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Living Alone Together, Coyote Time, Bargaining and Awakening in Relationships

My partner (or, as she calls it in her therapeutically tinted language "reference person") moved out of our shared apartment and into her own. That had always been her dream situation: living alone but sharing a life. That´s called LAT (Living Alone Together), as I recently learned.

It´s not what I wanted: I need closeness, shared mornings and evenings, the safety of someone being at home when I return, or the good feeling when she comes home from whatever she did. I am out of luck and not sure what to do.

I should have known: she is a relationship empath, as defined by Judith Orloff (2015). This is something I really like: she always knows my moods and feelings before I know them. It is very special to be seen like this. So, I benefit from it.

From her point of view, it´s quite stressful to live together, as she is constantly living in a dense relational field of sensed emotions, positive and - worse - negative. She is an antenna!

As our minds have a negativity bias (for survival reasons) that way of living is quite stressful as she will pick up negative vibes first. And, sadly, it leads to the strong need to withdraw into a quiet corner. Or, in her case, to her own apartment.

Other people´s reasonable views on Living Alone Together

I am a member of a FB group devoted to questions about relationships. Recently a question on LAT arrangements came up. Here is a good reply.

I don’t think that true intimacy requires cohabitation to be on your shared path in life.
What matters is that both people feel like their needs for connection and quality time are met. There’s no shortage of people who share the same house who feel very lonely.
People have different ideas about what makes a comfortable home. Some people love living in a city. Others find it draining and overstimulating. Some people like a minimalist aesthetic. Others like a place that has a massive book or vinyl collection and lots of cozy blankets and throw pillows.
There are ways to compromise on location or aesthetics, but you could also decide that you will divide time between homes and also give each other some time alone.
There isn’t “one right way” to do relationships and be secure. People can be very intermingled and committed to their relationship without selling their real estate or moving into a home together. Sharing a bed every night doesn’t work for everyone, even people who do live under the same roof.

However, this reply assumes that the decision for LAT is a conscious decision that meets both partners´ needs.

Unfortunately, and this is NOT advisable, we had not set up the conditions before she moved out. It was not a joint decision. Retrospectively this was not a wise move, assuming we were planning to stay a couple. So, I feel left out, and we have to re-negotiate.

We versus I and you

Negotiation is absolutely required in particular for a critical decision like "Living Alone together". This decision can be as explosive for a relation like that for an open relationship. It may raise deep fears of abandonment in the person who, in the term of David Scharch (Schnarch 2020) is the "Low Desire Partner" (LDP) for LAT.

There is one difference here to the concept of LDP in the area of sex: in sex, the Low Desire Partner has all the power: saying "no" makes it "no". Saying "yes" is a suggestion or question.

In the area of Living Alone Together, though, the High Desire Partner may well say yes and enforce the decision. But, this will work against the couple stability.

(Obviously one could say that the HDP for living alone is the LDP for living together, so there´s really no difference...)

Stan Tatkin in his excellent book "We" points this out in his chapter called "One person orientation versus two-person orientation".

One-person orientation and two-person orientation

This is a good time to introduce the concepts of one-person and two-person orientations. In a one-person model, a partner will put their individual needs before the relationship’s needs (and before their partner’s needs). Although some see this as a sign of independence—I can do my thing and you can do yours—it’s a sign of pseudoautonomy. The paradigm: As long as I get my needs met, I will work toward getting your needs met. And if mine aren’t met, you’re out of luck. If you still question whether a one-person model is fair, remember that when your needs aren’t being met, your partner won’t see that as a concern. In a two-person model, the needs of the relationship come first, where neither partner will agree on a solution that will come at the expense of the other. Secure-functioning relationships are two-person psychological systems where both parties feel respected, heard, and safe. The partners’ wagons are hitched together. As a survival-based partnership, it’s a matter of mutually assured survival and thriving as well as mutually assured destruction. Finding solutions that are mutually agreeable protects and strengthens the couple bubble. Many people hear this concept of mutuality and think they have to give up what they want or “compromise,” which has a negative connotation in many vernaculars. I prefer the word bargaining instead of compromising. In a bargain, both may need to give something to get something. In the end, both enjoy a better outcome. (Tatkin, 2018)

Anyway: it was as if I hadn´t fully realized what had happened. I was suddenly out of luck.

Until I came across the concept, from e-gaming, of "Coyote Time". So, I was/am living in Coyote Time.

Coyote Time

In Gaming (electronic games), this is a special concept. Coyote is Wile E Coyote, the famous Looney Tunes character. He always realizes belatedly when there is no ground below his feet. He is suspended in mid-air for some moments of Coyote Time. Only when he notices what has happened, he falls and crashes. It's a kind of unfortunate awakening, without the bliss. More like Neo's awakening.

Neo just awakening from the Matrix
From Matrix

That´s how I feel right now.

Gravitational Cognizance

The concept, in e-gaming, is a bit more elaborated under the term "gravitational cognizance".

A character will not fall until they realize they should be falling. For example, running unknowingly off the edge of a cliff — or walking on the underside of a diving board. Especially dense or focused characters may need to have another character point out their vulnerability. This will also likely happen when someone tells them, "Don't Look Down!"

I fear, that in my current state I am an "especially dense character"... or at least, I was.

Recovery Strategy

Very unfortunately, I cannot use the following strategy of regaining ground. Initially I had hoped, that she would use it, as she too (she told me) was living in Coyote Time after her moving out.

An occasional variant has a character, upon realizing their situation, desperately start scrambling back where they came from, often managing to reach the original ledge before gravity can notice. (Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress, n.d.)


Judith Orloff (Surrender)

Orloff, J. (2015). The Power of Surrender: Let Go and Energize Your Relationships, Success, and Well-Being (Reprint ed.). Harmony.

David Schnarch (Intimacy)

Schnarch, D. (2020). Intimacy & Desire: Awaken The Passion In Your Relationship. Independently published.

Stan Tatkin (We Do)

Tatkin, S. (2018). Tatkin, S: We Do: Saying Yes to a Relationship of Depth, True Connection, and Enduring Love. Sounds True Inc.

TV Tropes

Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress. (n.d.). TV Tropes.


A thought on...

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