Types of Cohabitating Couples

Posted by: Center for Growth Therapists

Set yourselves up for cohabitating success by addressing the issues discussed in How to Move in with Your Lover*. This tip is about the common couple types to help you create the cohabitating relationship you want.

Selfless Martyrs (all about you)

            The good

This couple seems to try to read each other’s minds and do what they think the other person wants them to do before talking about it. They usually base their decisions off of what upset or excited the other one in the past and try to approach new situations in the way that had the best result the last time. This couple is very caring and thoughtful towards the other person. Each person tends to want to answer each of the questions from How to Move in with Your Lover* last so they can appease their partner’s response and be agreeable. Individuals who are more comfortable following their partner’s lead on things until something they are really passionate about comes up.

            The bad

Mind reading and doing more for the other person before yourself can lead to feeling resentful or taken advantage of for your needs not being met. Your go-to is to be there for the needs that you are so quick to anticipate and try to give the other person that you put yourself second. If both of you are doing this the appreciation for each other can go missing. You may assume they’re also mind reading your gratitude for them being there for you. If neither one of you is willing to assert your needs and boundaries that may interfere with your partner’s desires, you may become too passive with a building resentment for never getting your way. Starting to find your voice later on can create conflict and a change that was not predictable for the selfless martyrs. The person on the other end may be confused where all of the built up resentment is from because they thought everything was upfront and agreed on in the beginning.

 

Switch up your selfless martyr roles by re-answering the questions from How to Move in with Your Lover* by making the less talkative one answer first. If you are more naturally the leader, pause before asserting your choice and ask your partner what they would like to do to give them the chance to assert themselves. This may be a very uncomfortable switch at first. Keep practicing and see how each of you can grow by giving more space to the other person to voice their needs.

Parallel Roomies (all about me)

            The good

The individuals in this couple are very independent and used to looking after themselves. They both can feel assured that their partner is responsible for themselves. They may not even take the time to ask each other the questions to prepare to How to Move in with Your Lover* because they are expecting for everything they did while living alone and dating, to stay the same and for their partner to respect their individuality.

            The bad

Being so careful to not depend or pull too much from each other can lead to disconnection and fears of being weak or codependent that you do not speak up for what you do need them for. The independence can feel very lonely. Being able to depend on one another when you need it leads to trust and intimacy.

Switch up your parallel roomie roles by practicing saying we instead of I. It is great for both partners/roommate lovers to have a strong sense of self. However, the cost can be not growing together in an enriching partnership. If you stop yourself when you are about to say I, think about how changing your answers to we might change things in your house. You may not have discussed any of the precipitating issues or expectations for moving in together, but it is never too late to start these conversations. Start fresh and ask your partner what they think and want before sharing your own opinion. The issues that come up with differences between you two lends to an opportunity for confronting disagreements and getting on the same page so you two can live less parallel lives.

 

A Doer and Relaxer

            The good

The doer in a couple, sometimes described as pursuer-distancer relationships, helps a couple be active and accountable. While the relaxer often helps the doer be more laid back and approach things as they come rather than being busy all of the time. These couples can balance each other out in some very healthy ways, but while living together it can create a power dynamic that is unhelpful. From answers in How to Move in with Your Lover* this dynamic may show up most evidently by the doer bringing the questions to the relaxer to have answered. The relaxer expects things to just unfold, but the doer goes looking to improve the relationship and shift to living together actively.

            The bad

The doer ends up nagging the relaxer to contribute more and be more like the relaxer. The more and more this takes place, the less space the relaxer has to do things for themselves on their own timeline which makes a relaxer shut down and give up on contributing if it seems to not be good enough for the doer.

How doers can become occasional relaxers and relaxers can try on the doer role. The doer is used to being very active so often can have a tough time letting go and allowing the other person to do tasks their own way and on their own timeline, so they end up doing it all. When discussing what tasks you would like to switch roles on, allow the relaxer to come up with the ideas for what they would like to be more active on, how they want to be responsible for it, and the timeline for completing the tasks. The doer can come up with their own ideas for how they will self soothe their anxieties on not being responsible for the tasks and fill the time with taking care of themselves through relaxation. Maybe the doer needs to journal to remind themselves not to do too much or make plans for seeing the movie or friends they rarely see to give space for the relaxer to step into the more active role and do it their unique way.

Balanced (all about us)

            The good

This couple has found a way to adjust to life circumstances and ask each other when it needs to be more about them or you. They have a way of voicing their needs and reach out to their lover with their needs. They may have similar answers along the How to Move in with Your Lover* questions and found a compromise on the areas where they disagreed without them creating a destructive pattern of unresolved perpetual problems.

            The bad

With the ebbs and flows of life, they may have times where they balance very well or both need each other at the same time and have trouble dealing with the imbalance they are accustomed to having. In always putting each other first, this couple may struggle to navigate relationships outside of their dyad. They may lose touch with friends and family by always prioritizing their partner. The losses are real and may need to be expressed to help each other create the balance throughout more areas of their lives than the relationship.

Once you identify how your relationship looks, brainstorm together how you want your cohabitating relationship to be. Look for ideas from the other types that did not resonate as much with you and talk with your partner about your awareness of your tendencies to fall into the bad parts of one the types and develop a plan to strengthen the good aspects. If you struggle to manage an effective roommate relationship with your lover, you may need a couple’s therapist to help you get out of the type of partnership that’s no longer working for you as a cohabitating couple but worked fine when you were only dating.