Second Alice and Fred cite their commitment to the third entity (the couple). Their relationship stands strong, no matter what the individual disappointments or wavering in their commitment to each other may be. Through their relationship, Alice and Fred have an opportunity to “create something bigger” than themselves through various kinds of investments in their relationship. They share financial investments, emotional investments and two children. Thus, if they are conflicted regarding one of the developmental plates, they have other plates, in which they are currently performing in a satisfactory manner.

Most importantly, they keep a healthy perspective regarding these conflicts. At the heart of the matter is their somewhat detached perspective on and humor regarding the domains in which they are in conflict. Throughout our interviews we found that humor was often absolutely indispensable in keeping the partners from taking each other and their areas of conflict too seriously.

Third, Alice and Fred share a vision of the future and their future and their own growth together as a couple and individually as two maturing adults. Their values plate is mature and stable, serving grounding for their own life plans as they prepare for their senior years and their final stage of development as a couple. At the heart of their shared commitment to a specific set of values (and their own relationship in particular) are a set of simple ceremonies and rituals that they perform frequently in their relationship. These ceremonies and rituals serve as symbols and reminders of the special nature of their relationship.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Alice and Fred have a shared memory of the past. They can recall events that they have enjoyed’ together and hardships they have endured together. This “community of memory” serves as glue for their relationship and provides the substance for this third entity and their commitment to it. In essence, we must tend to the unique character of the relationship we have constructed, as well as the broader culture(s) that we bring to the relationship from our own societal upbringing.


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About the Author

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: offers Master and Doctoral degrees in both clinical and organizational psychology to mature, accomplished adults.

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