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By Chandrama Anderson

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About this blog: I am a LMFT specializing in couples counseling and have lived in and around Palo Alto since 1969. I worked in high-tech at Apple, Stanford University, and in Silicon Valley for 15 years before becoming a therapist. My background i...  (More)

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Signs and Symptoms of Parallel Living

Uploaded: Jan 28, 2016
As I wrote recently in my best tip for marriage – which is to take care of it, I’ve been thinking of the signs and symptoms of parallel living that I see and hear about.

Parallel living overall is the opposite of living as an intimate married couple.

If you watch kids play, as you may have with other families, the kids are near each other, but each one is actually playing on its own. This is a normal developmental step called parallel play, before kids learn about playing with others.

The following may seem to be different, but I view them similarly.

I’ve written about ships heading just slightly in different directions, which over time can lead to another continent altogether.

Many families don’t have meals together; and while some do, I sure see a lot of devices at the table. In fact, I was Amici’s a month or two ago and saw a dad with three kids, each on their own device. That’s not actually a family meal.

Do you feel you really know your partner anymore? What goes on in his mind? What are her biggest concerns these days?

Do you talk about topics other than logistics?

When you have free time, who do you spend it with? Who would you like to be spending it with?

What are your favorite interests and activities? Do you have more or less of them in common now?

And the big one I hear often: we’re good roommates, but we don’t function as a married couple. In other words, we don’t feel connected, loved, sought after, romanced, desired, sexy, comforted, and so on.

Are you near each other in proximity, but each “playing” on your own? I’m not implying you have to be engaged all the time, by the way. I’m talking about trends.

If after reading this and finding yourself responding or resonating “Yes” to several of these signs and symptoms of parallel living, you have noticed important information about the state of your marriage.

Now it’s up to you to decide what to do about it.

If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll keep getting what we’re getting.

If you want a different outcome, take action!

Comments

 +   7 people like this
Posted by Perspectives, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jan 29, 2016 at 8:41 am

Perspectives is a registered user.

This is good advice- noticing the parallel living and how this can lead to an overall less fulfilling relationship. Thank you for your great advice on that.

I would like to comment on the kids being on devices however. While I think I see your basic point (devices at dinner don't mean a dinner "together"), I would caution against judging. There are many times when we've relished the gift of having a device to occupy the kids as we wait a long time for food at a restaurant. Or when we've had a family meal and the kids are done, but my husband and I want to linger a little longer or finish our own meal, or have a cup of coffee before we get the check. Or when a couple of the kids are bickering and there is really no where to separate them in a restaurant. Devices are wonderful at these times. I've heard too many times people judging a family- whether it be with looks, or comments- if their children are playing a game on a "device" while at dinner. It's not really our place to draw conclusions on why this is, or whether it's proper parenting or not.

Again, I understand your overall point, so this isn't directed just at you- but I did want to point out that I think there is too much judgment around kids and screens at restaurants. They aren't bothering anyone and we can't know the family dynamic, specific situation at that dinner, or their practices at home.


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Posted by mariakim, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Jan 29, 2016 at 9:30 am

mariakim is a registered user.

I am very happy to read this. This is the kind of manual that needs to be given and not the random misinformation that's at the other blogs. Appreciate your sharing this best posting.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 29, 2016 at 9:33 am

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Perspectives, you are right that no one knows the dynamic of any family except that family. I hear that you feel judged about devices at dinner. Being a parent is very hard work and parents sometimes just need a break.

My main point, which I hope will be focused on in thoughts and comments, is the couple relationship.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by kathy brunt, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jul 30, 2016 at 8:40 am

kathy brunt is a registered user.

I think there is too much judgment around kids and screens at restaurants. Web Link They aren't bothering anyone and we can't know the family dynamic, specific situation at that dinner, or their practices at home.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jul 30, 2016 at 10:32 am

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Hi Kathy, As you say, and I acknowledged in the last post, we can't know, and my hope is that we're focusing the couple aspect of the relationship.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by JamesJohan, a resident of Ohlone School,
on Oct 8, 2016 at 1:07 am

JamesJohan is a registered user.

As a writer, I browse many websites and read many articles but I haven't read about the Parallel Living this completely new information for me, you wrote about the best subject that many writers don't give attention but you spent your precious time to inform others and increase knowledge of manly people. Thanks for the best sharing.


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