LOVE LINGERS HERE: INTIMATE ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS XIX: THE INGREDIENTS OF ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS
In previous times in most Western societies, this covenant relationship was perhaps easier to establish, given the pervasive role of formal religious institutions in our society. Couples were enduring in large part because church-based societies would not allow partners to break up their relationship. Contemporary relationships no longer are sustained because of strong social or religious taboos; rather, they must be sustained through the personal commitments of each partner to the relationship.
This is a much more difficult commitment for anyone to make, yet it is also a more authentic commitment then was made in the past. It is a mature commitment that allows for personal and collective growth, rather than just the grudging and often destructive incarceration of both partners in a sterile and dehumanizing relationship. Obviously, we base our conclusions in this book on a very distorted sample, for we have focused on enduring relationships, which are not necessarily “typical” in our contemporary society. We interviewed men and women who have chosen to remain in a relationship for many years, rather than those who have chosen to move in and out of relationships. We should anticipate, therefore, that our couples describe mechanisms for sustaining their relationship, such as covenants, remarriages and. retelling of founding stories.
Given this central theme of commitment of enduring relationships, what are some of the essential characteristics that surround this theme? Ironically, we didn’t really have to go very far to find these characteristics. When asked what they would say to other couples about the lessons they have learned, Alice and Fred identified four lessons that captured the essence of most of the lessons cited by other couples. First, no matter what kind of problems are likely to confront this couple, Alice and Fred indicate that they are “still able to talk,” if not immediately, then very soon thereafter. Communication is critical to the continuation of Alice and Fred’s relationship as it is for most enduring couples. Alice and Fred were able to overcome these differences, by honoring a variety of different modes of communication. Many men like Fred express their feelings primarily through modes other the overt description of their feelings. They express their feelings through actions and through offering assistance to the person they love.