There are many couples in modern history with a much longer history than the couples we interviewed. What do these Methuselahs of Coupledom have to teach us about how to stay together as a couple?
LOVE LINGERS HERE: INTIMATE ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS XVIII. PLATE FIVE: SEPTEMBER SONG (GROWING OLD AND FACING MAJOR LIFE CHALLENGES AS A COUPLE)
This final plate moves to center stage during the years when either a couple have reached their senior years or one or both partners face a major intrusive life event.. In either case, the partners are faced with the task of preparing for major changes in the ways they relate to one another.
LOVE LINGERS HERE: INTIMATE ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS XVI. PLATE THREE: DECIDING WHAT’S IMPORTANT (IDENTIFYING SHARED VALUES)
The values plate is closely tied to the individual developmental stages of the two partners, hence this plate often continues to change throughout the life of the couple.
LOVE LINGERS HERE: INTIMATE ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS XV. PLATE TWO: BEING A BREADWINNER (PRODUCING SOCIO-ECONOMIC VIABILITY/CAREERS)
Today, the economic function is equally as important, though infinitely more complex and even contradictory. In many states, the economic “reality” of a couple is formally defined by community property laws.
LOVE LINGERS HERE: INTIMATE ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS XIV. PLATE ONE: BUILDING A NEST (ESTABLISHING A HOME TOGETHER)
The domain of daily living and the common place is no more plainly evident than in the small decisions made by and actions taken by men and women as they establish a home together.
With the establishment of effective, working norms, a couple is prepared to begin performing its new developmental tasks. The couple typically will experience a period of harmony and fulfillment, at least with regard to a set of predominant issues in their life.
LOVE LINGERS HERE: INTIMATE ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS XII. ESTABLISHING NORMS FOR AN ENDURING RELATIONSHIP
This phase focuses on establishing norms (which are the rules by which people live and work with one another in an effective and interpersonally-gratifying manner).
In general, we find that couples move through four overall stages of development, the initial stage being defined as “forming,” and the subsequent three stages being defined as “storming,” “norming” and “performing” — to borrow terms used by Tuchman.
Our couples described themselves as moving through periods of relative stability and considerable contentment, followed by periods of significant stress and disillusionment, often accompanied by profound changes in the structure or goals of the relationship.
We are inclined to be attracted to someone who fills a psychological gap that we cannot ourselves fill. Yet, partners begin to learn from each other later in their relationship, and reclaim aspects of themselves that they have disowned or left dormant for many years.