Symbiosis is normal between mother and infant, and is an important process in child development. The mother is attentive to her child’s needs and the child feels secure.
As you can imagine this way of relating is less effective when it is between you and your partner, or you and your boss now that you are a fully functioning adult. It is surprisingly common in many relationships.
Is symbiosis present in your relationship?
Angela and Jim are a (fictious) married couple who have been together for 30 years.
When they were first married Angela worked in various part time jobs whilst also looking for her career direction. Jim is very competitive and had a well paid job working for a car dealership. Angela took on all the duties of managing the house, and looking after their two children.
In the past Angela and Jim gave “good reasons” for why their relationship was run like this .
Angela would laugh and say “he’s useless, if I asked him to cook he would burn the kitchen down and the kids take no notice of him”. Jim would say “when I do get the shopping I buy the wrong thing so it’s best to let Angela get on with it”.
When we enter symbiosis, we behave as if we are only one person from an ego state perspective.
Changes in the relationship.
Angela now has a career and has built a successful business. Jim is still working in a car dealership however he is doing more hours than he really needs to. Although very busy Angela is still doing the majority of the house management and has been doing the home schooling of the children. Jim is hardly helping out at all and he has become depressed. They are having some intense arguments. Angela is worried the relationship could end.
How does symbiosis impact upon a relationship?
In relationships as one or the other person starts to shift their position there may be competition for the dependent Child position in the symbiosis. Since both individuals in this example haven’t been aware of symbiosis , the competition is perceived internally as a struggle for survival . Angela and Jim are now aware of the symbiosis pattern and are supporting one another in going forward.