can be intimate without pressuring others to validate or soothe us or to do what we want. By not allowing other people’s anxiety to infect us, we remain emotionally separate and objective, which paradoxically allows for greater connection and intense intimacy. Relationships are desired for enjoyment, not controlled to fulfill a need.

Existential aloneness

Underlying emotional fusion is a fear of being separate and alone in the world. As we face and accept our own existential separateness, our tolerance for being alone increases. Our disappointment in others diminishes, because we relinquish unattainable expectations that our partners will save us from our basic separateness and mortality. Paradoxically, our oneness with others, not just our partners, increases as we accept our separateness.

Solution

We need to recognize how our reactivity toward others is driven by our own anxiety and sense of aloneness. Part of this process is realizing that we can never be fully united in thought and feeling with another person. Once we genuinely accept our existential separation from others, we can more fully enjoy the fleeting connection with others, without grasping to get more of it, and without resisting it to avoid the pain of its eventual loss.

Passion requires being in the moment and letting go of fear and control. While there is a place in long-term relationships for planning and thinking about the future, there is also a place for being free of those thoughts and letting spontaneity and desire reign. Passion is a feeling of being alive, alert and excited in the midst of the unknown. By breaking away from predictable routine and control over your partner or over yourself , you can allow a little unpredictability back into the relationship. Embracing the unknown—or anxiety—with a positive attitude, you can turn it into excitement, desire, and passion.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “I never get to go skiing anymore because of my partner.”

Recommended References:

Kerr, M. & Bowen, M. (1988). Family Evaluation: The role of the family as an emotional unit that governs individual behavior and development. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.: New York.

Schnarch, D. (1991). Constructing the sexual crucible: Paradigm-shift in sexual and marital therapy. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Embracing Each Other, by Drs. Hal and Sidra Stone

16 thoughts on “A Passionate vs. Predictable Relationship:
The Problem with Emotional Fusion

  1. Bertie

    You are incredibly perceptive and this is an incredible article. Thank you so much!

    I have just started dating after about 5 years of singledom (I’m 24). My last relationship was exactly as you described and I do not want to repeat the experience.

    Dating makes me very neurotic, either obsessing over how to decide if she’s the ‘right’ partner, or panicking when I think I’ve found the right one because of my blatant neuroticism!

    I don’t know what the right question to ask is (what a surprise!) but I do know that I’ve been single for a long time and I want a partner to share my life with. A partner that’ll challenge my bullshit, has her own life and who makes me feel alive.

    Any ideas other than follow my passions/develop friendships for becoming the kind of person who’d attract the partner I described above? And for learning to be patient and less neurotic with dating?

    Reply
    1. Alison Post author

      Thank you so much. I am so glad you liked the article!

      I’m not sure why you are calling yourself neurotic. I would love to hear more examples to give you specific advice.

      However, you are only 24 and haven’t been dating too much in the last few years. I really think that it doesn’t hurt to have some experience dating without being overly concerned whether the person is the right partner. If you are overly critical, you may cause the person you’re with to feel constricted and anxious. And it could be a turn-off.

      There is a lot of good from enjoying the moment, in addition to thinking about the future. While you do not want to waste your time with people you know are not right for you, you shouldn’t get overly worried about whether someone is the right person right away. That kind of pressure can take the enjoyment out of getting to know someone.

      I’m not suggesting that you simply date anyone or that you continue to date someone even when you are pretty sure she is not right for you. But the best way to learn to improve your relationships is often by being in one, and then having enough self-awareness and ability to self-reflection to see how you could improve the way you interact with others.

      For example, you may be too needy or codependent and find the person you’re dating backing away from you. Then you can learn how to balance your desire to see someone with keeping a healthy dose of separateness to keep desire going.

      Or, you may find that you start acting rude toward the girls you date. Then you can try to figure out if you’re being passive-aggressive for perhaps giving up other things you like to do, or perhaps you choose women who are a bit needy themselves. The examples are endless. But the best way to learn is in relationships.

