Love Lingers Here: Intimate Enduring Relationships. X. Forming a Relationship
Furthermore, as we shall discuss much more fully in the next set of essays, a couple will tend to move independently through these four stages in each of the major domains of their life. The recycling often occurs in part because of the emergence of new problems in domains of the couple’s life that have not recently gone through the cycle. Thus, a couple may be moving through the forming stage as new parents, while they are moving through the norming stage with regard to their personal finances and are at the performing stage with regard to their home and household possessions.
At any one time there is a rich interplay between various issues that a couple is exploring in their complex and demanding world. At any one moment, one or two issues are likely to play center stage and overshadow virtually all other aspects of the couple’s life together; yet, these other dimensions of the couple’s life must continue to be addressed and will impact on and be impacted by those issues that are playing center stage.
This is a particular stage that they return to and generally reside in as a couple—it is their “comfort zone” and what contemporary complexity and chaos theorists call the “strange attractor” to which all complex systems return when at rest or in a stable condition. Some couples prefer to live in a state of conflict, while others prefer the romance of the forming stage, or the more mundane life of a performing couple. Based on our own interviews, we suggest that couples also are inclined to stay in a particular domain of their life, focusing primarily on their physical possessions, their children, their shared values and so forth. Relationships often become particularly stressful when a couple is forced to address issues from the alien perspective of a stage or domain that they would prefer to avoid.
Before we will turn to these more complicated interactions in the next set of essays, we will attend in this essay and several that follow to more general ways in which the couples we interviewed moved through the forming, storming, norming and performing stages. We will turn first, in this essay, to the forming stage.