Love Lingers Here: Intimate Enduring Relationships — Essay II: The Couple as a Third Entity

Love Lingers Here: Intimate Enduring Relationships — Essay II: The Couple as a Third Entity

In another of the now classic books on marriage, Between Man and Women, Everett Shostrom and James Kavenaugh (1975) speak about the successful couple (“rhythmic relationship”) as: “the creation of a new reality, a third substance (tertium quid), which neither individual could produce by himself.” Joseph Campbell (1988) expressed something of the same thoughts in a somewhat more dramatic manner: “when you make the sacrifice in marriage, you’re sacrificing not to each other but to unity in the relationship.”

In recent years, this notion of groups of people and organizations being considered autonomous entities in their own right, as something more than the sum of the parts (the members of the group or organization) has been labeled “system theory”. At the heart of this theory is the notion not only that systems (whether they are couples or corporations) lead their own autonomous lives and find their own distinctive directions, but also are composed of parts that are intricately interwoven. Each of the parts of the system is dependent on all the other parts for its identity, its purpose and even its ability to stay alive. This is what Scott Page (Miller and Page, 2007) and many other system theorists call “complexity.” A complicated system will have many working parts. In a complex system these parts are all interwoven and interdependent.

This notion of interweaving is particularly appropriate when applied to the system which we are calling an “enduring relationship.” As Thomas Moore (1994, p. 47) noted, many cultures emphasize processes that weave together families, communities and even nations, as well as work and creative endeavors. A relationship is woven together precisely because it operates as a single system, consisting of the two partners and their own individual needs and stories, the couple’s history (as told through their stories), the couple’s covenant (concerning mutual commitments and values) and various social expectations that impact on the couple’s sense of itself a a single entity.

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William Bergquist

William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant, professor in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 45 books, and president of a graduate school of psychology. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations. His graduate school (The Professional School of Psychology: www.psychology.edu) offers Master and Doctoral degrees in both clinical and organizational psychology to mature, accomplished adults.

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