One of the transitions one makes going from single life to a partnership is adjusting to the concept of “us” or “coupledom.” It may not be a conscious shift, but sooner or later, there comes an instance when our own needs and wants collide with the other’s and then it is a time to be deliberate about just how you merge me with us.

In all human interactions, a powerful dynamic is that of control. Who is in charge of this relationship? Does one person dominate in decision-making? Or is it a fairly balanced, equal footing combination? We come into this world completely helpless and dependent on others to feed, clothe and love us. If an infant is not cared for, it will not survive, unlike most other species. So, we start with a strong need to be able to control our environment and this is apparent in relationships, whether personal or professional. At work, we may accept the existing structure because it is a matter of choice and for which we get money, and other benefits so it would be an “even exchange.”  Cultures differ in the expectations of partners, regardless of sexual orientation, and we absorb such beliefs.

An additional complicating factor is the space each person needs in an intimate relationship. Have you noticed that some people will stand very close to you, and some will seek more space? Do you want to know what your partner does pretty much every moment of every day? Yes, there are people who like that kind of closeness. Or are you comfortable for each of you going your own way? And yes, there are people who like that as well. The conflict that emerges when you have partners from each of these different orientations is because it is difficult to merge them as the issue of control again raises its ugly head.

Let me add that there is nothing wrong with our need to control. It becomes a problem only when it is out of sync from our partner’s and becomes overwhelming. Do you want to know why he/she is still not home after leaving work?  Do you worry that your beloved may be doing something you don’t know about? That anxiety stems from feeling insecure about the relationship, and from not having formed the “couple” stability.

Conversely, getting to us from me means you give up some power, power over your own activities, needs and spur of the moment decisions. Now you have to consider the needs and expectations of another soul as well. This is where trust in one another and communication of what goes on in each mind are crucial. After all, the ability to talk is what makes us human and forms the basis for what love can be.

May you all savor the joy of being kind, gentle and loving to one another…

Janan Broadbent, PhD

As a psychologist in private practice since 1979, Janan Broadbent, Ph.D. offers individual, couples, group and family therapy, in addition to conducting workshops on topics such as stress management, communication skills and assertiveness. She writes about current issues relevant to relationship building and conflict resolution in LGBTQ and minority populations, with emphasis on health, fitness and education.

Born in Turkey, Dr. Broadbent earned her undergraduate degree in psychology in 1965. At that time, first as a Fulbright Scholar, then as a CENTO Fellow, she received her master’s and doctorate degrees in psychology and education from the University of California at Los Angeles. She has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in psychology at St.Mary’s College of Maryland, Mt. Vernon College in Washington, D. C., Johns Hopkins University and the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore. From 1981 to 1988, she was also the Director of Counseling at Notre Dame College.

While in graduate school, Dr. Broadbent worked for the Voice of America radio program, writing and recording materials on the cross-cultural college experience. She has been interviewed on various news programs on TV and has received media training.

Dr. Broadbent is a member of the American Psychological Association and has served as the chair for the Public Affairs Board and as a member of the Executive Council of the Maryland Psychological Association.