      To know whether someone is right for you or not may take a year or two, although it may only take five seconds or five dates to know that someone is definitely wrong for you. So I would try to put yourself out there more and enjoy more friendships with girls and start dating a bit more. If you do find someone you are interested in and you start to have some neurotic impulses, then find a good counselor to go to alone or with her, and treat the situation early on when it is easier to change the relationship dynamics.

      Let me know what you mean by neurotic, and also what kind of bs your partner will have to put up with, and I’ll try to respond more specifically to you.

      Best,
      Alison

      Reply
    2. Alison Post author

      PS Why haven’t you dated for five years? There is no time like the present to start dating. You are unlikely to meet the “right” person immediately. You have time so date, have fun and enjoy the ride. The “right” person will come along when you least expect it and it will help to have experienced what wrong looks like first.

      Reply
      1. Bertie

        Thank you for your reply. You made some very good points, and it especially rung true when you said putting all that pressure on finding the right person can take the fun out of getting to know someone. I am going to try and enjoy the process more from now on.

        Examples of my neuroses:
        -If I think someone’s not having a good time then I’ll act like a clown to try and make them happy e.g. on one dates this girl looked bored and didn’t say much so I kept trying to make jokes or just pulling silly faces/smiling more than often to try and make her happy
        -When I’m dating a girl, I’m constantly thinking about whether she’s right for me or if it’s ‘meant to be’, and I’ll constantly pester my friends and family to get their opinion on the girl I’m seeing
        -I spend quite a lot of time reading about relationships and dating, 1-3 hours every couple of days
        -I censor quite a lot of my personality out of fear of overwhelming her – I don’t mention my really eccentric hobbies or past issues with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts
        -I’ll obsess over text messages/body language (“why isn’t she messaging me much? That text sounded a little angry – maybe I pissed her off without knowing it…Why isn’t she turning her body to face me like I am when we sit down?” etc.)
        -I’m terrified of offending women. If the conversation turns to feminism I’ll quieten down because I don’t want to say the wrong thing and get labelled a misogynist asshole. And I don’t have the courage to tell girls that I don’t think we’re suitable for each other – I just stop contacting them (but that makes me feel bad when I think of them/be afraid of running into them in the street).
        -I want to compliment women more (call them pretty, beautiful, sexy) and be more physically flirtatious but I’m also afraid of being seen as a creep/pervert who’s only interested in sex
        -I struggle to turn down a girl for something, e.g. she asked me on a 2nd date to an exhibition which didn’t interest me at all. But I didn’t want to upset her so I said I couldn’t make it. Afterwards I felt guilty and worried that I’d messed things up because she might think I’m not interested in her (which I was) and because I’m already lying to her.

        I think that’s all for now!

        Well now I think of it I never actually dated, it’s just 5 years since my last relationship. I used to just hook up with friends of friends from my school. It’s taken me 5 years to learn how to date!

        People keep saying that “the right person will come along when you least expect it”. I’m not sure about this. I’ve had this kind of attitude for most of the 5 years – I read a lot of self-help and ‘spiritual’ books and they say similar things, so I had the mindset of “If I just follow my passions and enjoy life then it’ll attract the right girl for me”.

        But this meant I never tried that hard to get good at dating – I stayed in my comfort zone and didn’t go out of my way to speak to girls or to tell friends/family that I’m looking for someone.

        Now I think I have a better attitude towards dating. I think it takes work – getting out of your comfort zone work, and trying new things like online dating too (which I’m doing). And I think that it’s only a matter of time before I get a girlfriend, because I feel like I’m not too much of a damaged good to make a good boyfriend and I keep meeting potential partners. BUT now I’m expecting it! Do you think you could explain the “when you least expect” thing a bit more?!

        Reply
        1. Alison Post author

          Oh this is much easier to respond to than “neuroses.” It’s easiest for me to go through your email point by point to give you feedback.

          I am going to try and enjoy the process more from now on.

