LOVE LINGERS HERE: INTIMATE ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS XIX: THE INGREDIENTS OF ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS
Our interviews suggest that we can tend to this unique character—what Moore (p. 85) calls a “cultural hearth” in part through telling stories. These stories provide continuity as well as the celebration of our unique relationship. We found that the very process of asking men and women like Alice and Fred to tell us stories about their relationship was an insight and confirming experience for them as well as those of us who conducted the interviews. We join with Alice and Fred in encouraging partners who read this book to spend time together sharing and talking about their own favorite stories. Storytelling may be particularly important for partners who are seeking a breakthrough in their own relationship or even a remarriage.
Summary of Findings
In bringing our study to a close, we reviewed our own findings and reread the stories that were told us by the men and women we interviewed. Following are major conclusions that we reached. First, we found that founding stories of our couples played a significant role throughout many stages of their relationship. They used their founding stories to help fight old “ghosts” from previous relationships and to help set the context for restructuring their current relationship.
We found that enduring couples purposefully retold their founding stories to help sustain their relationship through difficult times. They seemed to relish describing early, passionate images of their partner. Couples in enduring relationships tend to view their partner as the epitome of what they need to fill their lives with hope and meaning. They reach a point where they recognize that the person they have become today is in part a product of this enduring relationship and their intimate interactions with their partner over the years. Thus, the retelling of the founding story in sortie way reignites the initial passion and romance. This serves to remind the couple of why they began and may, in fact, serve to remind the couple of key reasons to keep working on the relationship through troubled times.
We discovered that frequent retelling of their founding story seems to occur in part because this story contains important truths and core commitments that have been made both implicitly and explicitly. Such core commitments can be seen as a covenant the couple enters into at some critical point in their relationship. Initially, this covenant often has a magical quality and is assumed to be fixed and almost sacred in nature. Covenants, however, are developmental in nature. The couple continually works on the maturation of their covenant by looking to other couples (even parents) for models and inspiration to adapt their initial covenant. The covenants of enduring couples typically contain four key elements: stable patterns of interaction, trust in one another, clarity regarding who gets to start and finish conversations about particular issues, agreements about the way differences will be honored.