The four developmental phases just described occur cyclically throughout a couple’s movement through five primary developmental plates. We identified these plates as: (1) establishing a home; (2) producing socio-economic viability; (3) selecting values; (4) raising children or conducting a mutual project and (5) preparing for old age and major late life challenges (including the loss of a partner). Successful long-term couples balance each plate as it exists in close interaction with one or more of the other plates. These plates collide just as the Earth’s continental plates shift and create explosive volcanoes and earthquakes. Enduring couples are able to deal with the stresses caused as their developmental plates collide.

Enduring couples effectively resolve separation from parents or blending of two households as they establish a home. Their founding stories are evoked specifically to help them through stormy times as they divide household duties, purchase a house, or recognize their individual differences. Enduring couples take solace in the fact that small daily rituals help to cement and reaffirm relationship. As couples wrestle with issues about careers and producing economic viability they accept that their intimate relationship requires some restrictions in social interactions. Attention is paid to issues of income and allocation of funds.

Our interviews suggest that enduring couples effectively combat the tension and rifts over marker events in this developmental plate, particularly when the marker event is shared between two developmental plates (such as economic viability and purchasing a home). The couple has evolved to a point where both partners can see their relationship as “in process”—an ongoing series of events that continuously defines and redefines itself. They exhibit an increased level of tolerance and. allow their partner to shift basic values and find a way to blend in new values to their daily functioning as a couple. Conflict (or at least the force of the conflict) about money or career is reduced by use of a conscious review of the problem, willingness to accept, use of humor, and a strong desire to remain in the relationship.


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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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