          Excellent. This will counteract some of things going on below as well. It’s more enjoyable to be with someone who is not overly concerned with how others feel and think about everything they say and do. It shows more self-confidence as well. And I don’t think you risk becoming a jerk by loosening up a bit.

          Examples of my neuroses:
          -If I think someone’s not having a good time then I’ll act like a clown to try and make them happy e.g. on one dates this girl looked bored and didn’t say much so I kept trying to make jokes or just pulling silly faces/smiling more than often to try and make her happy

          This can be a nice trait in small doses when you’re in a relationship with someone–cheering them up and being funny–but you don’t want to become responsible for someone else’s mood and state of mind. This can lead to polarization, where you are always the one making things good, happy, exciting or funny, and the other person never has to try, or even rebels and becomes more sullen.

          See what happens if you don’t cheer them up after a brief try. Realize that you are reacting to your own discomfort. In certain circumstance, it might even be appropriate to say with compassionate neutrality, “Hey you seem a bit bored/sad/distracted. Anything you want to talk about?” And if the lack of engagement continues, find a way to excuse yourself or end the interaction.

          -When I’m dating a girl, I’m constantly thinking about whether she’s right for me or if it’s ‘meant to be’, and I’ll constantly pester my friends and family to get their opinion on the girl I’m seeing

          Again, it’s good to be aware and to be thoughtful about such issues, but this sounds excessive, and will result in you not being able to simply “be” and “enjoy the moment,” which may make you less appealing when you do find the right person. There’s a happy balance between thinking about the long-term potential and enjoying the moment to see what happens. You seem to be leaning toward the thinking too much side.

          Also, try not asking your friends and family for too much input. Try to gauge your own feelings more.

          -I spend quite a lot of time reading about relationships and dating, 1-3 hours every couple of days

          There are worse things you could be spending your time doing. I think it’s wonderful to read about relationships and dating when you’re young, rather than repeat the mistakes of those with whom you grow up. Reading is a good way to learn from the experts. Of course, here too, there needs to be a balance.

          There is nothing like reading about an topic and then experiencing it to learn and grow quickly. So make sure you are bringing what you learn out into the world. Imagine that you learned all about a sport like skiing or golf without getting out there on a pair of skis or with some golf clubs. Someone who learns from the best experts and practices with focus and awareness is going to learn the sport much better than by simply whacking at the ball or jumping on a pair of skis. So, you need both knowledge and experience.

          Plus, you actually need to re-train your brain circuitry through practice to change the way you behave in a relationship. For instance, if you feel anxious when you don’t know how someone is feeling, and as a result you tend to censor your personality too much, it will take practice to go ahead and express yourself in those types of situations. Only through practice will you become more comfortable expressing yourself in face of anxiety.

          -I censor quite a lot of my personality out of fear of overwhelming her – I don’t mention my really eccentric hobbies or past issues with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts

          Again, it is important to be able to censor yourself depending on the situation and on how well you know someone and trust them. But it is also important to be able to share who you are, talk about eccentric hobbies and your vulnerabilities. I think it’s important to express who you are because that’s part of intimacy. Intimacy involves truly expressing yourselves and getting to know one another despite the risk of not being validated. The other person may not feel comfortable with all of that, but you don’t have to feel comfortable about everything. However, if they feel very uncomfortable when you gradually reveal who you are, you would want to know that and possibly avoid continuing deepening the relationship. Even past issues with depression and suicidal thoughts are things that you should eventually feel able to express, though perhaps not immediately until you feel some mutual trust.

          -I’ll obsess over text messages/body language (“why isn’t she messaging me much? That text sounded a little angry – maybe I pissed her off without knowing it…Why isn’t she turning her body to face me like I am when we sit down?” etc.)

          It sounds as though you are looking for too much validation from a partner. It’s nice to get validation, but when you need it and seek it, you are less likely to get it, because you appear needy, which is unappealing. You should search my site for articles on “validation” and “emotional fusion.” You simply have to put up with your anxiety and stop acting on it. Don’t text so much. Don’t worry so much. Distract yourself with another activity. You might even read my book “Desire & Desirability.”

