LOVE LINGERS HERE: INTIMATE ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS XIX: THE INGREDIENTS OF ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS
We discovered that virtually all long-term relationships face a storming stage as a normal part of the couple’s ongoing development and maturation. Storming cyclically reoccurs throughout relationships with movement to various stages and when two developmental plates collide. Unabated storming typically results in either a remarriage or recommitment from two partners to make the relationship work or to divorce. With each remarriage or restructuring of the relationship, the enduring couple develops increased resiliency to brave new storms inevitably ahead.
Once a couple has weathered a storming phase, they set norms or implicit rules by which they can live and work with one another in an effective and interpersonally-gratifying manner. Norms of mutuality and dominance between the two partners are set that usually differ from the old patterns followed by their parents and families. Boundaries are established regarding discussable and nondiscussable issues both with each other and with other people about themselves. Enduring couples frankly and honestly discuss without each other’s weaknesses without serious consequences. They seem to view the maintenance of their relationship with their partner as more important than the maintenance of any other relationship in their lives.
The men and women we interviewed generally suggest that the performing phase is typically established once norms have been set. Enduring couples find their own special ways to reaffirm the power of their long term, intimate relationships. They tend to do so with small rituals or habits rather than major events or major celebrations. During the performing stage, enduring couples frequently readjust and experience one or more remarriages with their partner. They wrestle with issues of enmeshment and disengagement between them and eventually achieve a balance between these two. During this phase, they struggle with interconnectedness between the couple and the outside world, and eventually identify as either an open or closed couple.