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.
Through out interviews we reaffirmed the important fact that sexuality is a very complex phenomenon that extends far beyond the act of sexual intercourse.
Founding stories seemed often to match the enduring nature of the partnership itself in terms of interpersonal flexibility and sensitivity, and a mutual appreciation of the special characteristics of each relationship.
I base my analysis of enduring relationships on a fundamental assumption: a couple is a living, dynamic entity that is something more than just two people living together.
Two people do not simply come together and “live happily ever after”. As couples, we are constantly changing and maturing, not just because both individuals in the relationship are changing and maturing, but also because the couple, as a separate third entity, must itself undergo changes.
We must look at the history of relationships in our contemporary societies and, more specifically, on the dominant personal and collective myths we cling to about intimacy and enduring relationships.