          Don’t focus so much on whether someone is desiring you. If, for example, someone is not facing you and it’s really rude, you could find a funny way to comment on it, or you could leave without being rude, but in a calm, nice, casual, confident way, saying compassionately something like, “It looks like you’re pretty distracted. Let’s get together another time.”

          -I’m terrified of offending women. If the conversation turns to feminism I’ll quieten down because I don’t want to say the wrong thing and get labelled a misogynist asshole. And I don’t have the courage to tell girls that I don’t think we’re suitable for each other – I just stop contacting them (but that makes me feel bad when I think of them/be afraid of running into them in the street).

          Well, I think that would be a great way to preface any comment you have about feminism: “I’m terrified of offending women. I don’t want someone to get the wrong idea and label me as misogynistic. But sometimes I wonder…. What do you think?” It’s so cool when someone can be honest, including their fears or mixed feelings. “Hey, I don’t want to offend anyone, but I can’t help but think that…”

          It is tough telling someone that you don’t want to see them anymore, but you have a right to not want to continue a relationship, and it’s much more respectful and thoughtful to tell them. You can be honest without being cruel. I’m not an expert here, but I think it is good to at least send a text (that is, if you have only gotten together once or twice) and start with a compliment: “I enjoyed meeting you/You are super nice, but I don’t think we’re quite right for each other.” If you’ve seen someone longer, make the phone call and keep it brief like the text. Be kind and straightforward. Again, when you practice being honest (in a kind way) in face of anxiety, you will become stronger and better at being that way. The anxiety actually diminishes as you practice acting in face of the anxiety. The contrary is true as well. The less you speak up, the greater your anxiety becomes.


          -I want to compliment women more (call them pretty, beautiful, sexy) and be more physically flirtatious but I’m also afraid of being seen as a creep/pervert who’s only interested in sex

          Most people love compliments if the compliments are given sincerely with no creepy vibe. It’s a gift to both people to express positive things. I think most women would love to be told they’re beautiful. And if one doesn’t, then find someone who does. I think the person giving the compliment feels good when the compliment is taken in and appreciated. Give the compliment with no strings attached, and most people will feel good about it.

          -I struggle to turn down a girl for something, e.g. she asked me on a 2nd date to an exhibition which didn’t interest me at all. But I didn’t want to upset her so I said I couldn’t make it. Afterwards I felt guilty and worried that I’d messed things up because she might think I’m not interested in her (which I was) and because I’m already lying to her.

          Okay, you will really improve your feeling of well-being when you can honestly express yourself with confidence and without offending the other person. Your eventual intimate relationships will be much better if you get in the habit now of being honest (diplomatically of course.) Next time, say “I’d love to see you, but I’m not really into exhibitions. Why don’t we get together…” Or “I’d love to see you, but I really love going on a run on Saturdays/hanging out and reading” (or whatever it is you prefer to do.) Being honest but diplomatic is attractive, and if she doesn’t like that you won’t go with her to exhibitions, you’ll both find that out right away.

          I had the mindset of “If I just follow my passions and enjoy life then it’ll attract the right girl for me”.

          But this meant I never tried that hard to get good at dating – I stayed in my comfort zone and didn’t go out of my way to speak to girls or to tell friends/family that I’m looking for someone.

          Now I think I have a better attitude towards dating. I think it takes work – getting out of your comfort zone work, and trying new things like online dating too (which I’m doing). And I think that it’s only a matter of time before I get a girlfriend, because I feel like I’m not too much of a damaged good to make a good boyfriend and I keep meeting potential partners. BUT now I’m expecting it! Do you think you could explain the “when you least expect” thing a bit more?!

