Just because you are two people doesn't mean you are a Couple. Just because you share interests, love to rock climb, have fun together, can talk forever--still doesn't make you a Couple. (although that's a good start...)
It used to be that marriage and parenthood automatically made you a couple. Now that's not enough--we see lots of married couples who don't seem connected at all. Of course it takes commitment and a some kind of shared vision, common interests, sexual desire/affection, a friendship, willingness to talk out problems. All good stuff.
But I think there's something more that two people create: a living, breathing, growing, pulsing entity that is separate from the individuals. It's an organism that has to be fed daily, even moment by moment. Stan Tatkin, in his book Wired for Love calls it the "Couple Bubble." He describes this bubble as something sacred that you don't allow anyone or anything to burst.
So what keeps the bubble strong?
- Couple time. You have to spend time together to keep the couple strong.
- Couple rituals. Fight the sloppiness that comes with familiarity: take the time and be present when you say goodbye, come together again, wake up, go to sleep. Hold your someone close and feel it.
- Couple humor. You might not find the same things funny, but share the ones you do.
- Couple anniversaries. There's enough difficult times to go around, so celebrate the good.
- Couple language of desire. It's not how many times you have sex; it's whether you keep desire alive. Start with your own and spread it out onto your partner.
- Couple agreements. It might be monogamy, it might be about money. Talk about it, get clear and don't assume.
- Couple care. This is the part about holding your partner's sensitive side or secrets carefully. If he/she is shy at parties, you won't abandon them for hours. If she/he doesn't want others to know something in the past, don't tell it--and being drunk is not an excuse.
This Couple Bubble thing isn't about enabling or "two halves become a whole." It's not about subsuming your entire personhood into the relationship. Actually, it's even more important that you have a full life of your own--it's good for you and good for the relationship. You're not joined at the hip and everyone has different needs for space and alone time and together time.
Not to get too ethereal here, but being a Couple (as opposed to a couple of people who just happen to be together) takes an almost-spiritual commitment. Sounds like so much work, but oh, the rewards.