          I agree that you should follow your passions, and that you need to make an effort to meet people and date. I think it’s great that you are self-aware and trying to improve yourself in regard to relationships. I suppose it’s not necessarily the case that you’ll meet someone when you least expect it. What I mean is that when you put less energy into studying the reactions of every girl you’re with and censoring yourself, then you will become freer and more confident, and probably attract the right girl for you into your life. By the way, other people may have to focus on being more thoughtful, censoring themselves more, and becoming more like you.

          Life is a series of experiences, mistakes, adventures, feedback, and challenges, and adjusting yourself to find balance. Your balance might be found when you learn to express yourself more (in appropriate circumstances) without fearing negative responses.

          Sorry about grammar etc. I didn’t really edit this long response.

          Let me know how it goes!

          Alison

          Reply
  2. Oleg

    My girlfriend and I broke up a few days ago. We had been dating for almost 4 months however, I asked her out almost a year ago, before I knew she had a boyfriend. When she told me we decided to just be friends. We got pretty close….she tried to set me up with some of her friends and we both I think enjoyed interacting with each other on a platonic level. Her boyfriend broke up with her…she immediately reached out to me, and even though I was so happy, I wanted to give her time to decide if she wanted to be with me because I did not want to be her rebound. We kept talking, got even closer and eventually started dating. Things have been moving very quickly, we had even talked about moving to her hometown together. However, the last month things have been getting really volatile. I would either feel like I was always emotionally reactive, or suppressed/accomodating and in the process inadvertently hurting her. After reading this article I think I am realizing exactly what was happening. The thing is that when I think about my ex, as much pain as it causes me, all I can think of now is how I want her to be happy, and want to try and make it work. When we last talked things were cordial towards the end, we both said that we love each other and that we will give each other space. Is this something that will keep happening if we were to get back together, or is this an easy fix? I don’t think that we got together in the first place for the wrong reasons. I think she is an amazing, compassionate, funny, intelligent person and when we last talked even through the hurt and anger she told me that “I am the most loveable person she knows”. I know that no matter what I should let time heal and let us think more rationally not emotionally but should I accept that for whatever reason our personalities just don’t vibe and I should try to move on. Not sure what to do.

    Reply
    1. Alison Post author

      Hi, Thank you for your question.

      From what you’ve said, one of the keys might be learning to avoid suppressing your important feelings, but without becoming volatile. If you express or respond to your irritations or your desires and needs earlier, before they become too powerful, you can express yourself with more neutrality and compassion, and be more effective.

      Make sure you don’t feel guilty for your desires and needs. Place at least equal emphasis on your own happiness. It becomes boring to be with someone who is too accommodating and only trying to make you happy. I mean it’s nice to so but only if it’s balanced.

      Do you ever wonder why the bad boys in movies are the most desirable. It’s because they are more exciting. They will never become too accommodating. Now I’m not saying that you should become selfish, brooding, and a total bad boy. But you can definitely be considerate of your partner without focusing too much of your energy on just making her happy.

      I think if you learn to express your feelings and needs in a positive way and to balance separateness and togetherness while going out with or even living with someone, you won’t end up getting into the painful cycle of being together and then needing space or breaking up. If you can continue to pursue your passions (or develop some new interests), see other friends and family with or without her, and spend some time alone, without being rude or withdrawing suddenly, then your relationship will keep more of its spark than if you do everything together and become totally accommodating.

      If you would like, you could give me a couple of ordinary examples of you becoming emotionally reactive and hurting your girlfriend. Then I could give you better and more specific advice on how to handle those types of situations. Often the examples may seem trivial in retrospect, but if we can find an underlying thread, like a desire to be appreciated or a fear of standing up for oneself, then we can look at specific ways to improve the similar episodes in the future.

      Best, Alison

      Reply
  3. natasha

    I am a student. I came across fusion in my family therapy class and I sort of self identified that I was highly fused. This article was amazing at simplifying emotional fusion and explaining it from every angle. Thank you.

    Reply
  4. Andrea

    Wow. Thank you. You put out in the universe information that people would pay big bucks to understand. Went through over a year of counseling and I did not discover this emotional fusion concept. I’m inspired.

    Reply

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